Some thoughts and an ode to our local park
As I write this at our kitchen table, looking out onto our pretty little garden, a cat snoozing next to me, I am struck by how different things feel in the world from last week, when I sat here writing my last blog post. This strange little country of ours has taken a hurtling, frightening leap into the unknown. The past week has been a deeply troubling one, an emotional swelling of disbelief, anger, fear, sorrow and shame. I have looked on in horror and I have felt genuine heartbreak, of a kind I never expected to feel - as though something terribly wrong has happened that may never be repaired. It has dominated my thoughts and my conversations, leaving me feeling unsettled and anxious. I, like many others I am sure, have felt moments of genuine, heart wrenching despair and grief.
This post was never intended to be a rumination on the UK's political position (!) but as I sat down to write I realised that I couldn't not acknowledge everything that has been happening and how I have felt for the last week. Nor do I want to just move on and try to forget what has happened, to wash my hands of it and "let them get on with it". I feel more than ever that I have a duty to engage, to make my voice heard and to resist the temptation to bury my head in the sand and be complacent about what the future holds. And yet, at the same time, life does inevitably
resume its normal course and it is important to allow it to, to find solace in small pleasures and achievements and to invite distractions in. As someone prone to dwelling and worrying, who has to sometimes resist sadness and stop it from taking hold, this is especially important.
As ever, it is the little things that have the most power to distract and create regular joy, and for me, none more so than finding some green and wild. When shit stuff happens it makes you appreciate so much more the loveliness of those things you take for granted, right?
Since January I have been making weekly visits to our local park, which is about a minute away from our house. Sometimes I just go
for a wander, other times I manage to persuade myself to go for a run. I have watched our little park change through winter and into spring and now from spring to summer, and I have felt so much more grounded in the seasons, the weather and the natural world as a result. I have grown to appreciate it so much more than ever before.
It's not a big or particularly spectacular park by any means (this ain't no Regents or Hyde people), but it's got a lovely position looking out over South East London, and it is big enough and wild enough in places to forget that you're in Zone 2 and not in a little patch of countryside. It's got wild untamed long grasses, tall majestic trees, an orchard, a community garden, a play area, a bandstand and a tennis court. It is used and loved by everyone who lives in Hither Green, and it is a cherished part of the community.
One particularly lovely evening a couple of weeks ago I took my camera with me and took some pictures in the golden glow of evening sunshine, just as people were packing up their picnic baskets and footballs and heading home.
I think I must have chosen one of the most spring-like spring days of the year, because everything was just at its peak, a day or two before the inevitable slide into summer, the moment when every flower looks and smells heady and perfect.
The wisteria fell heavy and fragrant, like ripe overflowing jewels, its curly fronds reaching for the sky.
The hawthorn was frothy and sweet, reaching out, opening its face upwards, resting on air.
Swathes of raggedy stichwort scattered the ground messily, like little white frills or shards of fallen lace.
And here and there a soft yellow cowslip waited quietly in the shadow of the long grass, among its more boisterous neighbours.
The blossom was starting to fall, but was still beautiful, its confetti petals drifting onto the grass, little pale pink pom poms quivering in the breeze, accepting gracefully, as always, that their days would soon be over.
As usual, it was the cow parsley that stole my heart with its joyful abundance and architectural beauty.
I discovered a particular little corner of the park which I had never noticed before, a little glade behind trees, where the cow parsley grows tall and thick, and where it is possible to wander in and see nothing but green and white and breathe in the overwhelming scent of aniseed and sweet headiness.
I even felt some fondness for the bushy wild forget-me-nots which seem to grow everywhere in SE London and which I spend my life pulling out of my garden.
I spotted a scruffy old fox snuffling in the undergrowth.
And I felt very thankful to be able to enjoy this little slither of green, even if it is just a modest little park among houses and roads and noise and the busy ebb and flow of city life.
It was such a beautiful evening that I called R and we returned with a blanket and a bottle of wine and sat and watched the sun fall and the sky change colour together until it turned chilly and we retreated home.
I hope in the coming months that things settle, that reason and compassion prevail and that the future begins to look not quite so uncertain and bleak as it does now. I hope that we remember the importance of unity and peace, of inclusion and solidarity and love. Until then, we will seek solace and find moments of joy and remember how special the world is and, hopefully, always will be.