Hyde Park, 1st of August. The sunlight is streaming through the trees above me and a gentle breeze is whipping small ripples across the water. I am cool and contented. But earlier I wasn’t, I was hot, sticky and muggy and it all went a bit wrong.
I had to change in the park toilets. Not into a dinosaur or a robot or anything, I had to change clothes because I am a rubbish packer and traveler.
When I left the house yesterday it was raining and I was trying to travel light, so I brought with me a sort of summery dress that should have been ok for both a light drizzle and a bit of a warm day. I checked the weather and it said rain in London for the rest of the week so I felt relatively confident with what I had planned. However, when I left the hostel this morning it was clear that a glorious day was stretching out its possibilities before me.
I realised pretty quickly that the clothes I had with me would only be good enough to try and sweat myself into a size six and I could feel my feet expanding and trying to burst from the walking boots. There was only one thing for it, a quick (ish) trip to Primark to buy an entirely different ensemble.
I don’t particularly like clothes shopping, most shops sizes don’t agree with me and since returning from Tanzania I stubbornly fall in between two standard sizes ans I wasn’t keen on buying into the larger size, but, needs must and so I trawled through the Oxford Street shop, being bossed around by an attendant who had no consideration that I had a suitcase, a basket and a shoulder bag to try and maneuver around her overcrowded shop. I was also a bit put out because there had been a minor malfunction uploading to the new ipod and the only soundtrack I had to keep me sane was a selection of 80s hits and the album of the TV show ‘SMASH’. Don’t judge me.
I could have got through it all a little quicker had I not got stuck in a dress. For about 3 minutes I was confined to a changing room with arms trapped in a spotty dress. This sounds bad, but pales in comparison to the great dress trapping incident of around 2010.
I was in Newcastle and foolishly decided to try a dress in the sale of Warehouse. I picked it out and took it to the changing rooms. It went on ok but was a little huggy around the chest and if you’ve ever seen me in person you’ll know that wouldn’t be a great look. So, slightly saddened I started to pull it over my head to get changed again. It got stuck halfway over one shoulder, obscuring my face, an elbow at an almost unnatural angle and zip was stuck. I tried not to panic, as I could hear the shop attendants giggling and clanging hangers nearby. I really didn’t want to call them for help, they were both very skinny and I was walking around with a dress over my head and my knickers showing. I’ll not lie, I wanted to cry a little but thought that by dampening the dress with my tears I’d probably have to end up buying it.
I bent forwards, backwards, sideways to try and dislodge myself. That’s not mean feat in a metre square room with white linen walls. God knows what shapes I was throwing through the curtain. It felt like the dress was seeking revenge and shrinking as I was fighting it. It took 15 minutes of quiet panic but I managed to free myself. I have never bought anything from Warehouse.
But back to now, so this morning’s dress trapping wasn’t the most horrendous. I got through it. And now (well, when I wrote this) I am sat in the sun, head to toe in new Primark, feeling a lot cooler.
In all the time I’ve spent in London, I don’t think I’ve ever spent time in Hyde Park, but now I’m next to the Serpentine, listening to Peter Gabriel and watching the world go by. I would take some photos but the camera battery is dead and I ignored my instinct to bring the charger. I’ll not make the same mistake tomorrow.
Behind me a Chinese man and his son are dressed in matching orange t-shirts and playing with bubble swords. Seemingly hundreds of bubbles are drifting towards my head and glistening gently before being blown in a new direction by a rival breeze. A man and his daughter are on rollerblades and rush through the bubbles, bursting and scattering them as they laugh together at a private joke.
A middle age couple and younger man drift past on a powder blue pedalo. Number 14. The men pedal leisurely in the back, she sits up front, dipping her hand in and out of the water, watching the drips as the fall back down to join the legion.
An over-plump, slate grey pigeon waddles towards me hoping for scraps. I have no food, so it waddles off. I put my feet up on the suitcase. The criss-cross pattern of tan patches on my feet are not so noticeable in the dappled shade of the tree.
Geese, ducks, swans and moorhens swim past, moving into the wind, fighting the gentle ripples being forced along the top of the water.
Everyone seems to be living at different paces. For me time has almost stood still. I have nowhere to be, nothing pressing I need to do other than writing things down in a notebook. Planes are taking off overhead, soaring across the sky filled, presumably, with people heading off on a myriad of different journeys. Parents are pushing children in pushchairs as siblings meander alongside, most of them eating ice creams, sticky melt dripping down their hands and onto the floor. Couples are smiling, chatting, holding hands. The world seems like a world away from yesterday.
One couple sits next to me. He is American, she is British but her accent suggests she has spent a fair bit of time abroad. They discuss France, the Grand Tour of artists in the late 19th century and how he almost climbed Mt. Blanc once. I don’t catch why he didn’t manage this as they have finished their ice creams and have started wandering off into the park.
As they cross in front of me a golden retriever bounds straight into the water, barking at startled geese that are sent running towards the girl in cut off shorts who was just about to feed them bread crumbs. She backs away, pushing the hair from her eyes and laughing, before turning and running back to her parents who wait in the shade. Almost as quickly as it went in the dog is back, scrambling out and racing across the grass. I see what it has spotted, the unmistakable outline of a grey squirrel. The dog showers onlookers with water droplets as it races past, desperate to catch the squirrel. I remain unscathed.
A pigeon divebombs a Japanese tourist, he ducks out of the way just in time. A substantially sized twig/branch has just fallen on me and my left arm has the warm tingling feeling that warns me of impending sunburn. My newly red hair is drifting into my eyes. I think it’s time to go.