Monday, 3 January 2011

A walk in the park

I awoke on Wednesday 29 SeptemberIn still plagued by tiredness, but respite was soon enough granted by a welcome invitation from my sister-in-law to have lunch and a stroll in nearby Bushy Park.

Lunch would be in the recently opened Pheasantry Welcome Centre, which looks out over one of the more landscaped areas of the otherwise rugged ancient deer park, itself lying opposite the gates of Hampton Court Palace. Owners of houses surrounding the park are required to pay a rent known as “freebord”, which I believe was originally to compensate King Henry VIII in the event that deer escaped from the royal hunting grounds into the neighbouring land. The Royal Parks, to whom this charge is now payable, have recently caused a bit of a kerfuffle by raising the annual amount, although it seems to me quite a modest sum for the privilege of looking out over such beautiful park land.

The architecture of the new Centre is rather unimaginative and its stark angular modernity sits uneasily amid its mature leafy surroundings, but it is proving very popular and is a particular a magnet for young mothers meeting for mutual support and needing a place to park the increasingly colourful and sophisticated buggies that convey the rising generation along our streets. A further welcome feature of the cafe for parents is that their offspring who are old enough to go out and play can be easily viewed through the large plate glass windows giving out on to the park.

The Pheasantry Welcome Centre. Am I being harsh about its lines?

The food and drink on offer in the cafe were however a welcome contrast to the metaphorical coldness of the building itself and I decided on a bowl of gnocchi and a mineral water, followed by carrot cake and a cappuccino. All of these were good.

A typical helping of gnocchi, an idea going back to Roman times, though not made with potato back then, as they so often are now. Delightful little fellows, all the same.

Cappuccino, said to have originally been concocted by Capuchin friars from coffee left behind by fleeing Turks in 1683. The colour of the brown froth supposedly resembles that of the monks' habits. Of course the holy men would not have had one of those noisy Gaggia devices at their disposal, which renders the story rather suspect.

After lunch, we went for a walk under the still leafy trees and along the side of the waterway that runs through this area of the park. Our modest circuit completed, my sister-in-law drove me home.

Part of the Pheasantry Plantation (photo taken at a later date, but leaves still abundant and green).

Energised by the food, the walk, the beauties of nature and my sister-in-law's company and conversation, I was able to do some more work. It really felt as if normality were possible, at least for now.

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