Tuesday, 27 July 2010

On the savannah

We went to Richmond Park for a picnic on the weekend. It's a strange place to find nested in London.

We accessed it through an easily-missed gate at the end of a suburban street of semi-detached cottages. It was like entering Narnia, except the world on the other side looked like African savannah rather than a snowy forest. A waterhole lay immediately ahead of us and yellow grass stretched into the distance punctuated by the odd, brown-spotted tree.

Once we'd lain our blankets down, the adults in the group stood up and looked out, one hand on hip, the other shading eyes from the sun. It was hot and there was a slight shimmer in the air. We did seem very well adapted to this environment: easily assuming a Meerkat-like stance and with a cooling gracile conformation.

The one element that disrupted the reverie was the low-flying passenger jets that regularly rumbled into the setting sun. And it wasn't just the noise.

At one point our eldest, who's four, hared off across the plains. He's practising his running a lot at the moment, probably as he's just reached the age when you can become properly good at it. He can run quite fast and for quite a long time now. Anyway, he was gradually transforming himself into a distant speck when we thought we'd better stop him. T. showed an excellent turn of pace to get within earshot and call him back.

So why had he run off like that? "I was trying to keep up with the planes - I wanted to see where they were going." I suppose it was that sort of exuberant curiosity that led us away from the savannah in the first place.

3 comments:

zmkc said...

I was butted by a deer who mistook me for a tree - he wanted to rub the velvet off his antlers, according to my parents - in Richmond Park when I was about four. The planes were not as relentless as they are now (or possibly not flying over at all). Perhaps as a result of early trauma involving antlered deer, I now experience a faint sense of schadenfreude whenever I walk across Richmond Green - I look at all the fiendishly expensive houses around it and then find I can't hear myself think for low-flying planes and suddenly I am smiling, in a cruel, unloving way. Moral of the story : don't take your children to Richmond Park, unless you want them to grow up and become unfeeling wretches like me.

Sean said...

Well when he makes it to the African Savanah on his plane, the first thing he will notice is the sound of screaming swifts above, the same sound you hear in English cities May to Aug. So it was not so different after all. Maybe like the young swifts born here this summer he is planning to migrate next week?

worm said...

Love richmond park, although unlike in africa, I've always found that the autorities tend to get a bit miffed if you shoot at the wildlife