“Society is all but rude,
To this delicious solitude”
The Garden, Andrew Marvell
I decided to walk to Kew Gardens the other Saturday morning.
Well that was the plan at least; fond memories of capering amongst the wild ravenous exotic plants as a boy stirred my sensibilities. For a bachelor, is dear reader, only a boy in longer trousers.
With the sun rising, I skipped out of my flat to the crescendo of the morning chorus; fortified by a clear head and a breakfast of hot coffee paired with a flaky croissant, which I, of course, slathered in cold butter and strawberry jam.
The chilled morning air concurrent with a clear sky created a tranquil hum that some believe to be exclusive to the countryside.
The Fulham Road, usually a hub of Champagne and yoga, was as quiet as a dormouse’s slumber party. Although the road was occasionally awoken intermittently by expensive German motorcars that barely sounded a piston as they glided past.
PG was suffocated by a blanket of silence but my reveries of sprinting hares and lazy tigers were interrupted by panting runners, the odd exuberant dog and hungover couples looking miserable.
The disparate bodies all dodged debris of smashed pint glasses and drying pools of vomit; from the previous night’s revellers.
I pressed on up the Fulham Road, my suede boots chiming an unmilitary beat for one. Eventually I reached that stonemason’s dream, Putney Bridge. The morning sun shimmered on the Thames like a gilded raft of ducks.
I stood and bathed in the low-lying orb, blinking gently and watched the armadas of rowers flog their lean, sinewy bodies up and down the river. Putney is littered with boathouses and the area evokes such a hive of activity that it reminds one a food market.
That was where I headed, like Rick Stein shuffling off to tuna and gambas riddled hall in Cadiz. Despite never having rowed I adore the atmosphere around the boathouses. It’s amazing to think that while most of the world is slumped in bed these athletic few are burning up the Thames with brutal elegance.
I found an overpriced independent coffee takeaway and watched the rowers relentless lean muscles, unabated by the chill in the air, glide along the water-top.
This is the great thing about walking alone with nothing but thoughts and the reward of a jack potato at home: one can meander, get lost or detour. Nevertheless, I planned to reach Kew and frolic amongst the Azaleas.
I pressed on down the Putney embankment – the eerie tunnel of trees that seems to last forever -with the old river’s gentle lap on the muddy banks like a Mendelson melody pulling one’s brain into a soft meditation.
A swift crossover Hammersmith bridge and it was onto that Arcadia of Chiswick embankment; the home of opulent river-front mansions which are juxtaposed with houseboats – each set with gnarled flags that would to a child appear piratical. Furthermore, a host of gloriously nautical pubs – except on this occasion it was too early for even splendid red to sample!
Turning from the gorgeous cobbled riverside roads that run between the aforementioned mansions and their sweet gardens set on the banks one is struck by fast, flashing cars. The viscous A-road, a gate way out of London, is a bulwark to the pottering man’s meander. Discombobulated I scrabbled to an underpass and popped up the other side in a platoon of suburban houses, albeit rather delightful ones!
Lost, my logic being to avoid the big road with the fast cars, I shuffled like a confused warrior on to the back end of Chiswick high street which was peppered with yummy mummy’s and screaming kids. This was where I started to believe that my search for the source of the Nile was going to be too far for this foray.
My cigarette laden lungs were arguing with my breath so I took refuge, as any lost soul would do, by a large flat-fronted church. I sat on a bench on a wonderful green that perhaps the old Parson of
Chiswick would have tended his flock of sheep upon.
The sun flirted with the dominant spire and twinkled almost like it was being blown to-and-fro by petite gusts of wind. An old woman eating a tuna sandwich sat next to me and she told me about the Fullers brewery paving the church in the late 1800’s. She also recommend I visit the nearby Gunnersbury park, which I did.
My legs grew weary when I reached the vast stretch of green littered with hundreds of soccer games and the whole thing felt far too active. My dream of reaching Kew was over, stuck in suburbia.
A cup of tea in of the sea of organic independent coffee shops that somehow look the same; Starbucks with haircuts.
The tea returned my swagger and I turned for home, knowing full well that the journey home is never as bewitching. However, home is where the heart is: full of glasses of beer, garrulous friends and chasing skirts!