15 Mar Yesterday, out walking
Feeling cooped up, confined, restless.
Went out to walk in the sweet air and bright light of yesterday. Midweek, Bushy Park is quiet. The weekend runners mostly back at work; children at school; just a handful of dog walkers.
Trees in their planning stages. A draughtsman has sketched out a fretwork to be filled in later with colour and substance. Buds cradled on a canopy like tiny baubles on intricate lace. Lanterns of mistletoe adorn tall, bare chestnuts.
I stride out along the almost empty paths. A mile across here from gate to gate. Over the road I enter the palace grounds through Lion Gate. Into Hampton Court’s Wilderness. Spring bulbs emerge from grass, shelter beneath trees; purple crocuses and tiny grape hyacinths already in bloom. Daffodils catching up. Give it a week or two and the ground will be ablaze.
I pass workmen unloading chairs at the rear of the Tiltyard, catch the edge of their banter. I walk down Tennis Court Passage admiring the tall walls of deep purple-brown-red brick. Is that a dovecote? In all the years of walking here I hadn’t noticed this building before. I cross the wide approach at the front of the palace and through the gate to the river.
On my left, more walls with their small bricks of distinctive hue. How old, I wonder? Winter-flowering jasmine sits tight by them, a smattering of yellow against dark green leaves. Like early stars in a night sky.
On my right the grey-brown river sweeps on, full and in haste. A few barges moored firmly. Some announce themselves – Kelly, Jakandan – their sides smudged at the waterline with frothy river scum and debris.
Lone dogs. Young ones impatient for their owners to catch up; old ones with a weary, wise look in their eyes – they know their owner will wait.
Planes, trains. The noise of a boatyard on the other side. Birdsong.
A pair of swans paddle beside the opposite bank. A man has stopped to sit down there, maybe to fish. Not, I think, to feed them. They seem attentive to him, expectant.
A runner pounds past, long pony-tail swishing from side to side like a blonde pendulum. Doesn’t it slow you down and make your head buzz?
Tiny eddies in the middle of the river. Ribbons of white bubbles hint at something underneath, some mysterious current, some submerged flotsam, some obscure creature.
Grass. Green, moist, muddy beneath my feet.
I stop awhile on a bench. A small black-headed gull lands delicately on top of a mooring post and perches there on its spindly orange legs. Planning its day, perhaps? Looking for food, company, trouble?
The swans give up on their vigil, paddle to the middle and set off downstream, a stately duo. Moments later they’re flapping their feet and wings, thrashing the surface, heaving themselves up. Such effort to get airborne. Off they fly, white against dull river and pale sky, one following the other. Synchonicity.
I watch, walk on, watch more. Another few miles. Calmer.