When my MIL was here, she was commenting on how we would sit in the park all day and picnic. It was a novelty to her. I convinced her to buy a picnic blanket but she said she would probably never even use it at home. Then I was trying to explain to my brother on the phone why we often don’t get to Skype on the weekends- because we’re in the park all day. It finally occurred to me, and it’s a clichéd thing to say (yay!): the park is our backyard.
Absent an outdoor space of our own and not wanting to stay indoors all day on a nice day (like any normal person), we can often be found at one of the local playgrounds, grassy spaces or the
magnificently huge and beautiful Royal Parks.
But what we do by necessity is something I now highly prize. Highly. The parks are such a way of life for me now and I cannot imagine enjoying warm weather sitting on the grass or a deck chair without also being able to enjoy the sight of hundreds of other people around me with their blankets and drinks and treats or the ice cream stand nearby or the sight of blue boats being pedaled up and down the lakes or the breathtaking floral landscapes, the famed rose gardens and waterfalls and monuments or the vantage point of other people’s celebrations and festiveness and happy, simple family moments shared commonly. I love that I can’t easily walk back into my flat and check email or put the clothes from the washer into the dryer. The very fact of being at a park is like a mini vacation every weekend.
The parks are so big in London that at any given moment you can be involved in one of one hundred things happening simultaneously.
Hyde Park lido and paddling pool
By my recollection and sophisticated calculations, London only gets really hot and beautiful one day per year. That day was several Wednesdays ago and we were prepared. I corralled a few of us to visit the Hyde Park Lido paddling pool area for the kiddies.
I first went two summers ago. My awe of the space has not changed since. It is so rare in busy, bustling, chaotic central London to feel a sense of being somewhere else. And yet, that is precisely how I feel there. The space is enclosed by trees and shrubs that block out any evidence of being in the middle of a city. The £4 fee means it’s never too crowded. The pool is sweet. The playground is sweet. The snack bar is sweet. The lounge chairs, employees, families, expanse of grass, picnickers and view: all sweet. It feels to me like belonging to a pool club in some nice suburb somewhere. And every now and then, it feels really good to be in a suburb.
As the CBeebies presenter who was emceeing the Zingzillas set on the main stage said to the crowd of thousands: “LolliBop is like Glastonbury for kids.”
We attended the annual LolliBop festival for kids a few weeks ago on a Saturday. It is easily the most amazing festival for kids anywhere. I declare that I don’t even need to travel the world and visit all the kids festivals to say so. By a fluke, I caught an advert (I feel like being British today) for LolliBop in an issue of Time Out months ago. Lucky that because it ultimately sold out. And even though thousands of people came from all over England with their children, and even some from The Continent, the festival was in Regent’s Park. Which, as I mentioned, is our adopted backyard. I file this as further evidence that it is ridiculous we live in Central London.
Jonah only watches CBeebies on BBC as we never did get around to getting satellite or cable (whatever it’s called). This means we know all the characters from CBeebies programming and really none from Nickelodeon or Disney etc. At Lollibop Jonah got to see the Zingzillas perform, see Bob the Builder (fun fact: the show is British and dubbed for Americans in the US) and had multiple chances to dance to the day’s headliner: the wildly popular Rastamouse, new in 2011. Bryan and I are sort of obsessed with Rastamouse too. I will take reggae over any other form of children’s music. American parents, I will bet this show crosses the pond. Check it.