A souvenir from England for those who enjoy picnics and parks, dreams and good books, blue skies and soft grass. Particularly thinking of my friends Olivia, Kristine, Molly and Felicity, who picnicked at school while half of us were gone… we should have another one soon! And to Journey and Gabby as well for our recent fun picnic.
In England, the sightseeing was fantastic. The experiences we had were amazing.
But some of my favourite times in England were getting the chance to just sit in some of the many beautiful parks they have there.
I could spend all day sitting with a book in some of the idyllic parks we visited. I find the serene, yet simple setting of an English park quite beautiful; with soft green carpets of grass, countless identical enormous, unflappable trees spreading a patchy quilt of shade, and quaint rose gardens just around the corner.
Perhaps I enjoyed it so much because it was such a contrast to back here at home. Here, picnics tend to require either a picnic blanket, or picnic table; the grass doesn’t grow quite as soft as it does in England. We also have more ants, mosquitoes and curious dogs; all part of the picnic fun. Our weather can be a bit more creative as well; I found in England it was simply either wet and cold, or pleasant and sunny. Instead of squirrels and ducks, we might have the local dogs and bin chickens (aka, the ibis) waiting to clean up the crumbs.
The contrast between England and home was incredible.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the way things are at home! In an English park, you feel like you must be more quiet and reserved. Here at home, we feel free to laugh, start impromptu games of sport, climb trees, throw a frisbee. There are no “keep off the grass” signs anywhere. While our selection of trees does not look so uniform and majestic, it is an exotic variety that feels extremely alive and real. The birds (or cicadas) are constantly singing. While the grass is never as neat, instead growing in uneven patches; tall and itchy in some places, flat and dry in other parts; it feels like home.
But it was lovely to step into the storybook world of an English park for a while. Most days on our holiday we would go and visit one to soak in the hushed, breathtaking serenity.
We went up Primrose Hill, and gazed at the panoramic view of London’s iconic landmarks, before lying down in the cushy grass to dream.
We sat and ate an amazing feast of fresh bread, pastries, marmalade and cheese in the crowded, yet still peaceful Bloomsbury Square Garden near the British Museum.
We strolled through Queen Mary’s Rose Gardens in The Regent’s Park; stopping by each kind of rose to read its creative name, smell its luscious scent and take a photo of its rich coloured petals.
We perched on the banks of the River Cherwell flowing through Christ Church Meadow in Oxford, and read for hours while boats drifted past.
We snacked on cherry tomatoes and strawberries and read some more under the apple trees in the University of Oxford Botanic Gardens, while courageous ducks came right up to our faces to ask for food.
We laughed as we watched my brother run in circles around the small Wellington Square… maybe being a little bit too boisterous for the setting.
We went back to Christ Church Meadow to play Ex Libris (or “the writing game”, as we call it; a favourite game for our family) and enjoy another picnic lunch.
While Jack and Dad practised spin bowling in the nets at the University Parks Cricket Ground, we girls made use of the park benches, trees, fine weather and happy sounds of a good cricket match going on in front of us to read some more.
Back in London, while we were waiting to squeeze in a trip to the Churchill War Rooms before our flight home, we lay down on a thin strip of grass to listen to Dad read our current book, The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell, while people walked past on the path right beside.
Those are happy memories. To me, they speak of peacefulness, rest, dreams and joy. They speak of good books, fun games and delicious food. The parks may have been a simple part of our incredible holiday, but it was special.
I hope my words have managed to capture a glimpse of the quiet beauty those times held for me.