I’ve been on Hampstead Heath all day, soaking up the wonderful sunshine with Nathan, Raily, and her two kids; Jeannie and my Godson Wils. My face feels tight and sun-kissed and I feel alive.
The day was genuinely magical. We explored the pergola over on the West Heath, and then stumbled our way through a series of dappled lime-green copses to the giant tree with the hole in it. It doesn’t sound impressive, but it’s stunning. For some reason its enormous trunk is entirely hollow and five or six people can climb inside and sit very comfortably. Despite this, the tree continues to grow. It’s a freak of nature, or something a great deal more mystical.
Worrying that I wouldn’t be able to find it, and not wanting the children to be disappointed, I told Wils that we might not see it because it moves around magically. This obviously caught the lad’s imagination, because, by the time we got there, he’d decided that we might be okay because the tree would probably only chose to move about at night when no one was around.
Imagine my joy, therefore, when we climbed inside and instantly found a little handwritten note pushed into one of the crevices inside which simply read, “Dear Mr Tree, please come to visit me tonight.” My story was instantly validated, and Wils was pressing his face against the bark and urging the tree, in a stage whisper, to visit him in the night as well. He then declared that it was the “best tree in the world.” He’s not far wrong.
Inside the magic tree
From the magic tree, we went for ice creams in Pond Square, which oddly became the biggest draw of the day. The children bounced around, balancing on the wrought iron fences there, and jumping from stone to stone. No adventure playground could have been so well-equipped. I adore children who can entertain themselves armed only with vivid imagination and the ability to listen.
Tonight’s been about writing one of the online audio blogs I’m going to be delivering for the London Requiem project on The Space. Because I’m absolutely nuts, I’m going to take myself off to Highgate cemetery at midnight to record it! The first recording I made has needed to be edited, partly because it was a little long, but also because I kicked things off by announcing that I wasn’t wearing any trousers! I thought listeners might be interested to know.
350 years ago, and word across London was that Lord Sandwich, Pepys’ patron, who’d gone to France to collect the Queen Mother, was lost at sea in one of the terrible summer storms which had been lashing London. Pepys refused to believe it was true, although he himself had suffered from the effects of the terrible weather. His house, still roofless, was soaked through. He spent the day packing up belongings to send to his father’s house in Brampton in Huntingdonshire where his wife and servants were heading to avoid the rain and the mulchy dust.