I went to Kew today with Philippa, Dylan and my godchildren, Deia and Silver. And what a uniquely beautiful day it was...
We met at Highbury and Islington train station. They were changing trains and had five minutes to get the kids, a heavily-laden buggy and two scooters from one platform to another. It doesn't sound like a massive challenge, but when you have two young children, any journey is littered with an astonishing amount of potential hazards, so it was astounding that we managed to hook up and change trains in our allotted time period without major incident!
Kew is lovely at any time of the year, but on a stunning spring morning, it's almost unbeatable. The tube station is surrounded by charming little independent shops, one of which is a somewhat eccentric charity-shop-cum-newsagent. Musty rails of clothes and old jigsaws rubbing shoulders with cans of coke and chocolate racks. There are artisan bread stalls and funky-looking cafés. It's really very lovely.
The walk from the tube to Kew Gardens is only about five minutes, and takes you along palm tree-lined streets. It's slightly peculiar to see palms in London, but there's more than a whiff of the art nouveaus about the area, so it all seems to fit in.
Kew Gardens was bathed in sunlight. There were so many flowers in bloom. Tulips, daffodils, magnolia, cherry blossom. It's Kew Gardens! I'm not sure why I'm even attempting to list the riot of flowers we saw today.
We went first to the palm glass house. It's hot, wet and sticky in there, which is never good news for an hairy man like me. We climbed a wrought iron spiral staircase to a walkway right in the roof of the building which looks down over the canopy of palms. It's particularly hot up there. Uncomfortably so, but worth it for the view. The building is the most astonishing feat of Victorian architecture. You can still imagine why Victorians were frightened to go in these sorts of buildings for fear of plates of glass falling on their heads.
After an hour we exited the glass house, dripping in sweat, and made our way to a set of cherry blossom trees for a picnic lunch. Philippa had made cheese and hummus sandwiches which were, in a word, delicious.
We walked on through the gardens, though a sort of Mediterranean grotto, to a Henry Moore sculpture of a mother and child, which was warm to the touch on the parts which were in direct sunlight, and freezing cold in the parts that were in the shade. I rather liked the sensual contrast.
We went from the statue to the treetop walkway, which is a fifty-foot-high giant metal structure which gives people the opportunity to walk along a pathway which crosses the tops of a series of incredibly tall trees. It's vertigo-inducing stuff, particularly when it's as blustery as it was this afternoon. The entire structure wobbles and shakes.
For the rest of the afternoon we hung out at the children's play area, which is a particularly fine one. Deia and Silver had a lot of fun jumping and running about whilst we drank a lovely cup of tea.
The journey home was uneventful, but for our needing to stop off at Willesden Green because Deia needed the loo. It was no hardship. It gave us an opportunity to have another cuppa in the station cafe, which, for the record, is a lovely little spot, run by a lovely little man!
Nathan picked me up from Gospel Oak, and I was home before 7, feeling hugely relaxed and more than a little sun-kissed. I worked this evening.