What a lovely day! We've been in Kew Gardens with my parents all afternoon curtesy of Daryl who gave us some tickets which I was able to give to the parents at Christmas. The weather couldn't have been more perfect: a hot bright sun, a dark blue sky, and a gloriously refreshing breeze accompanied us all day.
We met the parents at Highbury and Islington after voting in the mayor election (both of us opting for the same, somewhat illogical combination of Labour and Lib Dem), putting the car into the garage to be patched-up, and buying some lovely picnic things.
We took the overland train from Highbury to Kew Gardens through all those rather romantic-sounding stations like Hampstead Heath and Finchley Road and Frognal. The railway line cuts through a swathe of greenery. London is so leafy. People who live outside the city are often rather shocked to discover this particular fact.
The area around Kew train station is very special. It's hardly surprising that houses in that neck of the woods sell way into the millions. There are all sorts of lovely little shops and the roads to the gardens are lined with stunningly well-maintained trees.
Kew Gardens itself is a very special place, particularly at this time of year. The star attraction is almost certainly the bluebell wood around Queen Charlotte's Cottage. It's the most extraordinary sight: a blanket of blue and purple underneath old English Oak trees stretching as far as the eye could see. In the shade, the delicate flowers are the darkest indigo, but in the sun, they glow brilliant shades of lavender and lilac.
The smell is intense. British bluebells have a similar aroma to hyacinths, and I learned today that they're actually known as wild hyacinth or "hyacinth non scripta." At one point the smell became almost overpowering when it merged with the aroma of wild garlic.
The birds were plainly very happy to be alive in Kew today. They were singing almost constantly, and, at one point, we were joined by a lovely little robin who wanted to sing to us for a while from a branch just above my head.
We sat and watched the ducks, geese, coots and swans on a bench by the lake for some time. Several of the ducks seemed to be gay. One couple - both male - seemed very attached to one another. Then they started mating! I didn't know where to look!
We crossed the bridge to get away from a swan who seemed intent on puffing itself up to a great height to intimidate us. As we made a hasty exit, we passed a bloke with a broken arm, "been this way already have you?"
We had our picnic down by the Thames with the glorious Syon House positively glowing on the other side of the water. My Mum had neatly cut out a newspaper article about the Battle of the Somme to show me. It came in the form of two pieces of paper, perhaps twenty centimetres square. At one moment a crazy wind blew-up which literally took the pieces of paper out of my hand, instantly carrying them high into the air. At the same point, a vortex of dust rose high from the path beside the river. The pieces of newspaper rose higher and higher - like a pair of helium balloons - perhaps forty feet into the air, right across the river and into the woodland in front of Syon House. How bizarre is that?! We wondered if we'd just witnessed one of the infamous Thames corridor tornadoes. When I say infamous, I mean totally unheard of, despite the fact that the Thames corridor actually experiences more tornadoes than anywhere else in the world. They're just not at all powerful. Or interesting!
We walked back to the main gate and drank cups of tea in the main cafe, before buying lollipops and heading back to Highbury where we went our separate ways.