London was boiling hot today. Really lovely late summer sunshine shone down constantly. There wasn't a cloud in the sky. It would have been awful to spend the day stuck inside, but fortunately we had a place to be. Abbie had invited us to the annual Philbeach Gardens residents' party. Abbie was brought up in a house which over-looked the gardens and her mother still lives on the street. The party demonstrated to me that very strong communities still exist in London. Philbeach Gardens is in Earls Court, but there are these little communal residents' only gardens all over the capital. They're often walled, or hedged off, and situated in the middle of a square. There's a scene in Notting Hill where the two main characters go into one at night and have a bit of light rumpy-pumpy on a bench under a tree!
I've never been in one of these gardens before. Philbeach Gardens is situated behind a grand crescent of houses. All the properties back onto the garden and all the residents who live in them have their own key to get into it. There are one or two little rules associated with the garden. You can't take a dog inside, you can't play football on the grass, you're encouraged not to make too much noise and if you invite more than ten mates for a party or picnic in the garden, you're officially meant to ask permission of other residents, oh, and you have to be out of the garden by 11pm...
It's so beautiful in there. There are tall trees, large lawns, benches, little arbours. There's even a grass tennis court in there... All hidden away, like a marvellous secret. I'd defy anyone walking along the streets on the edge of the garden to know it's there. It's totally private, only overlooked by the the properties who own it. I'm not very good at judging size but it must be at least an acre.
We ate a picnic with Ian and Abbie's Mum and listened to a wonderful live band. Abbie sang jazz standards. Very well. The sun shone. We sunbathed. It was so lovely to lie on my back on a rug whilst the jazz music washed over me.
We left when the sun dropped below the level of the houses. As we walked back to the car, a young girl, off her head on the bottle of lighter fluid, stopped us. She was incredibly affable, but plainly loopy loo. She wanted to talk to us: "I think it's so awful that the world is homophobic." She blurted out. "I don't know where they come from, all these homophobes. I think you're inspirational." Neither of us were quite sure what to say to her. We weren't holding hands or anything, so we were quite shocked that she'd so readily identified us as a pair of homos! We thanked her, wished her well, and she waddled off, happily holding her open can of lighter fluid. It was a highly eccentric end to the day.