I appear to be slightly sunburned, on account of having spent much of the day yesterday on Hampstead Heath. It always feels a little odd when it's this sunny so early in the year. Everyone gets caught off guard. Although, really, you'd think we'd learn because there's always a gloriously sunny patch of weather in March and April in the U.K., which is often, in retrospect, the best weather of the year.
My companions on the Heath were Tanya, Paul and their three, and Raily and her two: all delightful children who get on like a miniature Red Hand Gang. We had a picnic in a field between the Mixed Ponds and the Vale of Health. Paul couldn't believe that there are three freshwater swimming ponds on the Heath: one for men, one for women, and one for men and women. It's deliciously eccentric. The mixed ponds are only open to the public in the summer months, whereas the Men's and Women's ponds are open all year round for those with incredibly strong constitutions. When the ponds freeze over, they cut holes in the ice.
When I was at university, someone wrote a play about the Women's Pond and all the eccentric characters who hang out there. This was long before I had a concept of London, let alone Hampstead Heath, so it seemed like an alien world which I wasn't quite sure I believed. These days, as a fully-fledged Heath Person, who's seen the naked dog walkers at dawn and witnessed the curious pagan rituals on Boudicca's Mount, I fully understand that, in this glorious little corner of North London, almost anything goes.
I took the kids to the tree with the hole in it. I don't know what the record is for cramming people into that place, but, at one point, we managed three adults and four children, all inside the trunk of a single tree with plenty of room to spare.
From the tree we walked across to the pergola, a giant kilometre-long Edwardian wooden and brick structure on the top of a hill on the western side of the Heath. In a few weeks' time, it will hum with the smell of the wisteria which wraps itself around most of the wooden struts.
We lay on the grass in the hillside garden soaking up the sun with the kids rolling down the hill in freshly-mown grass. It was glorious.
Nathan joined us, and the day ended in a pub garden at the bottom of Downshire Hill towards Southend Green. Magical.
I've recently been listening to the music of the genius Wendy Carlos. If you don't know her ouve, check this out from the soundtrack of A Clockwork Orange: