Friday, 13 February 2009

Boxing Day in St James Park

Sometime in January, when I may or may not have been boycotting a trip to Brighton with our houseguests, I took a rather ill-advised late afternoon trip into town and ended up in St James's Park. This is one London park I hadn't visited in at leats five years so it was charming to see, but as I mentioned, ill-advised. Because it was FREEZING. I don't think I've ever been so cold, even when were standing on that glacier in Iceland being buffeted by icy winds and snow. Of course this was mostly my fault as I had let myself be lulled into a false sense of insulation security by some milder weather and was therefore not sufficiently rugged up for a sunset stroll, outdoors.

St James's Park is of course adjacent to Buckingham Palace and Green Park, so I took the obligatory wander through the first park and past the palace. I felt a bit ghost-like, weaving silently through the excited tourists snapping photograph after photograph of the palace, which (of course) stubbornly failed to produce any royal people for them to look at.

The park itself was much quieter, possibly because most people are as not stupid as I, and were therefore probably at home drinking mulled wine under a knitted rug on the couch.

I do love this common London sight though - tangled bare branches arching across the sky. It reminds me of those eerie old fairytale books which haven't had the stories edited into child-friendly sweetness. I recommend you click on the photo to see the larger size.

There were a few souls bravely feeding birds at St James's Park Lake. Although I think I remember reading a very twee English book once (about a girl and her pony - lots of gymkhanas and lemonade) which explained that it was bad for ducks, nutritionally speaking, to eat white bread because it makes their organs swell up or something. I should try to verify that.

The park looking decidedly wintery

Signs of life...

Pigeons huddling together for warmth

Speaking of fairytales, the view across the path to Westminster struck me as very much like enchanted castles in the distance (click on the photo to get a better idea).

Wikipedia fact of the day: the area around St James's Park was named St James after the leper hospital, St James the Less, formerly located near the park.

This guy (below) seems to ride to the park on his bike with stocks of nuts for the squirrels. I didn't really manage to photograph it successfully but it was very entertaining - the squirrels seemed to have worked out a perfectly-timed roster under which, one by one, they would run along the fence in the background, down the gate and over to the man, only to take the nut, run off and be replaced by the next in line. If he got distracted and wasn't quick enough to produce the next nut, the waiting squirrel would sometimes run up his leg.

I hate to backtrack, so having entered the park at the Buckingham Palace end, I exited at the opposite end near Westminster. This is the Horse Guards building at the Westminster end (and a bit of the London Eye to the right).

I walked through the central archway of the building looking for Westminster tube station and found myself (along with hordes of tourists) in the midst of a Household Cavalry guard changing ceremony. There were policeman there directing the crowds into an orderly mob so no one would get in the way of the choreography. This made it impossible to escape as the exit gates were blocked by people, so I watched the entire thing while trying not to think about what would happen if I got frostbite of the nose. According to Wikipedia only the monarch is permitted to pass through the archway but that's either Wikipedian rubbish, or no one bothers enforcing that rule on Boxing Day.

Fittingly, I ended the trip with this view, before heading down into the subway and the tube.

I'll miss the way London always manages to effortlessly present another amazing view or eccentric scene. I won't miss the regularity with which I see vomit on the street, but that's a mystery for another day.

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