Saturday, 2 June 2012

Sitting down with St James


We're heading into London, the train is full and we're enveloped in the hum of happy talk. An old man sits in front of us, his straw hat on the seat next to him, he watches two girls chatting away, but they are completely oblivious as they giggle and conspire. Across the aisle a small boy stands on the seat, his face pressed against the window as he watches all the buildings go past sideways. All around us there's a sense of relaxed excitement, I wonder if that's because we all know that today, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, we'll see our capital city at its very best.

Just past Waterloo station, the London Eye looms large and I shake my head in bemusement at the enormous upturned purple cow that fills the space beside it. Each time I come to London, there's always something I've never seen before, this time it's a strange purple bovine thing; I have no idea what it is or what it's for. I look down at the sunlight sparkling on the Thames as our train crosses the river and heads into Charing Cross,  then the doors open and we spill out into the station.

We've a busy day planned, a leisurely lunch and then a matinee, with some strolling around Covent Garden and theatreland thrown in. Somewhere along the way we both feel the need for some green space and a sit down, so we walk down Pall Mall, past the grand old Duke of York's statue and  into St James park. It's the oldest royal park in London, and my favourite - a small green getaway with Buckingham Palace at one end and Trafalgar Square at the other, it holds some fond childhood memories of feeding ducks with my Dad and being amazed by the pelicans. Today it's crowded, but eventually we find a spot under the trees, with enough shade for Philip and a gap between the branches where bright sunlight shines through, like a spotlight, for me.

My legs are white; I imagine my knees blinking as I pull up my skirt hem and they are exposed to the shiny brightness of the outside world for the first time this year. I spot something else glittering in the sunshine; a one pound coin lying on the grass, half hidden by daisies and fallen leaves. I wonder who dropped it there, whether they know they've lost it. I pick it up, but feel reluctant to put it in my purse, next to money that is really mine, so I slip it into a side pocket of my bag, thinking perhaps it will be ok to use if I really need to.

Just like on the train, we're surrounded by people, it's the centre of London, but their talk and laughter drowns out any noise from traffic. There are couples, like us, who seem to have spontaneously decided to come here, they sit on the jumpers and jackets that they didn't need to bring today. There are whole families as well, with pushchairs standing guard around picnic blankets piled high with food. Behind me there's a clump of bushes where children are playing - I can hear them shouting 'hide, hide'. Then there's a full-throated 'aaarrgh' and as I turn round to look, a boy comes charging out; a proper pirate brandishing his bright red cricket bat.

Everyone has bags. The three girls beside me sit around their handbags like exhausted dancers at a disco. The blue and white stripes of Tesco's plastic is everywhere; I watch a woman delve into hers and pull out a cardboard wrapped sandwich, she looks at it for a very long time before folding back a corner of the box.

It's two o'clock, and I hear the chimes of Big Ben announcing the hour, reminding us that it's time we were making a move, our matinee will soon be starting. We stand slowly, stretching limbs that ache from sitting on the hard ground. As I brush the blades of grass from my skirt, I look around, just to make sure we haven't left anything behind, then I remember the one-pound coin and just before we leave, I drop it back on the ground. I hope whoever finds it next smiles as broadly as I do, as we head out into the rest of our Saturday in London.


22 comments:

Shea Goff said...

Just what I needed, a little trip, a little travel. Thank you for taking me there, Sharon. It is quite beautiful.

Mrs Smith said...

We are heading into winter in this small rural town at the other end of the other- your day-out in sunny London transported me! Thank you for bringing the big city and sunshine out. I wonder who found the pound?

Mrs Smith said...

The other end of the Earth, I mean! The other end of the other' sounds a big rude!

Mrs Smith said...

A bit rude. Autocorrect is killing me.

ND Mitchell said...

You capture the lovely leisurely nature of this trip in your writing Sharon. Waiting around in sunshine captured perfectly!

Bill Dameron said...

Oh, I love London, Sharon and was right there with you when you described St. James Park and Covent Garden. I need to get back there and experience it with Paul. He loves the expression "Mind the gap".

What a lovely, sparkling story, much like a shiny pound found amid some grass.

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

What a lovely day in the park. And nothing makes you smile like "found" money.

Chantel said...

So soft and yet so vivid, this was like a movie short I wished was longer.

Your thoughts on the coin revealed so much about you, loved that.

"As We Speak" said...

So happy that you don't call your writing a blog. You and Philip and Mr. Londonstreet are not bloggers. You are weavers of words and painters of pictures...NOT BLOGGERS!

OpinionsToGo

PS Leaving the coin was such a lovely gesture.

Linda Myers said...

I wonder who will pick up the pound next.

Sharon Longworth said...

Shea - thank you! I'm very glad you chose to come along with me on your travels!

Mrs Smith - wouldn't it be great if we could always swap - so I can come to your summer just as winter kicks in here. And yes, autocorrect is such a trial!

David - thank you. I wish I were doing a little more waiting around in the sunshine today - it's all gloom here now.

Bill - I hope you and Paul do get to come here together - I'd be happy to buy you both a beer. I once had an Austrian friend who loved 'mind the gap' so much, he recorded it and mixed it into a song!

Sharon Longworth said...

mybabyjohn/Delores - it was indeed a lovely day.

Chantel - I'm really pleased you liked this - thank you.

Opinions to Go - you are quite marvellous (that was my Dame Judi voice) - thank you.

Linda - I know, I wish I could be there to see.

John said...

Thanks for another lovely read Sharon.

What a good basis for a short story... a pound picked up as reserve, put back in place later, and what happened in between the meant it was almost spent several times.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Once again I left your piece for last, and then took days to get back to it. I love to linger over pieces like this. Such a lovely combination of images, thoughts, mood. It let me know that sitting in a park in London today is very much the way it was 40 years ago when I was there.

Happy Frog and I said...

As ever I find myself agreeing with so many of the comments left before mine. I do love the talented way you write and weave a story. I'd never have thought of this line but it seems so right: 'My legs are white; I imagine my knees blinking as I pull up my skirt hem and they are exposed to the shiny brightness of the outside world for the first time this year.'

Sharon Longworth said...

John - now there's a thought, I might just go and play with that as a story and see where it leads me!

Blissed out Grandma - thank you. There are so many things about London that change all the time, I'm really glad that there are some constants, and sitting in a park seems to be one of them.

Happy Frog and I - thank you, as ever and I'm glad you liked that line. In reality it was probably me blinking back in horror at the whiteness of my knees!!

Pat said...

What luck that you didn't have Sunday's weather.
Do tell about the theatre.

Starlight said...

Sharon, this is a beautiful post, as always. In Slovenia, finding a coin means good luck, but only if you keep it. I'm sure you had it long enough though. :)

Sharon Longworth said...

Pat - I know, I can't believe the difference between last weekend's weather,when we were basking in sunshine, to yesterday's downpours. We were very lucky. The theatre was a double bill - South Downs and The Browning Version - and both were absolutely great.

Tamara - we have a saying here - see a penny, pick it up, all day long you'll have good luck! I'm not sure if it applies to pounds though!

Jennifer said...

This was wonderful. It took me to another place entirely.

Dicky Carter said...

Great story (I'm a big fan of days out in London). I kept thinking, 'What's she going to do with the pound?'

Cle Reveries said...

Thank you my magic and wonderful Sharon, you make me feel like spending a fantastic whole morning with you in my unforgettable London.
I've followed you through all the splendid spots, done the same actions you have done. Like many years ago when I happen to do that for the first time: I walked as a tourist . I've felt all that you describe here.
...and what about the pound (or coin)? I know the saying about good luck, we have something like that in Italy, but it's what I expected from you, because it's what I would like to do.
Kisses
Cle