In between packing up and throwing things away all weekend I’ve been thinking about what I’ll miss about Hackney when we move. Obviously not Silverlink or the journey to work, but oddly enough I will miss the sound of the trains. Our flat sits in a corner between two railway lines and the rumble of freight trains in the night acts as an urban lullaby when it isn’t drowned out by the neighbours holding an all night party like the one last night that mixed children, dogs, loud music and louder conversation and didn’t break up until 4 am.
The other thing is the park. Today, feeling groggy from lack of sleep and unable to face any more packing in our flat which heats up inexorably in the summer – note to architects: south facing Velux windows are Not A Good Thing – we did what we’ve been doing for the past few weeks, packed up a couple of cold drinks and a blanket and sat out the heat under a tree in London Fields. There must be hundreds of parks like it around the city – a paddling pool, a couple of tennis courts, a derelict lido, a cricket pitch where some of the worst cricket I have ever seen is regularly played – but London Fields seems to me to be a perfect example of a small local London park, a sort of platonic ideal.
A hundred years or more ago, some civic genius (or perhaps some unimaginative Victorian bureaucrat following the standard How to Build a Park guidelines) planted London plane trees all around the park and they are now towering giants, generous with their shade, filling the air with a gentle rustling in the breeze. In the evening there are bats flying around their branches, in the winter they are covered in tiny round hanging bobbles as though they brought their own Christmas decorations. To lie under one in the summer is to look up at the sky filtered through layer after layer of leaves. These ones haven’t been pollarded into tortured fists like street trees & I wonder if the Victorians knew how big they would grow, or if they were just hoping they would grow at all. What a legacy to leave – not one or two but dozens of these majestic trees spreading their shade over the inhabitants of Hackney who don’t have much else magnificence in their lives. I’m sure that the municipal Great and the Good who planted these trees would be pretty horrified if they could see what was playing out under their branches – the near-nakedness, the body piercings, the female wicket keeper who (I swear) was worse than Geraint Jones – but they would look at the trees and see that something had gone to plan.
These days freshly planted trees get short shrift in London and even when they’re planted it’s more in hope than in expectation of their survival. I wonder what Londoners will be sitting under in 100 years time, once global warming and drought have killed off today’s giants? Meanwhile, it’s off to South London for me, and hopefully a park as pleasant as London Fields for us to spend our summer afternoons in.
*Caution: off topic post, and not even particularly disgruntled. Normal service will resume tomorrow.