The Battersea Fun Fair and The Staff Yard

My friend Sarah emailed me a few days ago to ask if she could have a copy of this ferris wheel image above. She said it made her feel nostalgic.

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I thought that was interesting because that feeling is exactly what led my parents and I to a fun fair in Battersea Park over the bank holiday weekend. My dad remembered enjoying the Battersea Fun Fair as a kid. He wanted to see if there was still a theme park in the same area, but this ferris wheel is only part of a temporary bank holiday fun fair set up for a long weekend.

Curious about his comment that the park had closed because someone had died, I looked into it a bit more and found this:

“The fun fair’s most spectacular ride was a roller coaster called The Big Dipper, which opened in 1951. It was of wooden construction and suffered a major fire in 1970. It was permanently closed down after five children were killed and thirteen others injured in an accident on 30 May 1972 when one of the trains became detached from the haulage rope, before rolling back to the station (the anti-rollback mechanism having also failed) and colliding with the other train. This is the worst accident in the history of theme parks. The lack of a main attraction led to the decline in the popularity of the fun fair and its eventual closure in 1974.”

I had nearly forgotten about these photos of our day in Battersea Park until Sarah emailed me and I realised I hadn’t shared them here on the blog yet.

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It was a beautiful day, the last weekend in August – bank holiday and sunshine all in one. We were looking for something relaxing to do, a low key way to spend the day.

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Battersea Park was never really on my radar until I lived just over the bridge, but now I walk through every so often to enjoy the green space that runs along the south side of the river.

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One of my favourite features of the park is the Peace Pagoda, which I’ve written about before along with a few other Battersea Park posts. It seems so out of place that you actually feel like you’re not in London anymore, similar to the feeling of driving by the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden, only on a much smaller scale!

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We walked through the west side of the park, taking in the fountains and manicured flower beds. Everything looked tidy, bright and Summery.

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We stopped for 99 Flakes before heading toward the Staff Yard.

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The Staff Yard is bursting with herbs and veggies. It’s a bit hidden as it’s a walled garden so not so obvious unless you know to look for it or accidentally bump into it.

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Though it’s called the “Staff Yard”, it is a community project that’s maintained by the charity Thrive.

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It’s not a huge space but there’s a really wide variety of plants neatly organised and labeled. I also found a gnome.

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In the 20 minutes or so that we spent exploring this space, not a single other person walked in so it’s definitely a relaxing place, a little hideaway, with a few benches dotted about in case you brought your book.

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We spotted a garden for men’s health and women’s health with various herbs and why they are good for either.

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We eventually made our way out and back to the river. I love walking over the Albert Bridge. It’s my new favourite. (My old favourite, in case you are wondering, was Blackfriars Bridge because I used to walk over it every day when I did my study abroad internship many years ago and it brought back fond memories every time I returned.)

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We wandered slowly down King’s Road then, to Duke of York Square which is excellent for people-watching (and car-watching, even if you’re not a car person, which I’m not at all but it’s amusing to see all the show offs around here).

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It was definitely a very relaxing way to spend the day. And the park looks very different now, just a month later, transitioning into Autumn.

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Where’s your favourite London park to spend a crisp Autumn afternoon? Do you have any memories of the Battersea Fun Fair? I’d love to hear your stories if you do!

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Scents and Sounds of Brompton Cemetery

I lived around the corner from West London’s Brompton Cemetery about two or three years ago.

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it didn’t seem quite as wild or untamed as it does now.

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I like it this way, less groomed, equally inviting.

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It feels more natural, more like a nature reserve that just happens to be a cemetery.

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Now, there are more tousled vines engulfing crooked gravestones.

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There are delicate pink wildflowers poking up in between hard surfaces.

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Wild berries hang, juicy and ripening in the Summer sun.

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Tangled plants sweep over the untidy edges of trails that deviate through the grass off of the main walkways.

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The main strip is still pretty orderly, but there are large patches that have been left to grow as nature intended.

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Weather-worn gravestones are marked with brown patches of moss and bird droppings faded in the sun.

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The names are becoming more difficult to decipher on some of the older inscriptions.

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Despite being a cemetery – one of the Magnificent Seven in London – it’s full of life.

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I used to run here, as do many others.

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People come to settle on benches and spend their lunch breaks or early mornings with a newspaper.

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Others walk, slowly and contemplatively, without the sense of rush that goes on beyond the cemetery walls.

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I settle in on the steps across from the domed chapel in the middle.

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It’s easy to think back to three years ago and how much life has changed since.

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I have a completely different set of friends now.

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Many have moved away – to Toronto, to Sydney, to Mongolia, to the US, to the countryside.

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I’m in a different relationship, happier.

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I went off to Colombia for six months and New York for three and then came back and have been back for almost two years again now.

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I’m happier at work with a different and more interesting, creative and fulfilling job.

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I thought not so much about the death all around me but about the different cycles that life takes us through, the many changes that come year after year, especially living in a huge global city like London.

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A slight breeze stirs the ferns and a train faintly clacks over the tracks beyond the wall.

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There’s a background hum of soaring planes above, but it’s muffled here.

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What stands out most is the buzz of crickets and other insects.

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You can actually hear the breeze slip through the leaves.

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Squirrels sniff at the ground.

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Pigeons grovel.

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No dogs in sight though.

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There are what seems to be a million stoic black crows stand still, glaring our from their headstone perches.

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It smells of earth.

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It sounds like peacefulness of death.

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But it feels quite alive.

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If you’re a cemetery fan, check out some previous posts from Nunhead, Plumstead and Woolwich!

A Secret Garden in Hampstead: London Underground in Bloom

Someone asked me recently: “What’s the best thing about living in London?”

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After much deliberation, running through the multitude of possibilities, I narrowed it down to: “The little things that engage your senses every day and the unexpected moments.”

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On Saturday I came across both of these.

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I journeyed up to Hampstead to meet Carolina for the best crepes in London at La Creperie de Hampstead.

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I arrived a few minutes early and perched myself against the railing outside Hampstead station.

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Back in 2007, I worked in Hampstead for about a year, in a small gallery up the hill toward the Heath.

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I was lost in thought, wondering if the gallery is still there, thinking about rolling Easter eggs down Parliament Hill, a recent goodbye picnic for some friends who are now in China making their way overland to Istanbul over the next three months.

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I thought back to 2008 when I used to come every Wednesday night to Hampstead with a group of friends to watch open mic nights at The Flask around the corner.

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Then I looked up when I heard a girl saying, “Ugh, she’s still all the way in South Kensington (my station). That’s sooo far away.”

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I glanced around for Carolina and a poster caught my eye.

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It said there was a garden open day.

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A secret garden!

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I followed the arrow to a narrow alleyway that lined the back of the station and opened into a courtyard.

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It was a beautiful little oasis of green, with flowers and plants coming out of every available surface, lining the walls, snaking up the steps, on the roof of the garden shed and in TFL tea cups on small brick ledges.

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There were aubergines and plums, a banana plant, tomatoes, herbs and plenty of pretty flowers.

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Smiling TFL staff handed out free cupcakes and took donations for Cancer Research.

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The garden was designed by a few members of staff in their free time.

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It is part of the Underground in Bloom competition which is an annual event that many different tube stations participate in.

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This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Tube so “150” is incorporated in various elements of the garden.

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I’m not sure if they will have another open day, but it sounds like the results of the competition will be announced on September 11, so you never know.

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It looks like 68 stations are participating in the competition, so yours might be too!

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Hampstead won first place in the fruits and veg category last year and was highly commended in the best overall garden award category.

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I climbed up to the top of a winding metal staircase and the garden next door was also stunning.

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There was a cat on the roof and one running into the house as well.

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There was a bit of a traffic jam going up and down the spiral staircase when a girl decided she was terrified of heights and decided to go back down to the bottom.

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But it was worth the wait to get to the top.

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The garden had all sorts of little nooks and crannies.

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Barely any space left unplanted.

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If only it were around all year, open to the public.

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That goes for all of these secret garden spaces that are created temporarily.

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And green space generally.

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More of this London. I like it.

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Jorge and I visited NYC’s High Line for the first time last month.

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What a brilliant project.

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It really is a little oasis from the fast pace of city life below and I’d love to see something similar built / designed in London.

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A High Line in London would be pretty fabulous, don’t you think? In the meantime, I am happy to discover secret gardens!

The International Gardens of London’s Holland Park

I worked in Notting Hill for four years, just a 10 minute walk from West London’s Holland Park.

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For one of those years, I lived in Earl’s Court so I would walk to and from work through Holland Park every single day, watching the changing seasons and the same Londoners taking their dogs or kids for a stroll.

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London is full of fantastic parks, from Regents Park with its beautiful rose gardens, Hampstead Heath with its ponds and stunning view over London, Richmond Park with grazing deer and the green spaces of East London that line the canals.

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Although it is one of the smaller green spaces, Holland Park quickly became one of my favourites.

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I spent many lunch breaks there, sitting in the sun, enjoying a book or a magazine.

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I’ve walked through on rainy days when the benches are empty and the flower petals are dripping. And I’ve walked through on snowy days with inappropriate shoes that threatened to send me flying back down the hill on the ice.

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It has been the setting for many a picnic with friends, photo walks and long conversations.

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Holland Park is fabulous for many reasons like their free-roaming peacocks and free outdoor gym. But two areas stand out for me.

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One is the Dutch garden.

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I love its manicured flower bed, its rainbow array of flowers with hovering bees searching for food.

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I spent a few hours there on Saturday before meeting my study abroad roommate from 2004 in Portobello Market, nine years after we’d last seen each other.

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It smelled like Summer.

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The sky lit up the background for the vibrant flowers, a brilliant blue and barely a cloud, temperatures climbing slowly to 30C.

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I love the rows of benches lining the Dutch Gardens.

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It was with a mixture of fascination and melancholy I read the inscriptions, memories of people who have sat and found solace in this park, quotes about lost love and happiness and life long gone.

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A few other people wandered through, but it was quiet here, separated from the rest of the park like a not so hidden secret garden.

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A few kids appeared out of the blue, brothers probably, arguing in Spanish about who won their race to the statue. Then they quickly disappeared again.

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I thought about how big and sprawling this city is, how I hadn’t visited the park in months, and how quickly time goes by when there is so much to see and do.

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It is no longer a part of my daily routine and I forget how much I enjoy being there.

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My other favourite part of Holland Park is also an international garden.

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It’s the Kyoto Gardens just behind the Dutch Garden.

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For some reason it always seems to be slightly more busy than the Dutch Gardens on sunny days.

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I guess people enjoy the pond as much as I do.

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And certainly the waterfall – a novelty in London!

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It’s fun to peer over the edge and watch the fish swim lazily over a bed of coins – probably from all over the world – dropped in with wishes over the years.

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An occasional duck floats by.

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It’s a peaceful place overall. Even the streets outside the park are pretty!

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I headed back toward Portobello Market then to catch up with Jevon on a bright and sunny day.

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Stop by the LLO Facebook Page and let me know your favourite London park and why if you haven’t already. Give the page a big LIKE while you’re there!

A Picnic in a Garden of Roses

Sunday was the first truly hot day of Summer in London, with temperatures up to 26C/80F.

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Apart from the inspiring plane trails soaring across the sky to and from Heathrow, and one or two whispy clouds, it was a vibrant, brilliant blue.

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After a morning pedicure at The Nail Boutique in the Chelsea Farmer’s Market I headed home to decide on the best place for an afternoon picnic!

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There was no way Jorge and I were staying indoors.

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After packing our new bamboo basket with goodies, we headed to our favourite local green spot: the picturesque public gardens next to St. Luke’s church.

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This time of year, they are bursting with roses, an assortment of other pretty flowers and full green leafy trees.

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We chose a quiet green patch, away from the children running half-naked through the sprinklers on the other side of the park, just next to a lovely circle of roses.

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I loved the contrast of the bright colours against the deep blue sky.

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When London is sunny, it really comes to life.

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Blanket spread, we settled in with a bottle of wine.

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Which we polished off by the time we left.

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I apparently forgot sunglasses existed, hence the look on my face in this photo!

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Next up, food!

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We had lots of nibbles: Spanish omelette, a few types of cheese, grapes, olives, chorizo, ham, pate, baguette, salad, crackers, prawns, sun dried tomatoes.

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Jorge even bought fun yellow plates from Anthropologie and matching yellow silverware. Not to mention pretty napkins and a checkered blanket.

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Love it when guys pay attention to all the little details!

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After lunch, we poured a bit more wine and lounged around for a while.

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I took a few photos of the pretty park.

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Jorge, of course, knows all the names of the flowers, which he was telling me, and of course I’ve already forgotten…

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Aren’t they pretty?

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At certain angles, the sun shone through the petals, making them look translucent.

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Around the garden, there were couples lying on blankets, men with canes resting on wooden benches quietly observing life go by, a few dogs chasing pigeons.

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I was happy enough to be outside without a coat, so the sun was a real treat.

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Eventually we even moved to find some shade!

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I went on a hunt for tea and a cappuccino from Paul and we fiished up with some mango and passionfruit cheesecake.

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I got a bit snap-happy with the flowers, but they were just asking for it.

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So many colours really stand out when the usually grey London sky turns to Summer blue.

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It was most definitely a beautiful and memorable mid-Summer’s day!

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If you’re in the area, head across the street for a drink or lunch at the new Bumpkin Secret Garden restaurant or have a wander around Chelsea