Date: 7 July 2015. The 10th anniversary of the 7/7 London bombings. I begin discover this when I see all the police activity at Kings Cross this morning, feel a prckle at the patrols by Tavistock Square and finally conclude it when I see the reporters and wreaths by a bus top I walk past every day. Tragedy so close to home is a very somber beginning to a day.
Location: the rooftop terrace, The Castle, Angel, waiting for Paris. A more cheerful end to a day.
London's not burning. It's melting.
Last Wednesday and its the hottest June day on record. Lilacs across London wilt in the summer sun as the temperature reaches 31 degrees. The Brits alternate moaning and sweating with clinking perspiring pint glasses in tribute.
Kennedy and I have just survived the steaming hot tube. Our friend — whom, oh dear, I seem have have labelled 'Poodle' in an e try some time back — is in London for two days between a wedding in Bali and a wedding in Paris. She brings with her her beautiful little baby girl, adoring husband and an impossible glow. As she's in town for such a short time she's multitasking and had invited us both to a casual family garden dinner at her aunt's house. Kennedy and I meet at Holland Park station and wander down Lansdowne Walk together, totter down some stairs and —
We step into a fairy circle: through the dark greenery of this Notting Hil mansion's lowerered front courtyard and across the house's threshold and into somewhere you surely can't really get to on the tube. The garden is vast by London standards — complete with conservatory, rock garden, little fish pond, lawn big enough for croquet and a loveseat swing half hidden by the promiscuous wisteria. The garden is in the shadow of the very tall Georgian mansion to which it belongs.
Dotted about are the most perfect inhabitants of this scene: Poodle's extended British family. And they're all being perfectly British.
“Darling I told you there'd be a taker for prosecco,” says one cousin to another as she offers me a drink and I accept the offer. “There's always a taker for prosecco. There you go dear, I'm ever so glad your here or all of this would be for nought!”
“Oh, hardly, not with Flora about. A top up of the lovely pink stuff, sweetheart?” Cousin Flora, a slender twenty something dancer type languidly extends a long arm along the back of her loveseat and allows her aunt top up her wineglass.
“It's so dreadfully hot it's all I can do to stay hydrated,” she drawls before returning to her conversation about the upcoming budget.
“Now, do have something to eat –” I'm encouraged.
“Oh, hello, another Australian? Fabulous, lovely work. I love Australians. You're all so marvellously blunt!”
Nearby, another counsin's partner is shyly holding out her left hand for Kennedy to inspect. It's heavily weighed down by a pheneomal diamond in an antique setting. “It's all very new and isn't it exciting? We just adore our Trix and now she will finally be one of us!”
They all have names like flopsy bunnies.
“Oh, Uncle Peter always gets proper sozzled at these family dos…”
“Some of us half been here since half five helping you cook, remember!”
“Half five? Half five? If you were here a hairs bredth before six I'll eat your hat! And then only to open wine to 'breathe' and watch as I made salad.”
“Supervise, Rissy! Supervise. And if we're being technical who made the salads precisely — was it you or the …”
Under a huge floppy brimmed hat, yet another cousin — Katy — seems to be dozing off in the last of the real sun with one hard loosely curled around a gin and her head in her sister's lap. They're both in the sorts of summer dresses the would have looked right at home in the Diana, Princess of Wales's casual wardrobe.
“Good god it's hot. I just want to take all my clothes off!”
“Don't be vulgar, Flora.” Flora hurumphs delicately and polishes off her drink.
No one's glass is permitted to stay empty for long and, before we know it, Kennedy and I have polished if far more of the 'delightful pink stuff' than we'd intended to. We even find ourselves 'lemon jousting', which has to be the poshest silly party game I've ever played. The two jousters take a wooden spoon in each hand, balancing a lemon on one and wielding the other as a weapon. They then attempt to knock their opponents lemon off the spoon. It's no game of Kings but it's marvellous after a few drinks.