London is an aspirational place.
Londoners live tough lives, I would say. Costs are high. Public transport ineptitude is high. Tension is high. We have a lot of civil servants on our cases, from commissioned traffic wardens to bicycle police. We are squeezed for space. Houses are expensive. Food is expensive. Beer is really expensive.
But Londoners for the most part do not give a shit. Brits and foreigners alike flood here en masse year after year, raising the temperature even higher. Why? Because the streets of London, though we scoff at the sentiment with supersubtle irony, are paved with gold.
We desire so much of our lives in Britain. London is the ground zero of desire. Of course the dream comes in many different flavours. Perhaps one wants tabloid celebrity and to live in a fat mansion in Hampstead or Chelsea. Perhaps, if one feels they are above commercialism, one wants to be adored by broadsheets and live in a ramshackle bohemian mansion in Stoke Newington. If New York is the Big Apple, then London is the Fat Pie, and everyone wants a slice. It is probably an eel pie.
Londoners spend so long crammed inside small flats dreaming of expansive gardens and parties to have in them. Lacking an estate, the many parks of our fair capital take the brunt of our exterior relaxations. And when the sun comes out it is fucking war.
Some Londoners regard a nice spot in their local park as a subclause in the tenancy contract of their home. They do pay an extra £500 a year just to be five minutes closer to the park, so perhaps they have a point. People can get a bit tetchy over space in some parks.
Parsons Green used to be a pretty quiet sort of place. If you watch the old west London police dramas from 20-30 years back, you will see Fulham as a somewhat deprived working-class backwater. Now the area is full of blond young lads and lasses looking for a taste of the good life, hoping to follow in their parents’ footsteps up the golden ladder. Parsons Green addresses are a big part of that good life. If you live there you have on-your-doorstep access to the wealth of exorbitant cafés, outrageously priced gastro pubs, deliciously good schools, and of course the rolling expanse of Parsons Green itself. Well, it is actually quite a small park, but this fact seems to have escaped the hordes of sunbathers and boozers who descend upon it as soon as there is a hint of a shadow. [I have to add that there is a poncy pub on the edge of the Green, known unofficially as the Sloany Pony, which sells mediocre grilled burgers to park-goers at extortionate prices. I am sure they use organic meat.]
There is of course nothing you can say against people looking for a nice bit of greenery and fresh air. But this park becomes as crowded as a nightclub. It is about as peaceful and relaxing as a visit to casualty. People just don’t want to miss out.
Free festivals cash in on this impulse to seek out big outdoor spaces. I have myself attended two of these this Summer: The RISE festival (Finsbury Park) and Stokefest (Clissold Park). They are fun but perhaps could do with being a little bit less completely overrun.
When you think about it life is going to be tough, or at least take a lot of effort, in a city where people even relax intensely.
Anyway, here is a list of things I have seen people doing in parks this summer:
1. drinking from a leather hat
2. laughing purple as their dogs fought brutally
3. giving away holy books
4. simulating sex
5. singing Oasis improbably loudly. It really was impressively voluminous
6. playing cricket with a traffic cone and a (half full) can of beer
7. lying down, drinking, talking, and generally relaxing
8. flyfishing (see below)
I think the black plastercast completes the image nicely.