Park Life

Parks, like sharks, are better encountered in my head than in reality.

Actually faced with parklife, the perky pastoral promise of my imagination swiftly segues into the damp-squibbery of anticlimax, and the self-consciousness of the surrounding city routs any attempt at Gaian contemplation or creativity. By the time I have selected the perfect Lucy Honeychurch via Lolita ensemble, all the sensitive Dostoevskian poets, suicidal Woolfian bluestockings and ruddy-cheeked JM-Barrie-fondled golden-haired innocents appear to have fled before an army of goths (alas, not the splendid fourth-century, heavily-muscled pillaging kind). The ground is hard and poo-peppered. Newsprint combines with suncream for an authentic Dick van Dyke swart. And you never meet the devil masquerading as a cat.

AA Gill's Sunday Times story on Hyde Park was an exemplar on how to give good park: cycling familiar paths with cool compassion, noting a joyous, democratic human zoo from under a pale panama. I aspire to this kind of jaundiced yet generous journalistic perspective, and daily toil to overcome my overheated purple prejudices and truly appreciate life's concrete, corporeal charm.

Until then, I shall read books, in fields, with no people.