We’ve had rubbish weather lately. London has been grim and grey and cold. It’s nearly June, and the rain has been truculent – a guest who has over-stayed his welcome.
But today, the sun hefts the heavens aside and strides out into the full swell of our desperation, dropping in for tea. An old friendship resumes. With a reassuring smile, the sun intimates it might be here to stay – for a weekend, that is.
It is enough. It is enough for Ben and Rosie and me to head for the hill – Golders Hill – a park which blossoms and swoons and recedes into quiet woodland. We picnic on roast chicken sandwiches, plums, and homemade Victoria sponge. We run into some of Rosie’s friends, so there is plenty of mucking about in the sandpit, climbing, football and sulking.
As moods fray, we move on, melting into the woods, spurred on by the twitter of robins and other unseen birdlife. The city is a memory, the cold a fading bruise. We are walking towards summer, treading the beaten earth between tall and silent trees, onward, ever onward.
Until we are here, slipping beneath a dove tree, ravaged by bouquets of orange azaleas, hushed by the gentle breath of wisteria flowing somewhere out there, in the background.
We pause by the pond that leads up to the Pergola (an Edwardian structure commissioned by Lord Leverhulme when he owned the land), and spot tadpoles and newts in its silty depths. I could sit here for hours watching the little buggers wriggle and burrow, but Rosie is impatient to see something else, so we are off again.
The Pergola and the Hill Garden – my favourite escape in London – is an old haunt of ours (Ben’s and mine). We used to visit it throughout the year, watching it bloom and fade with the seasons. Honeysuckle, climbing roses, passion flowers – all crawling, curling, sprawling, dripping from trellises that run along colonnaded walkways.
Today, the Pergola is partially closed for some urgent repairs. So we retreat, Ben and me to our separate worlds of remembering, never daring to remind each other of what was, when what is is so tenuous.
We navigate as a unit – a family – held together only by our child. We are sucked into her orbit, skating down parallel tracks. We are invisible to one another, until seen through the prism that is Rosie.
And we miss each other again.