20 Oct 2014
“How many times have we been to the Heath, do you think?” Wondered David as we walked up through the streets of Hampstead. I thought about that for a minute.
“We must have been at least every other week.” For seven years, “..so a lot!” was my eloquent answer.
We’ve been looking forward to spending time on the Heath. I love its changing moods; the rolling seasons, the unpredictable weather, and the different times of the day.
Walking through the village on a weekday morning was a first for me; it was quiet. My memories are from the weekends when the streets are busy with people out shopping, a drink or for a family lunch. Leading from the village to the Heath, Well Walk is one of our favorite streets. It’s lined with interesting Victorian architecture, imposing red brick facades and uneven Victorian glass windows. We love gazing into the lower ground kitchens and ‘front-rooms’ lined with books and artworks.
When we reached the Heath it was time to pick up our pace and start jogging down a beautiful tree lined grove. A cool breeze rustled the leaves overhead.
“Listen to the wind” we slowed to a walk and enjoyed the sound.
The leaves are starting to turn but some trees are more enthusiastic than others. Some still have the bright green blush of spring. Drawing in a deep breath of air, it felt good to be back.
“I want to hug you Heath” I said into the breeze throwing my arms wide.
We looped around a grassy field heading south and climbed to the top of Parliament Hill where the city skyline sprawls out on the horizon. There are a few new silhouettes, most noticeably the Shard. It’s huge. The tallest building in Europe, I’ve since been told. Picking up the pace we continued down past the duck ponds and swimming ponds, although we have never dared swim in them ourselves, it’s quite a tradition in summer.
Climbing back up the hill towards Hampstead we found ‘our’ park bench in a field that was our regular hangout.
“We were knee-deep in snow, the last time we were here.” I said remembering the day like it was yesterday. Europe was having a Super-Freeze in winter 2009/2010. We were packing our life up into boxes, preparing to move back to Australia. I looked up from packing books and noticed heavy snow falling against the bay windows.
“Let’s go to the Heath!” Exclaimed David itching to get outside.
We downed tools, hurried into our snow gear and carefully crunched our way through snow and ice up to the Heath. That was a fun and emotional time. Enjoying the super-freeze and deep snow, even building a snowman, whilst being excited about moving home to Australia.
Today it’s early autumn and in this field the trees are stubbornly resisting the urge to change. Compelled to sit on ‘our’ park bench, side by side we kicked back and reflected upon our return.
“We were siting here when we made the decision to come home.” I remembered out loud.
“It’s good to see it with a more worldly perspective, which you don’t when you live here.” David mused. “2005 was such a momentous year’ everything just clicked for us,” (buying our apartment; moving back to London; David’s composer-in-residency; me joining DEGW; exciting side trips to Europe) “…and it could have ended badly in 7/7.” (We were caught up in the chaos of the London bombs) “It’s good to see it as visitors.”
It was nice to sit, and just be.
Later, back at Ann’s place we packed up and said our farewells. It’s been fun catching up with my only Aunt for the last few days. Ann is full of beans and doing very well for 80. We enjoyed our evening conversations, and political debates, over a couple of glasses of wine.
We’ve moved into a lovely old hotel near Gloucester Road Underground station, with a corner room on the top floor. The view is over roof tops and along Gloucester Road. It’s perfect.
The afternoon was spent lazing and grazing in a gorgeous gastropub, The Hereford Arms. It was recently refurbished and David was here for their opening last year. We had a seat in the window perfect for watching this piece of London life around us.
After lunch we ambled around exploring our new neighbourhood. It should make the perfect home base for the next week.
Now, how to slow down time…