The inadvertent Sur-reality of several London parks

                     Fires burn quietly near Canons Park as Freynt Country Park slides into oblivion and Watling Park, dressed in blue and gold, diffuses in slow motion within a matrix of light, gliding gracefully towards Silk Stream Park with instant explanations. We know they are coming.

Like Lyndhurst Park, Woodcroft Park looks astonished, even shocked, to find a torn, faded photograph of you (or someone else) asleep, sleeping the deep sleep of serene (or sensuous) flowers growing in abundance undisturbed, exotic and ecstatic in Mill Hill Park, haven for vagrant voices.

Flight of music, flight of words: in Hendon Park trees with leafless branches laugh at the sky, grey and overcast over Woodside Park, where slow-burning lakes of ice and snow engulf projected images of Friary Park; stalactites and stalagmites, overtures of love.

Alexandra Park, a wilderness of rusting cars alive with bindweed, receives a clear message from Priory Park, place of night-ships sinking beneath the surface of the street, even though, yesterday, in nearby Pymmes Park, a model aircraft crashed into a totem pole. Try to compose in the style of Stravinsky who, many, many years ago, took a stroll along the shady walks of Downhills Park, its vistas of tattered cloud descending without warning, without fixtures or fittings.

Imagine the impossible terminus of Lee Valley Regional Park where an actress, dressed in Neo-Classical Pierrot costume, looks up, fearing a downpour. In Chingford Hall Park the street-lights are dim, and an artificial lake denies everything, even life.

Something similar to the ‘Moth-man’ incident occurred in Rowden Park the other night, but nobody noticed – so life goes on. In Lloyd Park a local builder wants to re-decorate the cricket pavilion, and marble fountains play games with rivulets of silver, gleaming with a soft, light aurora. Lakewood Park is full of literary associations: very short poems nailed to rose-bushes. Other poems are whispered on the breezes now stirring in The Highams Park, for everyone the most beautiful public space in this part of town – not counting Clayhill Park, scene of a bloody massacre this time last year – or Waterlow Park where nothing is certain.

“How I loathe the corporate yuppie-culture,” thought Bettina, kicking her heels on a bench in King Edward VII Park, feeding an aphrodisiac to her pet ferret, Ackroyd. Meanwhile, over in Gladstone Park, the remains of a funeral pyre’s hot coals gleam like scattered red stars over the High Road near Queens Park, a black hole in space, a little like the naked singularity of Golders Hill Park where all modes of thought converge. The heart of Caledonian Park is melting, trembling, huddled beneath the bed-clothes: this is not Regent’s Park where time stands still as usual, where office workers eat filled baguettes, dreaming their waking dreams of Paradise Park, so unattainable, so pleasant, so manicured, so nostalgic. In the background; the faint, distant sound of a scratchy recording of A Martino singing Baby Won’t You Please Come Home.

Finsbury Park floated away. Clissold Park took a holiday. Victoria Park told stories from the oral tradition. Valentine’s Park is haunted by long-dead lovers, haunted by their perfume, and their distant futures. While South Park (scene of several pile-ups) set sail for the East, unlike Barking Park where nothing ever happens, or Central Park where our world is another place.

In West Ham Park my sister’s boyfriend practiced levitation: entranced, impassive, impossible, like the firemen in Gunnersbury Park, lounging about, reading disreputable magazines, recovering from a night on the tiles. And Acton Park is unnatural and unknown, unlike Ravenscourt Park where death is sweeter than ever, staying, fixed in the memory rather like an untidy bed-sit over a betting shop near Holland Park, centre of pilgrimage and sadistic follies.

Lines of insomniacs parade slowly through Hyde Park exploring the unconscious mind which sometimes appears as a shimmering network of crustaceans attached to your armpits. An anomalous mirage called Green Park proves the infinite plurality of spheres on the quantum plane. Famously, St. James’s Park remains untouched, like a sabre rattling in the winds of change. So, in consequence, Mile End Park represents everything reasonable, nothing impossible, nothing unresolved, everything deprived of faith and charity.

It is so desolate in the King Edward Memorial Park, home of carnival masquers dancing in fancy dress trying to explain Southward Park as a regrettable joke in very poor taste.

Bartlett Park is estranged and unwanted like the glass-fronted mall enclosing Pepys Park of blessed memory and broken promises. Yes, the rolling vistas of downland and elegant stands of trees remind our chambermaid of Deptford Park, many years ago, before the war and shellac recording discs. Yes, Paterson Park was where it all began: a huge crater in the ground marks the spot where nothing happened, where sensation is all. A condemned man gave a speech in Beckton District Park, the focus of his cultural heritage, unsung and, unlike Mary Wilson Park, not so well known.

Old Deer Park (bright and brisk, rather like a frosty morning or a chilled bottle of cheap champagne) embraced the coming crisis with a sang-froid the envy of the Western Suburbs and all the inhabitants of Grove Park, hovering over the river on antique bicycles. Next, two young ladies, caught in a rainstorm in Richmond Park, removed all their clothes, making calls on mobile phones, one to an estate agent. Included in the plan was Hurlingham Park where your brother’s cousin saw an angel or was it too shameful? It is difficult to remember what life was like when everyone was so much younger or when (in King George’s Park) the balloon went up.

Kennington Park, like Brockwell Park, can be difficult to find if you are not a gargoyle, but Ruskin Park is a different line of country; more open, more transparent, almost like the sunlight gleaming on the cockpit of a jet aircraft in 1950. Think of Dulwich Park where bad taste is good fun.

Mourning the death of Postmodernism in Burgess Park was difficult but not impossible, even though the moon rises over Lewisham Park like a broken picture frame fished out of the canal via a wormhole in space, so arabesque. Cool as a saxophone solo, Mountsfield Park only exists as the remains of a wall painting, or something very special. Perhaps try a trip to Greenwich Park? The dateline starts somewhere nearby.

Embrace the wrought-iron railings of Charlton Park; a kid’s pop-up book to decorate your stately home at the centre of the universe.

Sutcliffe Park is usually the last stop; the only chance to hear that strange story of Avery Hill Park and its startling, androgynous magnolias.


We returned to Wimbledon Park via Morden Hall Park, walking under the arches in Sydenham Wells Park before going home in the rush-hour to Norwood Park, a huge, rough-textured, but rather spiritless affair. It was so far-removed from the superficial glamour and trashy, kitsch show-biz gloss of Mayow Park, with its Baroque pleasure palace and barbed-wire entanglements.

Even so, Beckenham Palace Park re-appeared on the itinerary, a distinguished example, representing, perhaps, a far-distant empire. Afterwards, watching a portable TV, we waited patiently on a tube-station platform for an empty train to Camden Park, the end of the line – a faded, mysterious place rife with gossip and rumor.


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