Park life in the London sun

Park life in the London sun

Our Subculture Sleuth couldn’t work out what Londoners did when a heatwave came around… until he discovered the local park.


park life

IF PEOPLE came with instructions on how to care for them like animals do, Kiwis would undoubtedly be labelled as an outdoor species. We spend our lazy days sitting on a beach, or by the pool. We pride ourselves on our outdoor living areas, complete with barbeque and a flat-screen TV mounted in the pagoda. The concept of a pub or tavern without a beer garden is, frankly, enough to make you cringe.

It has always been a curiosity as to what people in London do when it gets warm. I have a vague recollection of last summer: drinking rum by the river at Richmond whilst watching foppish English lads fail to steer their boats as they tried to impress their girlfriends with their rowing prowess. I realised, of course, that this Richard Curtis inspired scenario was not the norm and so when the sun rose I set out in search of the quintessential summer experience.

That is when I discovered the secret: in London, it is all about the park. My local park in Gunnersbury has proven to be something of a hidden gem. Located right at the end of my street, I had never felt the need to cross the threshold and see what it was all about until very recently. When I did, I got the shock of my life.

People lazed about on the grass in bikinis, while families gathered nearby for all-day picnics. There was a Mr Whippy van whirring away by a children’s playground, and in the background there were a number of people enjoying the park’s purpose-built golf course.

The concept of ‘going to the park’ back home conjures up images of children’s birthday parties and unruly teenagers looking for a place to drink after dark. Here, the park stands for something completely different. It is a place for communities to gather and kick around a football, or sunbake, or even (on one occasion) engage in some unsubtly amorous behaviour.

Forget the river, forget the pub. Grab a few beers from the offie and pump up that football. Girls, pack your bikinis and head down to the park. In London, it is the place to be.