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.