diamond geezer

 Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Postcards from Regent's Park

The Frieze Art Fair is packing up and shipping out. For a couple of months 25 sculptures have been scattered around the English Gardens, but this week they're all heading home. Behind a protective barrier a group of workmen in hi-vis are busy dismantling a penguin. This vulture up a tree is a fake. That squirrel lapping water from a porcelain dip is very real. Nobody's yet shifted Bharti Kher's Hindu tableau. If you'd had the idea of displaying several lampposts at various angles, you too could have exhibited here. Elsewhere various rectangles of turf have been carefully replaced, taped off for now, but ultimately undiscernible.

In the middle of the Broad Walk, Sir Cowasjee Jehangir's drinking fountain is a four-sided granite and marble confection. A jogger in an Iron Man t-shirt runs up, climbs the steps as part of his routine to prove he was here, then runs off red-faced. A much smaller more practical fountain stands to one side. A dogwalker approaches, clutching a plastic cup in one hand and a dangling bag of collected unpleasantness in the other. She fills the cup with water and swigs, then refills it and sets it down on the ground for her hound to lap. He's not especially interested, so she finishes it off and dangles away.

On the Cumberland Lawn, two football matches are underway. One involves the under 8s from the local private school, ostensibly practising their ball skills, tapping gently from one fledgling Ronaldo to another. Imagine having your school's sports field here! The other match involves a bunch of older lads playing in claret and blue versus white. They cajole, "well played Neil!" They yell, "***ing pass it!" They throw an exasperated gesture whenever the ball goes wide. They appear to be taking their afternoon kickabout far too seriously. All four of their goalposts are little plastic cones, but one of their corner flags is jumpers.

A walk around the triangular perimeter of London Zoo reveals little, thanks to carefully planted trees, but I do spot a baboon barrelling across the walls of her enclosure, two camels and some chickens. The crocodile of infants walking back to their coach alas doesn't count. Only one stretch of railings, outside the Giraffe House, has a perfect unbroken view. A pink taxi suddenly pulls up alongside the gap, pausing briefly on the way to somewhere else. The driver hops out and opens the back door, directing some loud Cockney banter towards the back seats. None of the elderly foursome inside get out, but they all stare for a minute - achievement unlocked - before being driven away. The giraffes chew on.

The artificial mound of The Hub, with its changing rooms underneath, provides the highest viewing point this side of Primrose Hill. The cafe serves better-than-necessary crisps, and all the types of coffee displayed on the chalkboard. Approaching the staircase comes a gentleman in bright blue trousers carrying a silver-topped cane. I can't work out what language the raucous conversation behind me is being conducted in, but eventually work out it's English. A dog runs onto the cricket square to retrieve a careless ball. Booked Games Only On All Pitches. The chain of trees down the Broad Walk is still mostly green, but on the turn.

The Boathouse Cafe hires out children's pedaloes at £4 for 20 minutes, but nobody's biting. Dad leads his two daughters over to the water's edge and they throw breadcrumbs into the pond. Immediately a swarm of ducks and pigeons descends, forcing the family to retreat rapidly. The local heron flaps over and watched the action, right up close. Across the far side of the pond an old gentleman in a fedora walks by, casually chucking seedy treats from a bag in his pocket. Sharp-eyed, the ravenous flock fly off and regroup, following their benefactor down the lakeside as if he were the Pied Piper.

The roses in Queen Mary's Gardens are only part-wilted, which is impressive considering the time of year. The smell of summer perfume wafts up from some of the pinker specimens. Each bed is home to a different variety, including Blessings, Double Delight and Thelma Barlow. A would-be model is having some professional photos taken on the footbridge, her heels adding at least four inches to her height. Two gardeners kneel in the beds, wellies splayed. A squirrel hops through the autumn crocus. Three enormous black handbags approach; one plain, one studded, one outrageously overblinged. A Medical Assistance Dog In Training emerges from the ladies toilet in a red jacket.

Opposite the wetland area three pipes gush, and a sign names all the Wildfowl of the World you might see on the water, from hooded merganser to chestnut teal. A man older than me is doing push-ups on the back of a bench. In the middle of the lawn, a delivery man in a red tabard lies flat on his back in the sun and engages in a phone conversation about earphones. A London Ambulance cycle responder pushes his yellow bike slowly towards the footbridge, because the next medical emergency is as likely to be here as anywhere else. Ice creams would be £3, but the kiosk closed a while back because it's October and the weather shouldn't be this good.

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