Oysters in the Park | 22-280620

Hampstead Heath, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Primrose Hill, Clissold Park, Regent’s Canal, Camden Square … 

All of this week is sunny, HOT, and cloudless, except for Saturday afternoon, which sees a drastic temperature drop and crazy winds. When we’re not sleeping or working, Sanoop and I spend most of our time outdoors. Walking, jogging, running errands, calling our families and overseas friends, meditating and doing yoga on the Heath, picking up coffee from the lido cafe, and wandering along Regent’s Canal to create a ‘commute’ / time to reflect before diving down behind our laptop screens in the morning. Meeting local friends for picnics and long, wonderful, brilliant conversations in the evening:

  • Enjoying a homemade veggie stew and chilled sake, sitting in the long grass just below Parliament Hill, with a view of the city skyline as the air slowly grows darker, the sky more orange, the skyscraper lights red
  • Cycling to Hyde Park, through Swiss Cottage, St John’s Wood, Maida Vale, and Paddington to meet a Danish friend for wine by the lake in front of Kensington Palace, marvelling at the classically gorgeous fountain gardens at the top of the park, where kids are cycling around and adults are lounging amongst the marble sculptures and ponds full of water lilies and chirpy fountains
  • Walking with Canadian and Indonesian colleagues on the Heath (and getting locked up in the Kenwood forest, which apparently closes at 7pm, so we had to jump the tall, spiky fence to get out!) followed by wining and dining on a deck in Hampstead Village — one of them brings her homemade yummy vegan matcha cookies; the other ordered luscious vegan pizza from local l’Antica
  • Curling up on blankets near the top of Primrose Hill with a group of American, Uruguayan, and Danish friends, in glorious golden hour light, and ordering freshly caught oysters from a couple of guys who walk around from group to group in the park, one wearing a leather belt to which bottles of condiments and accoutrements have been attached, the other carrying a bucket full of ice and oysters, shucking the salty treasures and serving them on paper plates as people order
  • TGIF wine in our window seat, followed by a balmy, breezy meander around the Heath, soaking up the joyful, carefree vibes emanating from the flocks of young and old people gathering on the lawns and hills and pond-side fences
  • Birthday party for an English friend in Clissold Park, followed by an evening wander in charming, vibrant Church Street, ordering food from one of the only open delis and eating it on a park bench long after sunset. Stoke Newington is delightful!
  • Visiting a couple of American friends near the lush, pretty Camden Square, a pocket of Camden I’ve never been to before — such gorgeous pastel-hued mansions covered in lush gardens, such trendy architecture in exciting narrow mews, such blissful vibes right at the centre of busy London …

Oh, London. City with all of the complexities of a place with many coexisting lives; lots of crime, decay, systemic racism, and other forms of injustice, but also lots of beauty, creativity, and positive stimuli. On Friday, we’re going to Denmark … for a month … leaving the UK for the first time in 4 months. When we return, markets, galleries, cinemas, cafes, bars, pubs, restaurants, and shops will have reopened. And the lido and ponds on the Heath! My office will remain closed through January, but perhaps my colleagues and I will arrange to meet up to work in smaller groups — presumably, by then it will be okay to be in other people’s homes, or at least in some co-working spaces. While I’m counting the minutes to seeing my family and to our holiday, I’m also aware of making the most of each of these moments, as we’ll probably come to regard this lockdown period with bittersweet nostalgia.

Prior to covid, I always felt bad for not spending that much time in our flat and neighbourhood. Sanoop and I tend to keep juggling a) loving freedom and flexibility to move around, being at home wherever we are, and b) craving a more nesting approach — cultivating a physical home. I quickly fall in love with new places wherever I go, and as much as I want to be deeply present in each of them, I tend to find it hard to resist drifting on, exploring more, experiencing new vibes and ways. Well, it’s probably been 9 years since I’ve spent so much time in one place, and the past 4 months of staying put have shown me how much I do appreciate what a comfy base we have, even if I don’t understand, but admittedly feel a creeping sense of acceptance of, perhaps even fondness for, carpets, pine kitchens, giant unremovable wall stickers, and other peculiarities of whichever fashion or sensibility led the foundational design of this space. And as much as I’m dreaming of new places, I’m also still genuinely excited about curling up in these windows with books, friendly phone calls wine, coffee, or even just a bit of meditative sunbathing … or neighbourhood watching. Also a shout out to the birds chirping so intensely and cheerfully in the Heath trees right outside our windows, my favourite work and life soundtrack, incessant from 4am to 9pm. Just like it was in the old days when working from home was a Friday treat allowing for focus and reflection, our open kitchen remains on my shortlist of most tranquil and lovely workspaces — encompassing a miraculously seamless transition into a living space, which has kept us safe and sane throughout the pandemic.

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