Sunday, July 1, 2018

The Peace Park

Not far from our flat in West Hampstead is a little park called the Maygrove Peace Park. It's a hilly parcel of land between Maygrove Road and a housing estate, and I walk Olga through there now and then.

Apparently the area was railroad sidings as far back as the Victorian era, and it was formally designated a peace park by Camden Council in 1983. I'd been through several times before I noticed the metal crane sculpture standing on a slope above the park's entrance on Maygrove Road. It's tucked back in the foliage high above the sidewalk, so it's easy to miss.

The sculpture is by Hamish Black and it's inspired by the story of Sadako and her paper cranes. A Japanese girl who survived the Hiroshima bombing only to be afflicted with leukemia nine years later, Sadako set out to make 1,000 origami cranes for good luck and healing power. A famous children's book was written about her. Apparently there's some dispute about whether she finished folding the cranes before she died.

On the other side of the park, there's a sculpture by Antony Gormley, called "Untitled (Listening)." And there are slabs in the sidewalk bearing famous quotations by leaders who advocated peace.

It's an interesting little park. Of course, Olga is oblivious to all the messaging. In fact, when we walked through yesterday morning she saw a cat, and I'm pretty sure peace was the last thing on her mind.

Here she is later in the day at Hampstead Heath. It was a great day for shadows!

Dave returns this morning from his adventures in the American midwest. I'm sure he's ready to embrace his British lifestyle once again. He's not going to believe how empty the cabinets are, after my two weeks of creative eating! (We still have six jars of cinnamon, though.)

The other day, feeling like I'd been sitting in the house too long, I went to one of our local high street cafes. I took my New Yorker and sat outside, and as I began sipping my Americano I heard a high-pitched, Hyacinth Bouquet-like voice.

It was an older woman at a nearby table, talking to someone on the phone. She got quite upset -- something about tickets. She was trying to tell someone where to find them, I think. Anyway, she sounded warbly and almost tearful and began making quite a racket, basically shouting. (Imagine Hyacinth shouting!) An older man next to me reading a yellowed paperback looked at her a few times, then suddenly stood up and said to her quite loudly, "Can I help you in any way?"

Which seemed an odd thing to say. Maybe he thought she was talking to him. Or, more likely, it was his obliquely polite British way of saying, "PIPE DOWN!"

Anyway, even more flustered, she lowered her voice and, after getting off the phone, gathered up her shopping trolley and wandered off across the street, presumably to help someone locate those tickets. I was just glad the senior citizen face-off had come to an end!


  1. Looking at the top photo (before enlarging it) it looked like another piece of abandoned rubbish!! A broken folding chair. Apologies to the artist.

    I can't offer you any inspired ideas about cinnamon. It is a spice after all, to be used in small quantities. I can only suggest tossing out any that is past its use-by date. I don't think it would do any harm to sprinkle it about on the earth in the garden, dig it over and water it in. You can see I am obsessed with recycling - especially plant matter.

    'Hyacinth' was in a state wasn't she? Poor thing. I think the man was suggesting she was attracting attention and should lower the volume.


  2. "Can I help you in any way madam?...Possibly by shoving this old paperback in your cavernous gob? Now shut the **** up!"

  3. I don't think I've ever seen a Gormley sculpture that wasn't a standing man. I like it!
    I took my old Mac to the Genius Bar and one very nice genius fixed it in about 10 minutes flat. It's all back to normal. I could have delayed my purchase of a new one for a little while longer. I'm still happy though. I like the new one a lot.

  4. we used to think people talking loudly in public were a little off mentally, now it's just they're all on cell phones.

  5. I seem to be reading an awful lot of books by British writers and in them, senior citizens are almost always referred to as "pensioners" or "old age pensioners." Have you found that to be true?
    A peace part is such a beautiful idea. I highly approve!

  6. We get to know when people lose it when they are on a cell. As with this woman they can get pretty loud.

  7. That must have left your ears ringing. Hyacinth, Lady of the house speaking!
    Olga is a very sturdy girl, wonderful in the dappled light and shadow.She matches your title.
    Shadows and light and sturdy dog.
    Pretty nice that Dave will come home to an empty pantry and can start again. Thoughtfully creative of you. I give our stuff to the food bank, mostly because it is terrible canned food purchased in gross from cost co. Only the starving would welcome that.

  8. Love those sculptures. Quite beautiful. We marched yesterday with a lot of other people in our local Reunite Families march. A woman we were marching with talked on the phone quite a bit of the time. It was odd. Glad there was no yelling or anguish, other than "Hey hey ho ho, I.C.E. has got to go!"

  9. I get irritated by people wandering through grocery stores talking at high volume to someone on their cell phone. I want to ask "Weren't you raised with any manners?" But I don't.

  10. I would like to steal that man's line "Can I help you in any way?" but I don't think I'm imposing enough to pull it off!

    The photo of Olga is particularly interesting, with her rounded patches echoing the rounded spots of light. Gives it almost an underwater-ish feeling.

    I wonder if the crane is so far back in the undergrowth because the plants have grown up around it. We used to have a composter at the back of our lot, nicely accessible. The young trees have grown so much since then that we can barely reach the composter now. Maybe we should do something about that! I like the idea of a peace park. Lord knows we can always use more peace.

  11. It's funny, but the most visited page on my blog over the ten years that I've been posting is about how to fold a paper crane. Honestly, I think it has tens of thousands of views! Once I got a box in the mail from a reader, and inside of it were one thousand of them. So wild. I don't think I ever found out who had sent them.

  12. Alphie: Ha! It DOES look like a folding chair. Part of the problem is its location -- it's in a terrible spot. It should be down at eye level with a more clearly visible pedestal.

    YP: You picked up his telepathic messages even all the way up in Yorkshire! Well done!

    Sharon: It sounds like you needed a new computer anyway, so I suppose you should thank Zeus for giving you the impetus to take that step!

    Ellen: I know! "Is she crazy, or is she on the phone?"

    Ms Moon: Yes, "pensioner"is a very common word over here. People use the abbreviation "OAP" to refer to Old Age Pensioners.

    Red: Yeah, I don't think I'd want to be broadcasting my business so volubly!

    Linda Sue: She sounded EXACTLY like that -- "Lady of the house speaking!" That high-pitched falsetto.

    Robin: Good for you for marching! I suppose it doesn't matter that she was on the phone, as long as she was THERE.

    Catalyst: Yeah, I don't get the public cell-phone shouting.

    Jenny-O: I'm sure the plants did grow up around the crane, but I still think it's in a terrible location. It's way to high up and too far from the path for anyone to see.

    Elizabeth: I guess offering practical advice is a good way to get readers! How funny that someone mailed them to you. I wonder if the gesture was meant to support you and Sophie, or if they had a problem themselves that they were trying to move past.