The other day I came across a book at work called "One Thousand Buildings of London," featuring tidbits about architecturally and culturally significant structures throughout the city. I looked up the area where Dave and I live.
As it turns out, our immediate neighborhood apparently doesn't include much of interest -- at least to the authors. But they did list quite a few buildings in nearby Hampstead, including this entire street which Olga and I walk every time we go to the Heath.
"This is one of Hampstead's most beautiful streets," the book says. "It is tree-lined in the center and bordered by redbrick-faced, double-story houses that have changed little over the years. There is elegant wrought ironwork everywhere and neat Georgian sash windows." Famous residents included authors Wilkie Collins, H. G. Wells and George du Maurier, grandfather of the famous Daphne.
"The daughter of William Makepeace Thackeray, Anne, also a resident, described it as 'an avenue of Dutch red-faced houses, leading demurely to the old church tower that stands guarding its graves in the flowery churchyard.'"
I didn't know the street's history, and I walk it all the time. Coincidentally, as Olga and I came back from the Heath yesterday, we passed a little tour group with the guide offering up some of those same famous names -- as well as Lord Alfred Douglas, known in his youth as "Bosie," who famously led to the downfall of Oscar Wilde and who apparently also lived there.
Olga, of course, isn't interested famous people. (Unless they're standing nearby and have treats.) She just sniffed her various curbside smells and rolled in the Heath grass. She was even oblivious to the brilliantly blooming gorse.
There's been a huge shed over Athlone House, a formerly derelict mansion on the northern edge of the Heath, for months and months now. It's supposedly being renovated by a Ukrainian billionaire, but I have no idea what the status of the project is. Olga and I found some amazing azaleas in the garden of Athlone House a couple of years ago, but when we checked on them yesterday they weren't blooming yet. Makes sense -- it is a little early.
The Heath was quite busy. I swear Londoners get a little punch-drunk when the sun comes out. Everyone has the urge to just collapse onto the nearest log and soak it in, like this man. (Difficult when it's so chilly you still need a jacket, though!)
After we came home I did a bit more gardening -- put another plant in the ground, potted up my single cosmos seedling. (Well, I have two, but one is very decrepit and I suspect it's not going to make it.) I'm going to leave the empty cosmos seed tray just to see if any more grow. It's not impossible -- yesterday, two new honesty seedlings came up, more than a month after I planted them on March 9!