Saturday, December 3, 2011

Hyde Park, or, The Squirrels Stole My Lunch Money

As you may have seen from Ferret's post, the plane trip was a plane trip. I have very little to add except that I am severely allergic to Changi Airport.

This is not an exaggerated expression of dislike. I literally walked into the building and began machine-gun sneezing. It is, of course, one of the joys of hayfever that once triggered it takes a while to abate; and that is the story of how I spent the rest of the flight feeling like my face was being sandpapered. The End.

Or not, because that is the boring bit and having gotten it off my chest I can move on to the interesting bit, which is the bit where we are in London and totally Doing Stuff.

Since Ferret promised that the next post would be about Hyde Park, Hyde Park it shall be (this is probably for the best, else I might try to post out of chronological order and become entirely muddled).

We arose on the morning of the 30th mostly sort of refreshed and enjoyed a surprisingly good full English breakfast at the hotel, including the most delicious toast I have ever encountered. Thus fortified we were prepared to begin the day's adventure meander.

For our first day in a strange land, we decided not to attempt anything more complex than walking to Hyde Park, followed by walking around in Hyde Park. We ambled towards this goal in the slightly bemused, map-rustling fashion of the newly landed tourist. And in true tourist fashion, we went via Buckingham Palace, where a flag was flying to indicate that Liz II was, in fact, at home, though she did not have the decency to pop out and say hello upon our arrival.

We gawked through the gates at the guards (all remarkably baby-faced), who were not, at this point in time, Changing. Having gone 'ooh' in a suitable fashion, we turned our attention to the embarrassingly neo-classical Victoria monument in front of the palace, which is replete with virile young men and nubile ladies. We speculated whether, if Liz was to live to outreign Victoria, they would simply knock the likeness off Vicky's statue and have it replaced with Liz's face.

Moving toward the park, we were treated to the sight of the household cavalry going for a walk (on their horses, obviously), accompanied front and rear by mounted bobbies in fluorescent vests, which admittedly reduced the dignity of the picture. The cavalry, to my great amusement, were in their winter uniforms. Being that the winter uniform appears to comprise little more than a greatcoat over the regular uniform, which is buttoned such that it sits over the wide pommel of the saddle, the soldiers were rendered enormously pot-bellied, leaving them very little dignity indeed.

At Hyde Park, we came unwittingly upon a 'Winter wonderland' carnival type thing set up for the amusement of the kiddies at christmas time, complete with mirror mazes, a carousel, overpriced market stalls and an abundance of Belgian Sausages. Several stalls also offered hot chocolate with a shot of Amaretto, Rum, or Baileys.

It is at this juncture, because Robert promised it, I should mention the talking tree. A disturbing achievement of animatronics, this was a life-sized and rather rubbery oak tree put in place as part of the aforementioned wonderland. It had a slightly creepy face and an equally creepy voice extolling the virtues of living in Hyde Park, with that forced, desperate jollity one only finds in actors who are not being paid nearly enough.

We made to walk up to the Peter Pan statue and back, because it is there, on which journey we met the barely-wild-life of the park. I say barely wild because I did not see one single creature that was even remotely perturbed by our presence, or, in fact, our near approach. The geese are a possible exception to this, but only if one takes 'perturbed' to mean 'ready to rip your face off and kick you mercilessly to death'. (That's what geese do, right?)

The pigeons of Hyde Park (and, in fact, all the pigeons we've seen in the city so far) are veritably laden with lard. Larden, if you will. They appear to be completely reliant on visitors to the park for their sustenance (presumably this means scraps, though I wouldn't put it past them to strip an unwary traveller to the bone). However, they have nothing on the squirrels.

While the pigeons seem to hang around vaguely in the hope that food will just appear, the squirrels have taken it to a whole new level. They will pursue voraciously anyone at all who wanders into their territory, presumably following an internal monologue of something like 'Food? You have food? Where is food? Give me food! Food now?' If you stand still for long enough, they will take it into their heads that the food is somewhere up near your head, and I certainly had at least one fixing to climb my trouser leg. As we walked north through the park, we were plagued by an endless stream of squirrels bounding down the path directly towards us and veering off at the last second when it was plain that food had not materialised.

We later stumbled out of the wilderness, bruised and bleeding from a thousand tiny paw-marks, and wandered dazed back in to civilisation in search of the bank, phone shops, and other boring familiar pursuits bereft of vicious furry things.

~ Bob

PS. The squirrels are pretty fucking cute actually. The pigeons aren't.

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