It’s actually quite a nice day when I arrive in Hampstead Heath, though the varied textured cloud cover deceives.
Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath is the highest point above London with an iconic view out over the entire city. You will have seen it in many films before. It’s the UK equivalent of that view out over LA from the Hollywood Hills.
And on this breezy; cloud covered but warm; Saturday afternoon Parliament Hill has a healthy mix of couples and families, friends and tourists. Sitting on the benches overlooking the city or wandering the heath in the family weekend tradition of aimless walk designed in tiring out the kids so Mammy and Daddy can have a bit of peace and quiet.
I stop to get an ice cream and, seen as he’s having a cigarette, I wait with the ice cream man beside his truck and we have a short chat about various. He talks about the upcoming London Olympics and the great sporting achievement of finishing the London Marathon in 1989. Then I buy a 99 (with flake) from his van and walk around the heath with a massive milky childlike grin on my face.
Above all this, when the breeze gets up, fly the kites. There’s a whole range out today, from the father and son simple simon my-first-kite-kit; a tender moment of encouragement from the father as he holds up the kite and throws it into the prevailing wind; to a couple in their first attempt to fly a nice new kite; “I could get used to this,” I overhear her say excitedly. “I could do this every week.”
By far the most spectacular, though, are the hardened pros. Their massive, parachute-like kites, flowing left then right, left then right, up and up in the currents of air. Even on this, a light breezy day, you can see the strength of the wind, as the guys controlling them are almost dragged across the grass but somehow always manage not to get dragged away.