Playing Hide and Seek with Purpose

11:24 pm


It's a challenge to be an aimless wanderer near the Serpentine on a beautiful British summer evening.  Summer is almost over this year and apparently everyone in London appreciates this to the fullest, for in their overwhelming gratitude for the weather gods, they are all now here with me, admiring the sunset on ‘The Long Water’.

Everyone is here and everyone seems to be full of purpose, except, I realize, me; this feeling of ‘purposelessness’ now familiar to me from last evening, as I cycled through another part of Hyde Park - comfortable pace, eyes out for any passing golden haired children and long eared large dogs - until I found myself being swiftly overtaken by commuter-cyclists in shining safety jackets as they all cycled home in a frenzy, practically bursting at the seams with purpose.

The Serpentinians today are more relaxed. And their purpose falls under two overarching themes - Leisure and Sport.

In support of Leisure, we have families of rich Arabs feeding ducks, a young family paddling along in a boat - the man diligently taking pictures of a rosy-cheeked, rather fat baby, in the arms of a tiny lady; and a group of Portugese students chattering away in low tones as they stand in a long queue outside the lakeside cafe.

To cheer the Sports theme on, we have a middle aged man skate-boarding up and down the entire stretch of the lake, a teenager roller-blading backwards (!) at scary fast rates and an animated group of ultimate Frisbee-ers.

I am not sure what I’m doing here anymore, my legs seem to have automatically carried me to the park without discussing the matter with my head or heart.

So with an aim of reorientation, I do what I normally do in times of doubt, and buy myself an ice cream.

I find an ‘easy-chair’ to sit on; normally they charge you a few quid for these things but my gorgeous purposeful public is all over these chairs so I assume it must be a summer thing and make myself comfortable.

Three plump Arab kids come and sit down in the ‘easy chairs’ next to mine and for the next half hour, my world is peaceful bliss as I eat my ice cream slowly, and listen to the boys speaking Arabic, not understanding a word but feeling childhood - theirs and mine - with every sound. We are now, all four of us, taking it really, really slow. This is why I love this city, I tell myself as I finish my ice cream, me on an easy-chair in a gigantic park, next to some Arab kids. Now I know this, I can think about more important things, more logically. I take a look around after this astute thought and then I spot him, The Man Who Collects Money for the Easy - Chairs. In  less than a second, I am up from sheer reflex, ready to run. Then I notice that the Arab kids are up with me too.

And as we walk away from the scene of our combined crime, we look at each other and we laugh and laugh and laugh.  And then, when we have wiped the tears from our eyes, we turn away from each other and go our separate ways, a great evening shared,unshared, without a word exchanged.

In all this hide and seek with purpose as an adult, sometimes it helps to think like a child again.






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