My first serious cycle ride of the year this morning. An hour criss-crossing around Dartmouth Park Hill, Highgate and Hampstead Heath - rewarded by a magnificent view from the top of the Heath, near Jack Straw's Castle
The ride has four significant climbs - two of which I can manage (three on a good day, which today wasn't). I've never managed to get all the way up Swains Lane without getting off to push - it simply a matter of whether I can get as far as the entrance to Highgate cemetery.
The heath is enchanting in the morning sun - and this morning, I was rewarded with a wwonderful view of a cormorant on a pole in the middle of one of the ponds.
Parakeets on Hampstead Heath - LindaH - Creative Commons
Walking on Hampstead Heath this afternoon, the raucous, high pitched shrieks of ring-necked parakeets were the defining sound.
There were islands of ice on the ponds - some of the footpaths were awash with mud - not the sort of weather you associate with parrots.
If globalisation has taken Coca Cola to every corner of the earth, the parakeets seems to be part of the couterflow. And to be honest, I prefer the parakeets.
... said the car dashboard as I drove to tennis this morning. Some of the courts were too frost-laden for play, prompting good natured rivalry for those with only a hint of white sparkle. The sun, low in the winter sky, was a blinding yellow ball, making all other yellow balls little more than a blur and a swish of air. At least, that's my story.
So nice to be on the Heath on a crisp winter's morning. So nice, I'm heading back to end the daylight hours there.
There's not much of my youth, in the way of activities at least, that I can share with my kids as they are growing up. I can hardly expect them to share a passion for Huddersfield Town, especially since mine is long spent. The era of patchouli and Afghans is long over. But berrying has provided a bond between my chidlhood and theirs.
I was brought up on the edge of a mill village outside Leeds. Fields surrounded our house on three sides. Radishes were the main crop, I seem to remember. There were clumps of rhubarb. It was marginal land, and on the uncultivated stretches were a couple of sprawling blackberry bushes that hardly anyone else knew about.
Every summer, usually in the last week of the school holidays, I would pick blackberries. I can't remember what we did with them. Blackberry and apple pies, I suppose, some crumbles, and occasionally - and not always successfully - jam and jellies.
That was four decades ago. But one custom I have revived of late, aided by the proximity of Hampstead Heath, is going blackberrying. And my kids, tho' not keen on the thorns and nettles, urge me on summer weekends to take them on a berry picking expedition. No London summer would be complete without one.
We were berrying this afternoon, the first such outing of the year. And even though it's not even mid-August, there were plenty of ripe, juicy berries. Blackberrying, to borrow a Radio 4 phrase, is one of my 'inheritance tracks' to my children. I love it all the more for that.
And tonight, we'll all share a lovely, steaming hot, blackberry and apple crumble - the crumble prepared by my culinary minded son - and I'll quietly commune with my younger self.
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