London counts its blessings at this time of year; thank heavens for square gardens. Our own is Warwick Square, big enough to be easily visible from the air, its stately plane trees too big, really, but we love them bestowing shade and calm. We notice that the top half of a statue of Venus, chopped off as if a conjuring act had gone wrong, has, happily, been reunited with her legs.
Eccleston Square, always superbly gardened, manages to combine aesthetics with an open attitude towards ball games a benign example of live and let live. Recently, we were invited there for a picnic. It was the sort of evening when the streets seem to exhale the heat that they have absorbed during the day, making us glad of whatever bit of extra oxygen we could breathe in from the plants.
Half a dozen disparate groups had set up tables, on which a few candles later gleamed: a wonderful scene of rus in urbe, marred only by some young Australians who lit a barbecue in a bucket a few feet away, to kippering effect. Barbecues are full of hazard.
Every year, a couple of the ancient oaks in Richmond Park burn down when some fool thinks it’s safe to dispose of an apparently burnt-out instant barbecue in a hollow trunk.