The Serpentine review
This is my second favourite bench in London: on the veranda at The Dell cafe. It's at the far eastern end of the Serpentine and looks out across the water towards the central bridge. I've got a bit of a breeze blowing and a bit of sun, and a couple of ducks minding their own business. They are just sitting on the water bobbing up and down like boats without fuel. They are ships with their sails down, floating in the same bit of sea for ten years or more. That is the life span of a duck — did you know that they can live for ten years? Ten years surviving on bits of bread and insects, and whatever they find floating in the Serpentine.
Wait a minute... something has spooked them and they have all taken off en masse. It's like an airfield alarm bell has sounded all of a sudden and all the pilots are dashing for their planes. Maybe it was that kid with a bell on his bike. Maybe it was that fat tourist on the phone.
I am going to have a wander around the entire circumference of the lake today, which cuts through the centre of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. It covers quite a fair distance and if you do the whole thing non-stop then you'll probably be walking for thirty or forty minutes. Obviously I am too lazy to do that: so I will be stopping at least ten times on the way.
The first thing you'll come across is the boathouse. They've got a solar-powered ferry for the oldies to sit in, plus a load of pedal boats for the kids. Both of them look dangerous so I'll give them a miss. The lake is only about seventeen feet deep in the middle but you can't be too careful. You need a dad to go on the pedal boats anyway, otherwise who's going to do all the pedalling? Maybe I could chain a load of ducks up to the front like a team of huskies, and have them pull me across the water.
Keep on going (under the bridge) and you'll find a big Henry Moore statue standing by the lake. I don't understand why this guy is so famous. If I had to describe it then I would call it a long blob bent into an arch. Everything I've ever seen of his is a blob. Sometimes it's a bronze blob, and sometimes it's a stone blob. This one is a stone blob. It looks like the kind of thing that Michelangelo would start with, before he chiseled it away to reveal a masterpiece. But for Henry Moore this is the final product. But the view beyond it is great... way beyond the lake and across the fields is Kensington Palace. You'll get a closer look at it when we go round to the other side, but this is definitely the best view.
After that you'll come to the top of the lake and you can have a sit down in the Italian Gardens. I've always had it in my head that it was designed by Christopher Wren, but it turns out that is a load of nonsense -- it actually dates from the time of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria. Why did I think that? I haven't got a clue. Probably because I'm an idiot.
It might seem very picturesque when you're sitting amongst the ponds and plants, but it's actually one of the noisiest gardens in the world when they've got the fountains switched on. They are all over the place, swooping up and over and back from whence they came. Imagine spitting into your own face -- that is my definition of a fountain. (I could probably describe it a bit prettier if I tried, because they certainly deserve a better description than that!)
I saw a rainbow in one of the ponds today -- how's that for pretty? (I was standing three feet from the foot of a rainbow -- I've never done that before.) If you go up to the central fountain and stare into the spray at the base, and the sun happens to be shining right, then hopefully you will see some rainbow colours bending over the top. That must be lucky, surely? That must be some kind of omen of good times coming. Oh I hope so!
Let's go back down the other side of the lake now... past the Peter Pan statue, past that view of Kensington Palace again, and on to the central bridge. But don't go under it this time — go straight over the top and walk out into the middle. This will surprise you with how vast the lake really is -- it's huge! You can see all the way back to the London Eye and the top of Parliament (you will have to be lucky with the leaves though, because it might be hidden by the trees).
Now walk back down to the water's edge again and past the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. I have already panned this place once before in my proper review, so I'll give it a break this time (it's still rubbish though). Then you come to coffee stop number two: the Lido Restaurant. The good thing about this place is that you can grab an outside seat right up against the water's edge and sit there watching all the pedal boats. That roped-off area next to the cafe is the Serpentine Swimming Club. Believe it or not people actually dive into that freezing water for a swim — five feet from the ducks and geese. I hope they keep their mouths closed.
After that you will find yourself on the final five minutes back to the Dell Restaurant again, past the birds and the trees and the breeze.
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