The London Program Review of Parks

London’s park scene is every bit as iconic as its theater, and just as worthy of critical appraisal. Think of London and you think of the picturesque picnics of Hyde Park, the organic sprawl of Hampstead Heath, the United Nations World Heritage Site status of Kew Gardens.

Those are all kind of far away from me though. Here are some unsolicited opinions on parks nearer to home, should you choose to visit them.

Bloomsbury Square Gardens

Conveniently situated a single jaywalk from the Pickwick, Bloomsbury Square presents a low-risk option for the novice parkgoer who’s not yet sure if they want to commit themselves to a life of idling on lawns. It’s a cosy space – small by park standards, and the youngest children are relegated to a miniature playground in one of its corners. That and the spectral literary energy of the Bloomsbury Group are probably the reason you can find so many people reading on the Bloomsbury Square green.

I’ve never actually done any reading here myself. Personally, I’m uncomfortable baring my taste in books to the wider world, afraid to have my The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu paperback judged by some of the park’s more patronizing pigeons that perch, Statler and Waldorf-esque, on high. Passé imperialist, one of them might coo derisively, as another snorts: orientalism snorientalism. “It’s for a class!” I’d cry, “We’re analyzing negative histories of empire!” But my protests would be in vain, the pair already flapping down the street to Foyles to pick up new editions of Spivak and shit on the YA crowd.

This is more of a personal problem; your mileage may vary.


Bloomsbury Square Public Car Park

What’s this, a park for cars?

Steer clear unless you’re a car, I guess.


Russell Square

Bloomsbury Square’s bigger and more popular brother, Russell hangs out on the other side of the Pickwick so you know he’s a member of the counterculture. It’s all a façade, though. Not very deep down at all, Russell is just a dorky young park trying to figure himself out like everyone else. A quaint café rests in a flowered corner, exuding earl grey aromas and sentimentality. Colored paper hearts hang from the branches of trees, quietly proclaiming that “We are born to be real, not perfect” and “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” In the middle of it all, an enthusiastic fountain gurgles and more often than not flows over.

If ever you’re cutting through Russell to the British Museum’s rear entrance (where there are no queues, by the way) and you hear art appreciation is for nerds grumbled from a nearby bush or empty bench, be understanding. Be kind. Everyone grows up in their own way. Come the season, Russell will blossom.


The Bedford Estates Private Garden

O most unnatural of green spaces! O twisted mockery of egalitarian society! No man is a walled garden, Bedford Estates. The revolution will come for you and yours.

bourgeois egocentrism/5

Poster of Park Bo Gum at Seoul Bakery

According to Wikipedia, Park, 23, is a South Korean film and television actor with multiple awards under his belt and the top spot on Forbes’ Korea Power Celebrity list.

According to my K-Pop correspondent, Proud Chanarat ’19, “No, I don’t know who he is.”

Variance among Park’s critical biographies notwithstanding, this photo collage is indisputably a powerful exploration of representation. The variety of individual images highlights Park’s compelling dynamism, but at the same time gestures toward an absent ontology in showbusiness, and in life. “No representation without taxation,” writes W. J. T. Mitchell, and one cannot but wonder what is missing from these visual narratives. What have you lost, Bo Gum?

Such provocative metaphysical discussions are the secret behind the popularity of Seoul Bakery’s seafood pancakes.


Tavistock Square

Nothing quite compares to a walk through Tavistock in the late afternoon. The sunlight streams through the canopy and adheres to absolutely everything. A breeze shakes delicate petals from the ends of branches onto a growing carpet of pink on the ground. Someone has put a garland around Gandhi’s neck.

I can see myself raising a family here one day when I’m ready. I’ll hang a tire swing from the broad limbs of this tree. When the rains roll in the pond will fill and our skin will wrinkle from entire days spent splashing in those shallows. We will sleep on beds of ixora and azalea and wake to dewy birdsong. Susanna will take up ballet among the clover. Jean Bob will scale the birches that grow with him every year. The twins will fence hanging from the fences, never short of branches for swords.

It won’t all be sunshine and flowers – every family has its thorns. But perhaps when the kids are older they will raise children in parks of their own. Maybe then they’ll understand that a father’s love is the grooves in an old wooden bench, deep and ancient and worn.


That concludes my comprehensive review of parks which weren’t too much work for me to walk to. Make informed choices, illustrious reader.

Pick up next week’s copy of the London Program blog for: Every Sainsbury’s Local in the Greater Pickwick area, ranked.

~ Nathaniel Chew, ’19

Author: chewn

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