The South Bank Meadow

It was grey and mild, but not positively raining or actually cold, and in a summer like this one, we were pleased with what we could get. So we decided to have dinner outdoors, and strolled through the South Bank in search of a table, but yet again discovered that whenever we have had a good idea, a crowd has had it first. What can we do, we have mainstream tastes. But we found a corner with a Lebanese Tellytubby landscape of rolling astroturf mounds interspersed with olive trees ending in a Beirut streetfood stall. A 30-strong improv class outside the Royal Festival Hall laughed, groaned and chattered in unison. We got wine from the Queen Elizabeth Hall and leant back, wondering what the middle aged version of gilded youth was, and whether this was it. We argued indolently about what the other sound was. I thought it was more art: perhaps a sound installation but Toby thought that Skylon restaurant kitchen had their window open. The only large mechanical fly in our ointment was helicopters, their low-flying mechanised downdraft juddering through into the ground, and I blamed the Olympics.

Toby under olive tree.jpgAs we were leaving, we saw a sign saying ‘garden’ and pointing up one of the South Bank’s concrete spiral stairs. Feeling a bit like Alice instructed to ‘drink me’ up we climbed, and found ourselves in nature. The garden has been cultivated by volunteers supported by the Eden Project, where gardening is therapy (isn’t it always?) and as the tomatoes and sweet-scented stocks grow, the demons, hopefully, dwindle. The space is divided into a (real) lawn overlooking the river, a meadow, vegetable planters, and an alley trellised with honeysuckle. The whole thing is a great slab of gorgeousness, a gift to the city. Dusk was falling and I was tired, so we made to tear ourselves away. We tried to emulate the spirit of the Meadow by clearing away some of the bottles a corporate party had left behind, and texted a donation. We’ll be coming back to our new favourite place before long.

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