Father’s Day was the hottest day of the year thus far. I should know. I spent several hours of it sitting in traffic in a 20 year-old Ford Focus with broken air conditioning.
Who knew driving from South East London to Hyde Park on a Sunday morning would prove such an ordeal? Thank goodness we packed our picnic on ice. Cold drinks can do amazing things for morale.
Swanning around Hyde Park
champagne The Serpentine Lido. The moment we finally stepped foot inside this oasis, our spirits lifted. We spent at least five hours lingering – basking in the sun, sheltering in the shade, splashing and paddling in between. I think we ate our weight in ice lollies whilst watching swans from the jetty. The cygnets were so sweet. My five year old desperately wanted to take one home. She noted how much more graceful they were than the ducks at our local pond. This I explained was why there weren’t any ballets about them.
And thus began a conversation about Anna Pavlova, the Russian prima ballerina who danced the role of The Dying Swan more than 4,000 times and had a dessert created in her honour. That was it for Helena. She insisted we had to make a pavlova for Sunday lunch.
You’ve got to pick a pocketful or two
Luckily we had an abundance of raspberries and strawberries that we picked at Peterley Manor that morning. Helena watched as I whipped the egg whites into waves of glossy marshmallowy goodness. Then after baking it all for an hour, an enormous meringue emerged from the oven. We topped it with Jersey cream and fresh fruit. It really was a thing to behold. In my opinion the pavlova is the prettiest of summer puddings, as it should be considering its namesake.
Roses to last a lifetime
In other news, my roses from Freddie that came with an arrangement last autumn are still thriving and I am thrilled. For months the stems stood in a vase of water. Then this spring they sprouted roots. I couldn’t believe it. So I potted them up and after a few weeks, I put them outside. There won’t be any flowers this year but if I can manage to keep them alive, who knows—maybe there will be some roses next year? I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
Coincidentally, the day Freddie’s Flowers delivered a box full of large sunflowers worthy of Van Gogh’s brushstrokes, my daughter’s miniature ones on our balcony also opened. Everything was aglow that week. It was brilliant. Even when the sun disappeared and it rained, the sunflowers ensured us a bit of warmth.
A little Brit great
There is something wonderful that happens in Britain when the sun comes out. It’s not just the abundance of fresh flowers–though my weekly Freddie’s Flowers flower delivery does make my Mondays that much happier. It’s the sense of community that emerges with the sun. People leave boxes of fruit and vegetables outside their homes for anyone who passes by to take and enjoy. Other folks open their gardens and host prosecco-fuelled tea parties that bring their neighbours together and raise money for charity. Children play together until supper.
There’s a Freddie’s Flowers smell in the air
British summer is glorious. It smells like Freddie’s Flowers and tastes sweeter than strawberries at Wimbledon. My favourite summer days are spent on a picnic blanket in the park. Whether I’m watching my daughter play in the Ruskin Park paddling pool or listening to jazz on lazy Sunday afternoon beneath the bandstand in Greenwich, I never seem to enjoy myself more than then. Perhaps because in Britain it never gets too hot for too long. This week as the weather has cooled down, I found myself longing for the sweltering heat of Father’s Day weekend. Just not in traffic and not in an old Ford. I’m confident it’ll be back again.
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Misti Traya fell in love with an Englishman and moved from Los Angeles to London in 2009. After her daughter was born, she began a blog called Chagrinnamon Toast that won the writing category at the 2014 Young British Foodies. She was also named runner-up for the Shiva Naipaul Prize. She has written for Gawker, Jezebel, Look, Mslexia, The Pool, The Spectator, and Stella Magazine.