A New Year

It was the 2nd of January 2017 and having finished my household chores I looked out of the window and noticed what a glorious day it was. Up until then there had been rain or fog. I made up my mind to enjoy the sunny day, put on a coat and walked down to the launderette. There I met Sal, the portly Indian who owns the launderette.

“Happy New Year, Sal.”

“Happy New Year, Phil.”

“How was your New Year?”

“I went with my wife and kids to the Harvester.” Sal replied. “We were allowed drinks but my wife was driving and the kids had soft drinks and so I ended up with four glasses of wine. The meal was fine but when we got home I went upstairs, stripped off, fell asleep and woke up at six in the morning.”

“So much for seeing the New Year in. Look you work too hard and obviously needed the rest.”

“I had a go at my wife and kids saying they should.’ve woken me up. Then they showed me videos of what they had done to try and wake me up.”

“You obviously needed the rest.”

“I’m finishing at two today.”

As Sal spoke someone entered who wanted their washing done by Sal, they handed him some money and left.

“I thought you were going home? It’s almost two now.”

“They’re good customers,” he replied.

“I’m off to Hampstead Heath, I’ll catch you another day.”

I walked off towards Canons Park station, bought a sandwich to eat and then boarded the tube to Finchley Road where I alighted from the tube and caught a bus to the Royal Free Hospital. I got off the bus opposite the hospital and walked down Pond Street to South End Green where on one side of the road there are still cobblestones and it is here, many years ago, that trams used to turn round.

I crossed the road, walked past the pub and Hampstead Heath station and having crossed another road I was on the path which leads to Hampstead Heath. It was so crowded, there were adults, children and dogs, some were leaving the heath whilst others like me, were going onto it.

I took my usual route and passing the first pond looked across it to the flats on the far side, wondering how much they would cost? I walked between the swimming pond and normal pond, which had a few dogs swimming in it, but neither pond had any green algae upon it. I noticed that the swimming pond now has a new path around it.

I then went under the trees and a large dog jumped over a fence and brushed against my leg. There were so many people leaving the heath but at last I could see Parliament Hill and started to climb up it. At the top there were so many people clustered around looking over London. I stopped and looked out over the awful concrete and glass buildings and St Pauls was almost hidden by a crane, but it was so clear that I could all the way to Crystal Palace and beyond.

My way down to more ponds looked very wet but I managed to get down the hill without getting my shoes too muddy. There were so many people, but then it was a bank holiday and also a lovely sunny day. At the bottom of the hill I turned left, walked along a path and then turned right to go between the men’s bathing pond on my right and the boating lake on my left. I paused to look over the men’s bathing pond, it was squared off and there were ripples across the otherwise still water. There were birds sat upon the markers and one I think was a cormorant as it had its wings spread out and resembled pictures I have seen of cormorants.

Turning left by the boating lake I was shocked! For months there has been work being carried out on the boating lake and all that appears to have been done, is more paths and yet, it cost a small fortune to do.

Walking along I almost tripped over a small dog. But as I progressed the sun was setting and walking up the hill near to the ladies bathing pond, the branches of the trees had an orange glow about them. I wondered how many people who walk over the Heath actually see all this as they just seem to be chatting to one another, although I did see one child wearing wellington boots, walking in a puddle. But then I have met previously, people who do take in their surroundings.

Arriving at the Red Arches I paused to look out across the water and once again there was no algae and like the boating pond it now has areas near to the shore wired off. Is this perhaps for ducks to nest?

I carried on walking to the top of the Heath and saw someone taking a picture over London, although it now looked like the mist or is it fog, was closing in. I chatted to the man who had taken the picture and he shrugged his shoulders saying, “Not a good picture.”

I emerged from the Heath by Jack Straws Castle, which many years ago, was a coaching inn. In fact it is now no longer even a public house, but a gymnasium!

Walking past Whitestone Pond up in the clear blue sky was the moon with a star by it but looking over the pond I saw two airliners whose paths crossed  and as they did their jet streams formed a cross in the sky, it was as if they were blowing me a kiss and wishing me a happy new year.

I then headed for my usual haunt, The Duke of Hamilton, where I walked up the steps into the pub and bought a pint of Pride, it is probably the cheapest pint of Pride in Hampstead. I noticed Steve, the guvnor wiping the tables and he looked slimmer. Once he was back behind the bar, he looked across to me saying, “Happy New Year.”

“Happy New Year, Steve.” I replied.

I sat down next to a couple who were from Finland, they were in London for a few days and doing a pub crawl. I told them a few places to visit and they left to go in the Flask as it was also in their pub guide.

Later on Steve sat down and played the piano, I didn’t even know there was a piano in the pub. Afterwards I chatted to Steve saying “You look slimmer.”

“You need to go to Specsavers,” he replied.

Steve did add that he was working out. Prior to leaving the pub, he bought me a pint. I had a few more and left as the pub was almost empty.

It had been an enjoyable day.

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