January 20th, 2005

Kensington Gardens

This is the third time we’ve stayed at this hotel. I’d assumed that the open space at the end of the road was Hyde Park. It isn’t; it’s Kensington Gardens. I’d always pictured Kensington Gardens as shrubberies and rose beds, but it turns out to be parkland- lawns and paths and bits of art.

The most prominent bit of art is the Albert Memorial. Oh my! For most of the 20th century it was mocked as a knick-knack- an over-sized version of the sort of thing the Victorians liked to put on their mantle-pieces. Well, yes, but whether you think it’s beautiful or not, it’s certainly interesting- an expression in stone and mosaic of the high Victorian world view. It has huge statuery groups representing the four continents (no Australia or Antarctica) also smaller groups representing commerce, manufacturies, agriculture and something else- and that’s just round the edges of the central spire where Albert sits in his capsule, freshly-applied gold leaf gleaming, like a divine astronaut awaiting lift-off.

Albert was a good thing. A driven and hard-working man, an amateur musician and architect, who helped invent the modern Christmas by introducing the Christmas tree into Britain.

I took pictures. But I can't upload them until I get home.

As I sit here writing this I’ve got George Bush on TV telling me how he has a mission from beyond the stars. I wonder what his memorial will look like…..