London parks are not there for your entertainment. London parks are to be obsessed with. In fact, I pity the poor tourist who walks past the Ecclestone Square Park to gawp at the honestly fucking useless figures of Madam Tussauds, and I look with utter disbelief at that poor soul which has never made an exhausting but ultimately fulfilling trip to the Kew Gardens (having, quite possibly, never heard of them).
Which is to say, the old adage sticks. If you are tired of London parks, you are tired of life.
They are not straightforward. In fact, there are levels to London parks. There are those which are for lying down and there are those which are for silent walks among the roses and the cheeky squirrels hunting for blood. There are those which are for music in your headphones (I once had a beautiful night out in St. James Park listening to The Ape Of Naples) and those which are for melodramatic conversations with those who you love or else loved or else will love. And then there are those which are to be enjoyed with a glass of absinthe.
In fact, all of them. It's worth remembering that obsessions do not go easy on you, and hence this drinking guide to London parks. Not all of them, Jesus forbid, these are just a few examples. But never forget: there are no parks in London you should have the effrontery to skip.
Level One. Soho Square.
The grass in Soho Square is so dark green it's almost brown. Which could well be for the simple reason that I only saw it in the evening. Soho Square is the ultimate hedonistic paradise, compact-style, filthy and brilliant. It's there to lie down and soak in the million words yelled and whispered around you. It's actually inspiring, given the right season (April to October) and the right moment (6pm onwards). The right alcohol would be the basic delights of ginger beer like Crabbies.
Level Two. Hyde Park (Diana's Fountain corner).
Hyde Park is overcrowded and, more often than not, quite intimidating. Tread carefully through the dead bodies, empty bottles and depressing Pakistani gentlemen trying to sell you an iPhone adapter, and you might be rewarded with something like Diana's Fountain. This is still precarious, I'll grant you that, as you could stumble upon a perfect British family playing football under the tree you've long picked for yourself. However, when it's calm and the good people are at work, the sun is clean, the air is transparent, the kids are dipping their feet in the water, and this calls for a long, slow glass of champagne.
Level Three. Warwick Square.
Overgrown, leafy, with a half-closed gate that might only seem inviting to an old man walking his two giant dogs. Yet walk in, and this could be as special as only an old park can be. London is filled with these. Any conversation here becomes memorable, any face unforgettable. You will come up with your best line, you will write your best short story here. A Warwick Square is natural and dense and powerful and I just wouldn't mind having a small bottle of Scottish whisky in the long pocket of my coat.
Level Four. St. James Park.
St. James Park can occasionally come off as a posher take on Hyde Park, but that's if your imagination allows you to queue to the London Eye for a day or two. The grass in St. James Park is slightly less pale, and the air is way healthier as you can probably gather from the multitudes of joggers (although David Lodge said it best: "Running is a sport, jogging is punishment"). St. James Park is mainstream art done well, with guts and imagination, even if its no-nonsense location is closer to the earthy taste of red wine.
Level Five. Kew Gardens.
Instagram people won't believe me when I say that life is nothing but a mixture of memories and experiences. It is. One such experience was me walking through the Kew Gardens (where at some point I found myself running after a peacock trying to pull out one of his feathers) on a Wednesday morning and seeing a huge white table laid for some sort of grand dinner celebration. The plates were there, as were the spoons and the forks and the glasses. This was such a perfect scene. One thing missing was 12 e Mezzo /Malvasia del Salento. White wine.
Level Six. Regent's Park.
In late pre-autumn, on a warm day when the air is so crisp you can almost faint from happiness, Regent's Park is my idea of Heaven. You know how occasionally you have one too many cocktails, and you go and lie down, and suddenly you feel like your head comes crashing down, floating through some goddamn tunnel, and there's a sense that if you succumb to this great fall, you will never wake up from this and you will land deeper than the chasm where Gandalf took on Barlog. Regent's Park is exactly that when you lie down on its grass, with the single exception that it's the fall you are willing to accept. Preferred alcohol is the cocktail of your choice.