Silence, Japanese gardens and peacocks.

I love Saturday mornings. Quoting freely from Stephen King, they have an air of unexpressed potential, something close to the first day of the summer school holidays: the working week is just gone and all that unfolds ahead is two days of utter, complete liberty. Things will get worse as the weekend progresses, with chores and the usual, inevitable, preparations for the looming week – ironing shirts, doing the laundry, that sort of things – but Saturday mornings – the earlier the better – are just pure gold.
In the past few weeks I made a concerted effort to make the most out of them. Whenever the weather allows it, I’m normally out and about at as early as 7:30 AM, bound for somewhere in West London. I might not like the city, but I’ve found out that at this early hour even London seems to be somewhere less crowded, less franchised, its spirit – whatever of it that hasn’t been sold off – more visible.
London isn’t a city of early birds. Only by the time I’m on my way back I start encountering more people than the odd jogger or dog walker; in the meantime, the streets are pretty much mine to roam. In my last outing I set off from my house, following in reverse the route of the planes coming to land at Heathrow, hearing nothing but the tap of my feet and the occasional whirl of the jets above.
I followed the main arteries, even though they are nothing but a dual carriageway, towards Shepherd’s Bush, crossing the road whenever I felt, safe in the knowledge that no British cop would arrest me for jaywalking. Before me, the opulence of Chiswick, with its Porsches and shops advertising artisanal lattes, gave way to the grittier, more human surroundings of Shepherd’s Bush, but for a brief interlude made of new apartment buildings being erected where council housing used to be. I guessed how many of the former tenants would be buying one of the überhaus on sale, replied myself – none – and pressed on.
Shepherd’s Bush looked exactly as it was when I lived there. The market by the Tube was opening, still escaping the orgy of redevelopment that wanted the East Indians and Punjabis out, replaced by more ‘artisanal’ franchises. Posters advertising sound systems and MC battles still crowded the boarded-up windows of pubs that were forced shut by tax hikes. I liked the fact that roughly half of the slogans and of the phrases made little or no sense to me: something, in this city where everything is becoming sanitized, packaged and sold to the mainstream, is still reserved to a small community of its dwellers and reads foreign, exotic, to everyone else.
Saturday and Sunday mornings, in Shepherd’s Bush, are animated by the timeless figures of Ethiopian Coptic Christians – faithful and clergymen alike – en route to somewhere, and this time it was no difference. I’ve seen them many times, looking irresistibly alien in their colourful robes, white shawls and saffron cloaks, walking besides the signs of Vue cinema, the Foxtons real estate agency and the M&S shop by the petrol station. Somewhere there must be an Ethiopian church, a place I’m yet to find and visit: another small mystery in this corner of the city.
A roundabout is all that separates Shepherd’s Bush to Holland Park, but it could be a different country. Here are mansions, diplomatic missions and cobbled mews where you’d expect young Beckham to be shooting other Beckhams for the next, inevitable, Burberry collection. Holland Park avenue is one of my favourites in the morning, with its tall trees that remind me of the wide corsi of the Juvarran Turin, only without trams but with a hell of a lot more Range Rovers.
I originally intended to continue onwards to Notting Hill, but then decided to change, turning right to visit the park that gives the name to the neighbourhood. I had memories of a quaint affair, muddy at times, where expensive dogs roamed and joggers strolled in their base layers.
No pedigreed quadrupeds were about, and I found myself staring at a bronze stele adorned with delicate, oriental characters: the entrance of the Kyoto garden, financed by a plethora of Japanese companies. A small addendum, called the Fukushima garden, was created as a token of gratitude to Britain for its assistance to Japan in the wake of the Tōhoku earthquake of 2011 and dedicated to meditation.
I continued onwards, thinking with affection to that country that creates gardens to thank friends, and I was in this state of blissful meditation when a peacock appeared next to a pen, strolled past is opening as if it was the most natural thing to do, and went through the pergola of the orangery of Holland House, its beautiful tale trailing behind like the train of a bride’s dress. I snapped a picture with my old phone and then rubbed my eyes. Yes, this is London.

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96 Responses to Silence, Japanese gardens and peacocks.

  1. MELewis says:

    I love Saturday mornings too, although I hate to have to actually get dressed and get moving. But there is something about being out and about in a city before everyone else that confers a real sense of magic. As the weekend rolls on, my stress level mounts. Sunday evening is my bugbear as I have to face all the things I did not have time to do. *Sigh*

  2. This is beautifully crafted with supportive, descriptive language. It really paints a picture, even for the people who are not up until 11:30AM on a Saturday!

  3. Well penned! I have never travelled outside the confines of Afrika but you managed to insert me in the heart of London.
    Thanks.

    Keep writing.

  4. kim881 says:

    I used to go along the banks of the Thames from Twickenham to Richmond, sometimes to Kew or Hampton Court. I agree wholeheartedly – London is best in the early morning and I still miss it sometimes. But you can’t beat the Norfolk skies and landscapes.

  5. ittehgapsrevotfel says:

    Neat.

  6. Every word was perfectly described. I enjoyed each and every part, Loved the way you have written.

  7. Maverick says:

    Very rarely does WordPress publishes posts of this caliber and simplicity

  8. Check out my first blog🙂

  9. Check out my new blog:)

  10. Your blog is impressive
    Good going buddy🙂

  11. Paul Causton says:

    you need to proof-read this again… (tap of my fleet?) C-

  12. khyatirajput says:

    Beautiful description. Took me back to my days in London. And that peacock was a surprise…. Didnt think you could spot one in London just like that. 👍🏻👌🏻

  13. Asha Hale says:

    Absolutely loved reading.

  14. City people rarely stir before 10 am….but most work until 3-6 am…and start another day between 10 am and noon.

  15. I lived in London some 20 odd years ok (now I live in Oxford) and it is just as you’ve said – fabulous – thanks for some great memories.

  16. Grandtrines says:

    Reblogged this on Still Another Writer's Blog.

  17. LaVagabonde says:

    Fabulous work, as usual, Fabrizio. So happy to see this featured on Discover. Very well deserved, sir.

    • awtytravels says:

      Thanks Julie, I really appreciate your comment, and I look forward to read more from you!

      God, it’s the first time this week somebody calls me sir (oh no, there was a schoolkid on the tube, that made me feel really old).

  18. sweetsound says:

    I just moved to London and am trying to figure out if I like it or not. Looks like I need to get out in the mornings! 🙂
    Also making a note to visit the Japanese garden.

  19. wellness4allblog says:

    Loved it! It sounds a lot like Paris on a cloudy day

  20. Vean T says:

    As a west Londoner, I thoroughly enjoyed this! So beautifully written and so accurately described.

  21. Pingback: Silence, Japanese gardens and peacocks. – massimilianocarrese

  22. Lovely writing, I felt as if I were right in the middle of it all with you, your description encompasses all the senses! Thank you!

  23. Beautiful article, I can’t wait to experience it and all of its glory

  24. Maverick says:

    I haven’t got as many likes on posts as I ve got commenting on your post:)

  25. Amazing article, i’m impressed by your great passion!

  26. U’re writing actually make me feel iam in there having these incidents… Great (y)

  27. Pingback: Silence, Japanese gardens and peacocks. | yhc5811

  28. I appreciate this post from someone who lived in London for a short time. I’m glad you have found some place in the grand city that you have come to appreciate. I want to go back but never made it to the area you are writing about so hopefully I will some day. This post makes me want to go back and explore the areas I didn’t have the time to.

  29. Mayang says:

    Love your post. London has been one of my dream travel destination. Reading your post makes me go insane. I love it. Really. I also love saturday and sunday mornings. It’s always been my “me time” days. 😍💓💓

  30. Gorgeous piece of writing! Looking very much forward to visiting London soon and the Japanese gardens

  31. Pingback: Silence, Japanese Gardens, and Peacocks | nehe100jr

  32. because it worth visiting)

  33. Loved reading this one!

  34. A good read crafting a scenic view verbosely for the early risers.

  35. Pingback: Silence, Japanese gardens and peacocks. – lindaholen

  36. West London is unique, a strange mix of the rich and poor cheek by jowel, very British and very foreign and often not in the manner in which you’d expect. I admire your determination to find something different there, to find a quickly-fading view of what London was but is being sold off to become a different beast entirely. That being said be optimistic, the Bush now is not what it was ten years ago nor one hundred years before that – London is a true bridge from the ancient to the future and for me the only way of dealing with its changing face is to enjoy the now and look forward to how it will feel soon enough. Nowhere else in the world looks both forward and back as well as London – lattes and dungeons baby!

    • awtytravels says:

      I wish I could share your optimism for London, but unfortunately I can’t. Take the Bush, indeed. Like it or not, it’s always been particular: you have the Caribbean immigrants, the Irish, Indians and now the Somalis with their establishments, shops, restaurants and so on. Yet, if developers convince our mop-haired moron in chief, it’ll all be Prezzos, Costas, Byrons and so on. I took a walk to Ealing the other day, it was the same. Richmond? As above. Spitalfields? Why even ask. It’s sad.

      • I hear you and can’t disagree many of these neighbourhoods are getting a little-sanitised, a little bland and am fully on board with hating the chain-restaurant addiction the British have. But with the evolution things revolve too and I have no doubt once a place becomes too boringly monotonous the money moves somewhere cooler and the process begins again. NYC is the same – Hell’s Kitchen? Even Brooklyn is hipstered and young familied out these days. So the new and the poor and the artistic are in the Bronx or Queens and no doubt they’ll get bought out of there in time – probably to move to Manhattan where none of the yuppies want to be anymore. Keep your chin up and if you find somewhere/something really cool enjoy it whilst you can. And keep it to yourself!

  37. Beautiful reading this on a saturday morning! Have a great time you; and I didn’t know there were peacocks in London too!

    travelshoebum

  38. I was just thinking how much I’m missing holland park and kyoto gardens! Lovely post!

  39. I love Saturday Mornings too, they’re so comfy and it feels like you’re on this little vacation or so, I love going to places where it’s silent and where the world seems to be still asleep, watching the sun rise and the sky being set on fire. I’m a teenager, which means that I don’t like mornings this much, but saturday mornings really gets to me, somehow. When I was in Japan, me and my family stayed in Takayama for a while and we walked around before many tourists came. It was a beautiful experience! I love you way of writing & I’m looking forward to another post

  40. mariocarrt says:

    I miss London. I had the pleasure of visiting back in 2008 and enjoyed every moment of it. Reading your blog made me miss London even more. May be planning a trip soon? I enjoy my Saturday mornings whether I’m sleeping in and my dog wakes me up or out and about or hiking.

    • awtytravels says:

      Hi there, thanks for reading! So, given your name, I was expecting you to go out for a spin with your cart, dodging banana leaves, on a Saturday morning? I’m disappointed😀

      • mariocarrt says:

        Hello again! HAHA I do miss my days with my cart and dodging banana leaves and maybe jumping out of a plane or two, but they’re not over yet.😛 Just a minor pause… Will definitely be back in the swing of things in a few weeks.😀

      • awtytravels says:

        Don’t forget the mushrooms! (Or were you picking ’em up without the cart?)

      • mariocarrt says:

        No mushrooms… may need to start collecting and going to need some fire power and a star for my Peru trip next month.

  41. Thank you very much for this! You write so well that it feels like I’m there for but just a moment.

  42. keebslac1234 says:

    After just returning from London to my digs in Iowa, I’m looking back and fondly recalling the incredible mix of humanity in the city. Chilling in Trafalgar Square (not on the day they set up a huge screen to blast opera far and wide) was great fun, experiencing the polyglot (and the poor police person who nearly wore out the whistle keeping folks off the lions). I wish I could afford do send every non-traveled person in my little town to London, Dublin, York (even New York, for Pete’s sake!). Travel has humbled me and I read posts from other travelers (and residents) with eagerness. London was a busy time. Didn’t have much experience with stillness, but that’s okay. That will have to wait for another time (and acquaintances who know where to point an inexperienced visitor). I got a great dose of stillness in three days walking on the West Ireland coast. I’d do the whole trip again in a heartbeat (and a fully charged bank account). Loved reading your thoughts!

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