On entering Kensington Gardens from Bayswater Road, you will probably drive into this wonderful park through Victoria Gate. It’s a left turn in if you are coming from Marble Arch. If you approach from Holland Park, you will not be at liberty to turn right in through these gates.
So, let’s assume you are approaching from Marble arch. You will soon be turning left into the park and heading towards the Serpentine and the Long Water from where you may see Kensington Palace on a clear day. Having passed the magnificent Italian Gardens adorned with four fountains and classical sculptures immediately on your right, you will proceed slowly rising and dropping gently over well placed speed bumps along that curving road. Often, on your left, you will be accompanied by horses walking or sometimes trotting alongside you as you drive. These are mostly horses hired out for pleasure rides through the park. Sometimes you may be accompanied by Her Majesty’s Horse Guards, or Military Police on horseback, but that is not very likely. They tend to train across the river on the other side of this wonderful park. Mostly it is pleasure riders who accompany you a little way on your journey, children of fairly affluent people being taken our for the morning or afternoon rides through the park.
Along this stretch of your journey, just before the road sweeps off towards the Long Water, you will now see a magnificent, diverse variety of tall trees on your left. For many, many years, if you glanced up into the treetops here, you might have been surprised to have seen a pretty kite knotted high, high up in the branches of one of these trees. A bright green, pink and yellow kite, medium size, the kite was tied up tightly in the highest branches at the very top of one of these trees. Did you see it? Tangled in the uppermost branches here long kite tails, prettily decorated with colourful little bows, drifted down around the branches occasionally waving to all who passed beneath them.
How did this kite get there, you might have wondered, had you seen it as you drove through the park and happened to glance up into those magnificent trees. It was there, you know, for years. It was there in the Summer, never falling with the leaves the kite remained high up in that tree throughout the Autumn. In the Winter there the kite was, prettily dressed in white snow, glistening out from amongst the branches in the wintery sunlight. It remained there for the many Springs that followed. You would have been surprised how many years the kite remained there, had you been watching it. Surely, had you seen it, you must have wondered how it got there.
Let me tell you how.
There were not many moments of pure, uncomplicated relaxation between them. Love was not in question – what was in question was compatibility. Compatibility was never a given in their marriage. Battling through challenging times, gasping their way through the suffocation of painful conflicts across the years, rising and falling in and out of love with each other they found it increasingly difficult to arrive at any place of comfort or rest in each others company. Finally, when confronted with cancer in a man no longer at ease with her or within himself at all, in a moment of pure inspiration it occurred to her that she might buy him something pretty, something colourful, something light and joyous. She bought him a kite.
With this kite came relief! Golden, breezy afternoons were spent kite flying in the wide open spaces of Windsor Great Park, or competing for space at the top of Primrose Hill. Instantly taking to the skills involved in getting this kite into the sky he was occasionally happy to share this art with her, teaching her the joys of allowing the air to lift your kite up, up and away!! What a pleasure it was to be sharing something again, something so light, so pretty, so free.
Happy to see him happy despite the extreme discomfort and fear they both experienced whilst he was in recovery from one operation or another, she would sit in the car listening to music while watching him run across the green to guide the kite up into the blue. Often, she wondered what she would do without him. Having seen him sitting up in his hospital bed surrounded by students eager to learn and understand the operations he had undergone, shocked to find she did not understand a word of what the teaching doctor was explaining but relieved to see that he himself totally understood it all, she would often return to their flat in a state of numb, speechless fear. It felt to her that in spite of their conflicts and battles, she breathed in as he breathed out. If he were not to be beside her in their bed breathing out in that deep way he had, would she ever breath in again. She had wondered.
Such a light, pretty yet fragile kite this was. Setting it out into the sea air above the sand dunes of a Dorset beach, guiding this kite across the heavens above Windsor or overlooking London from the top of Primrose Hill, or out on the open lands around Hampstead Heath or Richmond Great Park – such were the places where they were free to enjoy simple pleasure in peace and total harmony with each other. An instrument of deep enjoyment to them both it seemed the kite was indeed not just a gift to him. It was a gift to them both.
Why then, you may well wonder, did they both insist on taking the kite out into the bushy, wild and wonderful Kensington Gardens. Knowing full well of the tall trees, familiar with the obvious rule of kite flying only in wide, open spaces, yet still they tested his skill. Confident that he would navigate his way around those tall trees, confident in her belief in his ability to do so, blinded by their need for success, like two small children they ran into the park. She watched as he let their kite up into the sky.
Perhaps the kite was impatient to get away from them. Perhaps it was frustration at their stupidity that caused their pretty kite to pull free of his hands and surge upwards in a desperate attempt to get away from the trees. Whatever it was, they watched, shocked, as their kite flew beyond their control, beyond their reach, way up above the trees. Free for a moment, it hovered there where they stood staring up watching it swirl and twirl above them. So beautiful it was, so bright, so colourful yet somehow so very fragile up there above the trees, out of their hands. Would their kite come down? Please let it come down! We will catch it! We will take it away from these trees to somewhere safe where it may freely surf currents of air in safety again! Let it land! Please kite, come down and land at our feet!
Slowly, the kite fell from the sky into the upper branches of one of the tallest trees. Slowly, it wound itself tighter and tighter around the branches. Occasional struggles for release only caused the kite to become further locked in amongst the branches and the leaves. Too far out of reach for either of them to climb up to rescue their kite, they knew it had gone.
Finding tears in her eyes, she turned away from the kite, unable to observe it any further. Impatient to move on from his loss, he turned away from their kite resolved to head into town immediately in order to purchase a new one. A better one. A bigger, brighter kite.
She since wondered if, over the years, he had ever turned left in through Victoria Gate to drive through Kensington Gardens again. She wondered, if he did, had he ever seen their kite up there in the trees? For the years that it remained there she had seldom passed those trees on her journey through the park without a glance upward to the treetops.
Did you see the kite up there?