Today was a ‘four seasons in one day’, day. Sunshine as the English Summer is, cloud bursts of water descending, cold wind, turning leaves, and sunshine with a sky as blue as the face of Trechikoff’s Chinese girl. I was up with the Wimbledon Tennis hopefuls, five am which is seriously early for a Saturday morning.
Walking past the still quiet tennis courts, I knew that within hours this road would be pumping with gleeful spectators to the tennis event of the year. It was still quiet, security guards and volunteers chatting to each other, waiting for the crowds. Walking past the golden post box, a tribute to an English Olympic medal winner, I walked further up the hill, past stately homes, window box perfection, to the Village. Summer flowers in bloom, the charm of the Village wakening up to a weekend that comes alive at this time of the year. True, it is a time for business, for welcoming crowds, for celebrating the British tradition of tennis, still quiet. Time to revel in the fashion of tennis in the quaint windows of shops. Shopkeepers in the Village respect this festive time of the year, adorning their windows with tennis balls, racquets and other accessories that speak of purple, green and white in honour of the tennis.
A new addition to the Village, The Ivy cafe, housed in the Bank building recently vacated by Barclays. Sister to the famous Ivy cafe in Fulham. She was going all out for the fancy dress party. Visitors from all over the world are familiar with the famous ‘The Ivy’ in the city, once the ‘to go’ place for celebrities, and following the famous tradition of the British queue, wait patiently for a table. The Two Sister’s Interior decorating shop is more subdued, but still displays decor relating to Wimbledon tennis. There is a stirring at the local french cafe, home to the locals who bask in the little sunlight this summer has to offer, complete with espresso and the daily.
Another quirky display of the tennis anthem is Brew. An Australian addition to the village, Brew serves fresh smoothies, salads and the famous ‘vegamite’ combo. Loved the tennis net as an added attraction.
For those who have not experienced Wimbledon Village, she literally is a village in the heart of London. Old worldy, quintessential English Village life. We give way to the horses here, walk to the common, have a shop dedicated to our beloved doggies and other animals, schools called ‘The Study’ and little girls dressed in gingham. Flavours of France, Italy, the Middle East, Indian, Chinese and of course, The Dog and Fox, and the Rose and Crown. We have boutiques like LK Bennet, Matches, Jigsaw and Hobbs. French couture, baby designer shops and the beautiful Bailey and Sage, gourmet food spilling the freshest fruits, cheeses and breads. Today I am in the mood for Pauls, a french bakery with the best croissants and had I the laissez-faire attitude, a thick, real hot chocolate.
But I must protest and settle for the croissant and latte today. For more delights in food, Gail’s, LPQ, Strada, Carlucci’s and many others are willing to add to my fat. It is early, the croissant and latte will do.
When I first arrived in London, it was the florist shops that captured the heart, spilling blooms on the pavement in riotous colours, plonked in buckets and begging me to buy. For the lack of gardens, we Londoners pick up the bouquets to prettify our homes.
Sadly I discovered one of my favourite Florist shops has said goodbye, so it is Gardenia for me from now on. Nibbling on my croissant as I reach the roundabout, it is too early to pop into Cath Kidson for the summer sales.
I am at home here, and proud of my village. We congregate at the pond during the year – nannies with prams, children with kites, dogs and walkers, and of course the odd sunbather catching those rays before the rain. Wimbledon Common is an oasis of green in the city, it goes on forever, to Putney Heath and eventually Richmond Park.
As I begin the walk down to Wimbledon proper, I look back at the high street. A village captured in time, in Englishness, in tradition and I am delighted to imagine the walk back when the world has woken for the tennis and I am part of it all.
All I need is in my Village. Beauty salon, hairdresser, clothing shops, restaurants and the Common. As I begin my walk down, the heavens open, as I reach the bottom of the hill, the sun is shining again. Ah, England, you beauty.