It’s dusk in this street of Georgian houses. A brisk, cold wind blows. Spring is not quite here. Soft lights glow in the first floor drawing rooms. In the basements – down ‘area steps’ – there are signs of meals being prepared. No-one can be seen in any of the rooms. But they are lit. In these modestly-sized rooms there is space. The old elegant furniture belongs there. Everything in its place.
I walk on my way to the Marquis of Granby pub in Smith Square. The MP for the area lives in a house on one of its corners. Again its rooms are quietly lit. No sign of people. Shrouded in the oncoming dark stands St John’s, the church and concert venue.
The wind blows. Nearby the tidal Thames ebbs and flows. There’s no stopping the appearance of clouds of crocuses in St James’s Park. The snowdrops will already be out. In a trice in time, a military band will be playing in the bandstand there; visitors and office workers will be in the café; pelicans will be fed by children. Deck chairs will be out and, here and there, on the grass, lovers will embrace. I have taken these evening walks during my office ‘supper break’, as it is euphemistically called, for 25 years.
What is that music, as a I follow the path by the lake in June? It’s the massed bands of the Royal Marines, rehearsing for the Trooping of the Colour on the Queen’s official birthday.
These memories return as I sweep up leaves in my Oxfordshire garden before the bin man comes. I remember other Autumns and the great, fallen leaves of the London plane trees as they drift in the streets of Westminster.
And the Abbey’s Armistice Day memorial gardens.
I remember past Springtimes, awaited and now gone.
And the March winds of yesteryear.