the round pond
Now we walk towards what for Iris Murdoch was the spiritual, as opposed to magical, zone of the park: the Round Pond.
Obviously this place too she often visited, where “excited dogs with sensitive spotted noses gamboled … (and) large and small beasts raced and circled in an ecstasy of motion, stopping abruptly to perform those intimate free-masonical ceremonies whereby … all somehow recognize each other as dogs.”
And here are “Canadian geese driving in convoy, groaning softly with excitement as they approached some bread-bestowing child,” and “the beautiful feet of coots (seen) through green transparent water.” (A Word Child p. 178). The Round Pond is “that centre of intense and innocent diversion, that perhaps mysterious and holy place, the omphalos of London.” (A Word Child, p. 177)
Notice also “the calm dark façade of Kensington Palace,” and then it will be time to have a picnic, chosen from the recipes Charles Arrowby gives us in The Sea, The Sea.
There is a certain morality of food in Iris Murdoch's stories. Generally speaking, the characters who eat simply and with simple animal appreciation are the most morally intelligent.
As Charles Arrowby puts it: “guzzling large quantities of expensive, pretentious, often mediocre food in public places was not only immoral, unhealthy and unaesthetic, but also unpleasurable.” (p. 9).
He recommends “intelligent hedonism” (or “Wind in the Willows food”) and even proclaims: “cook fast, eat slowly … and without distractions such as conversation or reading. Indeed eating is so pleasant one should even try to suppress thought.” (p. 7)
Maybe Iris wouldn’t approve of eating in Hyde Park where there is so much else to look at and think about, but for anyone who wants to linger over lunch, here is one of Charles’ simple menus:
- Salad of onions, carrots, tomatoes, lentils, watercress, bean shoots and lettuce, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice
- Hard water biscuits with New Zealand butter and Wensleydale cheese
- Scones with butter and raspberry jam (better toasted, but this is a picnic)
- Cox’s Orange Pippin apples when available, and/or apricots (“the king of fruit”), or if these are out of season, bananas and cream
- A bottle of Muscadet
After the picnic we leave the park at Queen Anne Gate and walk down Queen’s Gate Terrace. This is where Hilary Burde dined every Thursday on pretentious haute cuisine with his comfortably-off, “nice” friends Freddie and Laura Impiatt. Notice the “rather overwhelming houses” there.
One night Hilary rushed out of the Impiatts’ house in a panic, having heard that the man he wronged grievously in the past (Lady Kitty’s husband) had reappeared in his life.
Now, choose either to follow the route Hilary rushed along - Gloucester Road, Cromwell Road, Earls Court Road, Old Brompton Road and Lillie Road to Brompton Cemetery. Or end the Hyde Park Walk by walking down to Gloucester Road or South Kensington Tube Station.
See other Iris Murdoch walks:
Iris Murdoch walks by Barbara Julian