At the Palace

illustration of someone stuck in a hedge maze by trudi Murray

I did some work in the morning, and the boys set off on the train with their mountain bikes, out to the forest, for a day of careening down the dirt tracks. It’s so funny to see them getting ready, with slightly younger brother firmly in charge. This is his hobby, after all. Older brother is merely tagging along, wearing the second best knee pads. He doesn’t have special socks* either.

So, off they went, and when I’d finished my work, we made some sandwiches and then my daughter and I got our bikes out too, and cycled gently through the park to Hampton Court Palace.

A peaceful hour or so. We wandered round the kitchen garden, the rose garden and the wilderness. We ate our sandwiches, watching the little ones playing on the grass. I’d have liked to go round the back of the palace and see the Great Vine, but you have to buy a ticket these days.

We decided to take a turn in the maze, just for fun. Hampton Court maze is the UK’s oldest surviving hedge maze. It’s very good fun. I always love it. I’ve been in it countless times: let’s go slowly, I said, confidently, and pretend we don’t know the way – we don’t want to get to the middle in two minutes! Reader, we got properly, actually lost, like Jerome’s three friends* and no doubt many punters since.

I thought we’d never find the way. It was great. We giggled a lot. I was racking my brains, but that doesn’t often help in this situation. Better to carefully examine fellow mazegoers’ faces. You can usually tell if they know something you don’t by the wry twitch round the eyes, and the secret smile as you pass each other in the narrow pathways.

Suddenly, there it was. The middle! We took the quick exit out. The paint on the gate is very worn away, I noticed, no doubt from the sweaty clutch of all those tourists, desperate to get out and have a drink.

Which is what we did too. I bought ice-cream, and coffee, and we sat outside in the sun. I saw a man I used to chat to in the school playground, with his Grandchildren, and a few other neighbours too. The Palace is nice in the holidays – full of a hubbub of different languages and tourists with maps, but still a destination for the locals.

Back on our bikes, back through the park, and back to my desk.


*Ben Deakin’s #Oi Oi socks are the in thing for young mountain bikers. They make you go faster, apparently!
*Have you read Three Men in a Boat? It’s a good one for a Saturday afternoon.





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