It was a strange day for a celebration. Despite the mid-April date, I was woken by a WhatsApp message bleeping through from my daughter with a photo of the beautiful snow-covered landscape surrounding her 16th century farmhouse in Worcestershire. Outside my own London window, large flakes of snow drifted towards the ground. By the time I got downstairs, the snow was lightly laying, painting a broken white tablecloth on the garden table outside; peppering the grass with patches of white. It wasn’t, however, serious snow.
Merlin the 8-month kitten hadn’t encountered snow before. I’ve only just started letting him outside so he missed experiencing the snow a few weeks ago. I opened the cat flap as I do each morning so he can go off on his daytime excursions. He rushed through. Stopped. Rushed back in and looked through the glass door. He looked up at me. I’m sure he was asking me what was going on outside. He rushed out again, straight back in. It went of a few times. I pondered that maybe he thought if he did it enough he’d get a different experience, that cold white stuff would have gone.
My son dropped off his two eldest boys – Freddie (6) and Ben (3). By this time the snow had stopped. Did they want to go into the garden, I asked. No, Nonna, it’s too cold outside. Instead juice was drunk (coffee for Nonna), mini pain au chocolat eaten, Julia Donaldson books read, and paintings made.
By the time my son, wife and their baby returned at midday, the snow was long gone and the sun was shining. It was suggested we walk down to Twickenham Riverside and get some coffee, maybe something to eat. As we walked, I stripped off my scarf, undid my jacket, wished I’d changed out of the woollen jumper. This morning it was freezing; by lunchtime Spring was back and it was warm.
We headed straight for Church Street, the prettiest street in Twickenham, which is now totally pedestrianised. It was the first day in months that restaurants, cafes, and pubs could open for anything other than takeaway, and serve people sitting outside. Tables spilled onto the pavement, laughter was in the air, and how could one not celebrate this sign of normality; this pleasure in living and being with friends and family.
There were tables outside our favourite local restaurant, Masaniello, full of people (photo above was taken later), but we anyway had decided on takeaway pizza. It had been a spontaneous thought on Jonathan’s part that this would be a nice thing to do. He ordered the pizzas and Lyndsey took the boys down to the river to find a bench for us.
Four pizzas were carried down the short road from Masaniello to the river. One each for the three grown-ups and one for the boys to share. We hadn’t seen Livio who was busy in the kitchen at the back of the restaurant cooking. But Livio’s pizzas are special: he comes from Naples, home of pizza, where his family ran a pizzeria. I hadn’t had one of Livio’s pizzas for far too long and I was looking forward to it.
Lyndsey had a ham, artichoke, olives and mushrooms pizza.
Jonathan had one with Italian sausage; the boys a Margherita. Mine had roasted vegetables: aubergine, courgette. and peppers. All on top of tomato sauce with mozzarella, of course!
They were so delicious. We kept telling each other how good they were; the boys declared they were ‘yummy’. From our bench we looked across to Eel Pie Island, famous for its music history, where groups like the Rolling Stones, The Who, Rod Stewart, and others started out, playing in a hotel on the island in the sixties. Now it’s an artists’ community, open a couple of times a year for people to visit the artists’ and craft people’s workshops.
Pizzas finished, we decided to walk along the river a bit towards Richmond.
It’s such a beautiful part of London.
We walked along the side of the river and into York House Gardens where the rather extraordinary and over-the-top fountain is always fun to see and has stopped many a visitor to Twickenham in their tracks, as it can be seen from the road outside.
It was time to head back to my house. It had been such a lovely outing, all the better for its spontaneity, for celebrating the opening of restaurants and shops and the lively, happy atmosphere down by the river. What more could one ask for on a sunny Spring day, than the company of family, the sounds of people laughing and having fun together, a beautiful riverside – and the most delicious pizza in town!