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The glories of South London tempt me into the fresh air

Are you an indoor person? Daniel Sugarman thought he was

    The glorious colours of the Isabella plantation in Richmond
    The glorious colours of the Isabella plantation in Richmond

    Forget race, religion or gender there are two main groupings in this world; outdoor people and indoor people.

    I have always been in the latter category. While family holidays saw my relatives basking in the southern hemisphere sun, I would be happily ensconced in a shady room, usually reading a book. Al fresco dining is, quite frankly, not my cup of tea particularly as insects are likely to fly into said cup. I am a creature of the indoors. The Children of Israel camped in the wilderness for forty years we’ve done more than our fair share of time on the outside.

    And, true to form, I spent most of my holiday last week inside.

    I’d had other intentions. Having decided to stay in London, I’d planned to try and experience the capital a little.The people who are often least likely to properly explore a city are the people who actually live in it.

    But my body intervened, throwing a cold into the mix. Goodbye Kensington Palace and the V&A, hello Night Nurse and Netflix. I wasn’t too heartbroken there are worse ways to spend a holiday.

    But then I got a reminder of what I’m missing. For three weeks every year, heaven opens a pop-up boutique in South London.

    Isabella Plantation is a 40-acre garden inside Richmond Park. From late April until early May, with the arrival of spring, the flowers throw an exuberant natural carnival. Azaleas and rhododendron bushes bloom in a range of riotous colours, which somehow, despite being a dozen shades of red, purple, pink and lilac, never seem to clash.

    It is also, quite inexplicably, free to the public.

    Having recovered sufficiently, I went last Sunday. It wasn’t my first time, but the wonder of it never fades. The beauty is such that it is difficult not to see God’s hand at work.

    Having just celebrated Lag b’Omer, we are fast approaching the festival of Shavuot. One of the customs of the holiday is to decorate synagogues with flowers a reference to the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Despite being in the desert, a miracle occurred, the Midrash says, and the mountain became bedecked with beautiful vegetation.

    So, when it comes to outdoor life, I have resolved to get out more.

    To quote the most famous Jew of the 20th century: “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

    I doubt any facet of my knowledge will ever eclipse that of Albert Einstein, who wrote those words. But having been reminded of what the world outside my four walls has to offer, I think that a little more understanding probably wouldn’t hurt, despite the insects.

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