I had a package to pick up from the postal depot. Google places it at 1.6 miles from me (give or take; it can't see a few of the shortcuts), perfect for a sunny evening stroll, past all the front gardens.
Near where I live, gardens have a functional feel; nearly everyone needs the parking in their front garden, and accordingly they are paved, gravelled, gone to hardstanding. Pots of petunias snuggle against warm brick walls and roses and clematis climb up the walls, and vigorous self seeders ooze out of every crack and crevice but this is just the lighthearted effusiveness of a working garden, with jobs to do; reduce the insurance premiums, kennel the wheelie bins, provide an important cat sunning area. The occasional mossy wilderness behind a vast privet hedge (brown with its annual hack) marks the jobless gardens, ivied and brambled.
As I cross the road and head up the hill, the gardens get bigger and I begin to see my first Jasmine bushes. Jasmine is June, and the scent is sweet in the air. Here and there, I spot overexcited perennials running riot through the borders (flumped geraniums and lolling lysimachia), and shrubs falling to the first dry spells (a dead maple outcompeted by its less aesthetic but more vigorous sibling) but mostly the gardens are tidy, clipped, well turned out. I walk past a man watering his Jasmine bush, calm among the globes of his alliums. Even the gardens with no time to be gardened are trying hard, bedding plants pressed firmly into thin dry beds; abrupt arrangements of rocks and hardy, maintenance free shrubs.
Towards the bypass, the gardens start to become more haphazard and chaotic; here a front garden where everything is in the process of being hacked back with some handy implement (I would guess one which has nothing to do with gardening), there a garden colonised by a vast invasion of orangey day lillies, here a back garden out front, with a lady taking out spoiled strawberries for her bird table. A huge clump of Osteospermum has been growing here for years, establishing outposts in other gardens, self-seeding up and down the street. Its billowy purple clouds have spread further since last year.
Right by the underpass, a huge and tempting back garden has topped its fence with barbed wire. Roses grow through it here and there, nodding huge blooms in the evening breeze, and the green tufts of Firethorn has scrambled up to join them, nature's barbed wire kinking round the human kind.
I collect my parcel from the municipal shrubs around the depot, then head back, selecting the exact same route, but the other side of the road. As I slip back through the footpath at the brow of the hill, I glance up and see a Red Kite's nest, stark against the sky in one of the big pines.
There are new benches on this side of the road, and I stop at one, to admire the cars coming up the hill and play a round of scrabble. Further down the hill I find a municipal tree dropping ripe cherries, and take a handful home. The sun is still bright.
At home I head for the watering can, and spend half an hour watering.