Feeling gloomy? Get out there and enjoy the pelicans, peacocks and ponds of London’s amazing parks

Rob Rinder
Rob Rinder: Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures

I think I have SAC: Sunshine Acquired Crankiness. This isn’t a real psychiatric illness, of course, but as a mega-hypochondriac, there is something satisfying about inventing a new neurosis, if only to diagnose myself with it. Unlike everybody else, my mood has been flattened rather than lifted by this unwanted injection of vitamin D. It is warming, I suppose, that the summer can lighten even the greyest parts of London. Still, I haven’t freed myself from a lurking sense of gloom.

The England football team teased us into a dream of glory then left us reeling over tear-tainted pints. It’s too hot to sleep. Brexit is a disaster. Donald Trump visited. That’s just the small stuff. My agent called to say he had received an “observation” that I am the least stylish homosexual “ever” and I need a rethink of my wardrobe. Worse still, I have given up carbs for gay Lent (the sacred period leading up to my pilgrimage to Ibiza ).

When I get into a rut like this I have one fail-safe tool to claw my way out of despair. I invoke the spirit of Hayley Mills as Pollyanna (it has to be the film not the book). In recent years this chipper orphan girl has got a bad rap (too saccharine, etc) but I’ve always admired her “glad game”.

When life throws you a karmic boomerang (and the bad thing you did comes back to hit you in the face), sometimes all you can do is grin, bear it and find the positive outlook. Pollyanna proposes that whatever grimness is going on around us, we have to focus on the good in life. There is always at least one thing to be glad of.

I finally found my “glad” thing this week, just as my SAC was reaching a bad-tempered nadir. I was sitting in my local park when it came to me: how lucky we are to live in a city so green. A city of more than 40 per cent publicly accessible green spaces. I am glad of their variety and that there’s always one nearby. I’m glad that while they might look anaemic now, having been bleached yellow by the sun, the plus side of the weather is that we have been able to enjoy them.

It is quite remarkable that one of the most densely populated places on the planet boasts the best access to greenery of any major city. Try finding a park in Hong Kong, for example.

London’s “green chain” is comprised of more than 300 parks and gardens across south-east London, sandwiched between the banks of the Thames and Nunhead Cemetery. They form a network of more than 50 miles where you hardly leave any green space. Hampstead Heath has everything from playgrounds to wilderness to model boating and swimming ponds . St James’s Park has pelicans, Holland Park has peacocks, Richmond Park has deer — and that’s not even starting on the many city farms scattered about, often in the midst of our poorest communities.

There are smaller green wonders, too. The New River Walk begins as a weeping willow-shrouded oasis in Islington but can actually be followed all the way past Ally Pally and into far suburban London. Highgate Cemetery is £4 for adult entry but under-18s go free, and you can hang out with Karl Marx and Malcolm McLaren. Crystal Palace is the place to be if you fancy checking out 30 giant dinosaurs (or what they reckoned dinosaurs were in the 1850s, anyway).

"It is remarkable that one of the most densely populated places on the planet boasts the best access to greenery"

I have decided to play the glad game daily. Post-Brexit, post-football, London is still a gift of gladness if you know where to look. Even if we are conscripted into seeing the world through the prism of miserable news, we can always turn to Pollyanna for the way out. So get outside to one of the free green spaces and have a truly glad weekend.

Susanna is a true pro, show her respect

It’s tough being Susanna Reid. She faces daily trolling on social media from across the political spectrum for being “too opinionated,” “too quiet”, “too good looking” and — above all — for daring to share a sofa with Piers Morgan . The fact that she is criticised by both Left and Right is all the evidence one should need to conclude that she is doing a good job.

Susanna Reid (PA)

She may get spoken over from time to time but any regular viewer of Good Morning Britain (close to a million a day) will see her respond — always — with dignity, intelligence and fierce professionalism.

For any doubters out there, read her Twitter response to those expressing outrage at Morgan’s Trump interview. Her sassy retort was pithy and perfect, a reminder that she is a seriously talented broadcast journalist who refuses to be wounded by petty stone-throwers. Perhaps that’s what makes them so furious with her.

*Among Covent Garden types it is un-cool to confess that your favourite opera is Puccini’s La Bohème — but I have no shame about it. The moment in which Rodolfo takes Mimi’s frozen hand in the bleak darkness of a Paris attic says everything about love.

In the Richard Jones production I saw on Saturday, however, there was no darkness. Instead the coup de foudre was against a white backdrop under hospital-ward lighting.

It ruined the moment. I understand innovation is important but there is an obvious line between adaptation and self-indulgence, and the lighting designer leapt across it with indifference. A shame, because the singing was sublime.