The bed and breakfast where he’s staying in London has a 9:00 A.M. sitting for breakfast, the last sitting of the morning, and it’s only a half hour away.
He has to take a bath, try out that luxurious old bathtub.
‘Dammed ducks!’ he thinks, looking out the window. In a neighbor’s garden, waddling.
He rubs his eyes.
Dressed and ready, downstairs there’s only one person seated.
The lady is from Toronto visiting a daughter who lives in London.
“Did the ducks bother you?” Kewe smiling asks. “The noise was bad enough I could hear them mixed in my dreams. Qua, Qua, Quew! Quew!” he imitates not very well. “I thought I was on the bank of some river.”
“Oh, you’ve been there too,” the lady says. “I love Kew. We didn’t get as far along as the bank of the Thames. We wanted to see the glasshouses and it takes time to see....”
“No, Kewe is my name,” Kewe responds. “I was talking about the ducks.”
“Well, I didn’t get an opportunity to see the ducks but I was agreeing with my daughter what an exceptionally interesting place it is.”
“Kew I thought you were there,” the lady is rummaging in her bag. “You should go. I have the brochure. I know I have it.”
A search through her handbag, a pamphlet is brought forth that she hands to him. “The glasshouses are superb. Don’t miss them.”
Kewe is staring at the pamphlets. “No.... I guess I won’t.”
Riding out on the London underground, Kew station above ground, he walks over the bridge, down the steps to the flower seller, then past the tiered, old houses, to cross to a major street that has a long wall Kewe Gardens a wall that takes him to the entrance.
Given a pamphlet with the ticket, he buys a small descriptive book at the shop.
The glasshouses are recommended and that is where he finds himself. The one he has come to is the largest ornamental glasshouse in the world, the book says.
Stepping inside, breathing fresh wonderful oxygenated air, plants and trees from regions covering the world surround him.
Sprawling conifers in the center, towering up to high roof glass. Temperate and subtropical at the outer edges.
Giant lemons the size of grapefruit, past a five-sided Babaco native to Ecuador, he walks.
He remembers eating the juicy and seedless fruit known as mountain papaya a flavor that is a mix between pineapple, strawberry and papaya. This is the first time he’s seen the fruit growing.
On this tour of the temperate house, he sees plants from the Himalayas, from the Cape of Africa, from Lord Howl Island, New Zealand.
One wing has rice paper plants and Indian lilac. Mountain rhododendrons from Malaysia and Indonesia even rhododendrons growing in areas of the Himalayas are flowering.
High above him people walk on a platform around the edge, just under the glass roof. At one of the corners, hidden among the trees, is a circular metal staircase for him to climb.
Sixty feet above the ground, his hand on a metal balustrade, in the top of one of the trees a small English robin who must have flown in via a vent window is trilling away. Accompanied by taped nature sounds from a nearby speaker.
Singing amongst the leaves, the small bird is producing a vibration that echoes throughout the top of the glasshouse.
Kewe entranced, and a little high with the oxygen from the plants, looks down at so many groupings of Earth’s wonders.
The splendor of the majestic white palace is breathtaking. How can it be he asks himself, that many of us allow ourselves to live the way we live without any of this?
Kewe clambers down reluctantly, walks and stops to view such rarities as a coffin tree from China, a giant Chilean wine palm that a sign says is over a hundred years old started from seed here at Kew. The sprawling wine palm is propped up by wood supports.
Taking a quick tour of the central park with maroon and blue hyacinth decorating edges of the manicured lawns, he makes his way to the other large conservatory that some people had the foresight to build in the Victorian era, the Palm House.
Here it is warmer, tropical, more mysterious. Dark fronds droop in thick, humid air. A ylang ylang growing in the shade with its green and yellow flower fragrance pervading everything.
A sign near the tree says perfumes of the world contain the oil from the flower. Distilled the oil acts as both an antidepressant and as a sedative in aromatherapy.
A screw pine nearby, woody brace roots long wooden stilt sticks that reach high above Kewe’s head. He reads the plant is named for the spiral fashion in which spiny edge leaves arrange themselves round the upper trunk.
Near the screw pine is another small notice: