The Hyde Park Bandstand sits amidst one of London’s largest and most luxurious green spaces. Its vast grounds give visitors the impression that it couldn’t possibly be amongst one of the busiest metropolises in the world. The structure itself is no more than an eight-sided, elevated platform, above which sits a decorative metal roof held up by black iron columns. Emanating from the base of its steps, large pavestones encircle the platform, and a few meters out from that is a stout garden fence; one that could feasibly keep out small children or any number of flightless birds. On this particular Sunday afternoon, the stage was taken by a fighter and his training partner, perhaps attracted to the octagonal shape made popular by contemporary Mixed Martial Arts arenas. The trainer pranced gracefully around the perimeter of the gazebo wearing padded mitts as the trainee followed, fists up, entrained on his two outstretched targets. Engrossed in the moment, the two moved swiftly back and forth, then side to side, in their own little eight-sided world with the gate locked behind. Passersby didn’t take much notice, but attention was of no concern for the men, motivated by nothing more than a sunny Spring day, a mutual rush of testosterone, and the love of the sport.
So focused were they, as they traded gloves from fighter to training partner and back again, they hadn’t noticed the few girls that mysteriously appeared along the short fence between the Bandstand and the gravel pathways that sprawled out to the rest of the park. But even the prospect of being observed couldn’t shake much more than a sideways glance out of the determined sportsmen. Had they stopped to investigate the developing situation, they would have seen the churning mass in the distance rapidly approaching from the main path. The fighters, however, kept at it while the only sounds that could be heard aside from a distant car horn were the shuffling of their shoes and the satisfying *pock* of a gloved fist making contact with another.
Then suddenly, a piercing shriek punched a hole in the otherwise tranquil soundscape. Some nearby turned their heads, but the two men kept theirs down and their hands up. The initial disturbance was then followed by another which was followed by another and so on until they began to overlap melding into a menacing drone screeching toward them. Pedestrians casually strolling through the park were now hurling themselves off of the main pathway as a flood of seemingly rabid teens and tweens charged violently toward the Bandstand. Within seconds, the mob descended upon the tiny perimeter fence like a flock of buzzards awaiting their next meal. It wasn’t until they were completely surrounded by concentric rows of them that the fighters broke concentration and were taken aback by the mass of anxious faces gazing at them- then past them- then in every other direction. The fighters’ first instincts were to back away, but with nowhere to back away to, they gestured incredulously with their gloves to invoke some sort of explanation. Instead, a mutual taciturnity continued on while the fighters mumbled to each other, and each of the girls glanced down at her smartphone. After several more seconds and the craning of many necks, another scream pierced the air followed by a seismic shift in the crowd as it morphed again into a torrent that funneled back down the main pathway and out of sight. The final cries echoed like a pack of banshees in the night and subsided as some stragglers in the group, winded from the mad rush, stumbled to the next prospective location. Once again the park was quiet as a couple unlucky members of the pack were left behind. One limped off to the side from a potential ankle sprain. Another wept as she held out a limp wrist while bystanders attempted to diagnose the sustained injury.
The fighters looked onward with glazed eyes where the horde became one with the horizon. Only after the dust had literally settled did they slowly muster the focus to continue on with their training. Having been separated several yards from the crowd, they wouldn’t have been able to distinguish a word from the cloud of fanatical discourse amongst it, nor would they have picked out the names of the two YouTube celebrities with which it was collectively infatuated. They would never have seen the little screens of the phones flashing updates which inaccurately disclosed the secret location of their next surprise appearance. For the few eyewitnesses that knew of these details, it was a silly mixup of time and place, but for our beloved training partners, their bewilderment will forever live on.