Monday, May 22, 2006

City park

Tree posture
Tree posture: A jogger stretches under one of the park's yew trees.

My local park is a stone’s throw from my flat. It’s small, you could walk the perimeter in ten minutes and, in addition to parkland, it contains a couple of basketball and/or football pitches, a kindergarten and a children’s playground. The peaceful appearance in the photographs is deceptive since it is bordered on three sides by busy roads, most notably the South Circular with its continuous stream of heavy traffic and pollution.

For all that, it is a little oasis and is well used: for picnics, by frisbee-throwers, for ad hoc cricket matches, children’s games, jogging, dog walking and cycling. The local pentecostal church holds fêtes there a couple of times a year, and at one time there were fireworks parties on Guy Fawkes Day. The London Air Ambulance has even been known to commandeer it as an emergency landing pad.

I cut through the park most days en route to the underground station and over time I’ve got to know some of the regulars by sight. The grey-haired Asian jogger in his track suit and baseball cap who seems to turn out daily in all weathers; the two elderly ladies, one black, one white – obviously friends - walking a miniature poodle. Most of the handful of people that I recognise are getting on in years; the younger ones seem transient, more interchangeable, less visible somehow.

Park 1

On weekend afternoons during spells of warm weather, the benches are filled by escapees from flats with no garden, reading books and newspapers in a variety of languages and surrounded by cans of beer and soft drinks: a mixture of couples, teenagers, and families with children in push chairs .....

The most vociferous group, unsurprisingly, are the teenagers.


The sports pitches are packed at weekends too, generally for soccer matches – played with a feverish and noisy intensity - or knockabout, spontaneous games between local boys and, in more recent years, girls (thanks in part perhaps to Bend it Like Beckham?).

During the week you are more likely to find just the occasional loner attempting to land a shot in the basketball hoops ... for hours on end. Shoot. Miss. Shoot again. Success. Bounce the ball. Shoot again. Miss.


Park 2

It is only now that I know I will be leaving this area soon that I realise how much I appreciate this patch of green. When I cross it on my way home from work I start to unwind. It has become a physical demarcation line between my private and public lives.

And the elderly ladies and I have started to nod to each other when we meet. Pretty good for London.


Blogger herhimnbryn said...

Lovely post. Aren't these little parks wonderful?

I now have a mental image of the two older women, walking the dog. I wonder how they became friends?

9:33 am  
Blogger Brenda said...

I agree. You've got the whole flavour of the city park here, and how it's used and what it does for us. And, yes, I, too, love these respites in the patterns of houses, office buildings, stores and roads. With a dog, I visit a number of parks regularly. When I'm not chatting with someone or other, I find a special communion with my 'soul' or the 'soul of nature' or something special that you can only find with green grass and trees and earth. I love the photos, and the simple striking portraits you've drawn of some of the people that have become part of the landscape of the park for you...

12:56 pm  
Blogger Dave said...

I was struck by your description of the younger people as less visible somehow. Also by the notion that in other countries, one can actually drink beer in a public park! I don't know of any place in the U.S. where one wouldn't get arrested for that.

6:58 pm  
Blogger Mary said...

Herhimbryn: thanks. Ithink they live near each other, those two. Perhaps they are both dog lovers?

Brenda: Thank you. Ah, another park lover! You and I think along the same lines on this I think. And I suspect having a dog yourself makes it easier to open a conversation with other dog owners? That's certainly what Ihave observed.

Dave: Yes, I've asked myself why I not retained a distinct memory of younger people. I think the older ones are in the park at more regular times (and at the same time as I go to work). I suspect the younger ones are too busy getting ready to go to school or college or work, or are still in bed at that hour of the morning. I think if I was there regularly at lunchtime, say, it might be different.

And there would be trouble if people weren't allowed to drink beer in parks .... although I think that daylong drinkers - alcoholics - are moved on. You see them occasionally but, at least in this park, not on a regular basis.

7:27 pm  
Blogger zhoen said...

It would be a shame to leave a place you have lived, and miss nothing at all.

7:33 pm  
Blogger rdl said...

Nice post(love the elderly ladies). I especially like the end: It is only now that I know I will be leaving this area soon that I realise how much I appreciate this patch of green. When I cross it on my way home from work I start to unwind. It has become a physical demarcation line between my private and public lives.

3:16 am  
Blogger MB said...

Lovely tribute to green space and what it does for lives deep in the city.

4:04 am  
Anonymous Jess said...

Isn't it amazing how a regular walk in the park becomes such a significant part of your life? It's no small thing, the attitude adjustment that's just sitting there waiting for people to pass through and soak it up. I do hope you'll find someplace equally special down the road.

Ha, my word verification is "edgyhac"--I thought, "hey, I'm not edgy... today... yet... and you forgot the k in hack." Oddly, it didn't even occur to me to take issue with being called a hack. :-P

2:27 pm  
Blogger Mary said...

Zhoen: absolutely!

Rdl: I have to admit that I will miss those ladies .. thank you.

MB: thank you ... deep in the city is what it feels like sometimes :-)

Jess: I thought you might understand about parks :-_)

Edgyhack indeed - perish the thought.

6:25 pm  
Blogger g said...

Nice photo of the solitary stretcher. I think trees stretch, too.

12:41 pm  
Blogger leslee said...

Everything takes on a special poignancy or stands out in relief when you're about to leave or lose it, doesn't it?

12:43 pm  
Blogger John smith said...

Every children feel entertainment in playground place for playground equipment.

3:33 pm  

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