posted on Nov, 10 2015 @ 04:47 AM
A park in Australia can be small, like what Americans call a playground
I remember a park around the corner from where I grew up. I used to spend a lot of time there at times, and not much time there at other times. Its
name was Methven Park, an impossibly hard name for kids to say; to us it was simply called ‘the park’. It was at least 80 years old and was
planned out according to (what I was later to learn) a typical English park of that time.
“Let’s go to the park,” someone would say on a Saturday afternoon when nothing much was happening. “Why don’t you go to the park!” was
the command often given by cranky old ladies when we would play kick to kick in the street. It was a very quiet street, not very long; with bluestone
curbs and no nature strips, and for some reason we preferred to kick the ball to each other on the street than at the park. If a car were coming we
would say out loud “car” and walk to the side of the road and wait for it to pass. It was an unwritten rule that your friends would warn you of
the impending danger; you could always count on your mates to look out for you.
I remember spending hours playing on the equipment in the park or playing cricket depending on whether it was one of those times when we were spending
time at the park or not. I remember in grade three riding home from school past the park and seeing construction work going on. As soon as the car
came to a stop my friend and I jumped out and ran excitedly over to the park to see what was going on. There used to be a single swing with a wooden
seat and a high, metal slide in one corner of the park. The workmen had pulled those down and were building a new, modern playground. There were
posts sticking up from the ground, heaps of soil and sand - we were trying to imagine all the things that they would be doing with them. In the end
they built quite a nice play area with great equipment, a new double swing, a new bright yellow fiberglass slide with a dip in the middle and even a
sand pit. We liked it.
The park was built in the Edwardian era; it had a curving path down the middle of it big enough for a small truck to go down and eleven magnificent
elms bordering the path, with lawn on each side of the path. They were the biggest trees in the neighbourhood, you could see them from a rooftop many
blocks away. In the middle of the larger lawn there were two other elms, bigger than the rest as well as two giant palms. There were roses bordering
the path at the entrance at one end and box hedges at the other. These were growing in beds surrounded by reddish volcanic rocks. There was also a
big oleander hedge that went right around the park. A sign was posted at the entrance written in five languages. It said: “ball games not
allowed”. A quaint redbrick gardener’s shed and toilet block were at another corner. All in all, the park was a stately, yet human, space. I
remember one morning the police being called in because some older kids in the neighbourhood had broken into the gardener’s shed and had been
caught. We didn’t know it then but that was the start of a life of crime for those kids.
One day while my friend and I were at the park, we found a dead magpie. We thought that it would be right to put the bird in the spout of the old
fire hydrant that was just outside the park. So we found some sticks and managed to pick it up and carry it to the fire hydrant where we stuffed it
into the spout. The next day it wasn’t there anymore. I don’t know why kids do such crazy things like that.
In Autumn all the elm leaves turned yellow and dropped. In the economic boom of the eighties there was even a gardener employed 3 days a week to tend
the park and rake up the leaves from its two big lawns.
I have since moved away. The last time I visited the park things had changed somewhat. The oleander hedge had been cut down; the council said it was
for security reasons so that you could see into the park better. The old gardener’s shed and toilet had been torn down and weeds were growing in
its place, the council had promised that they would build a better toilet facility. The lawns were looking rather trodden, and in need of a lot of
care. A big green tractor now turns up every fortnight, races around the park, mows the grass and is quickly driven away again. Of course the roses
and hedges at the entrances are gone and the rocks have been removed to make it quicker for the contractor to cut the grass. All the play equipment
and chairs looked very tired. There was graffiti on the walls of adjoining houses and the sign at the entrance was broken.
It seems that dog owners use the park more than anybody else now. I wonder what that park means for the councillors, or for the contractor. For the
first 15 years of my life it meant a lot to me. Occasionally I remember it, but most of the time I am too busy. I saw my friend that day too - he is
doing well but he doesn’t go there anymore. I wonder if those older boys in prison think back to the time they broke into the gardener’s shed at
the park and the choices they made that day? I suppose it isn’t much to look at now, but I know that it was once a wonderful place.