Chatting Over the Backyard Fence recently, the topic of conversation turned to childhood television. This prompted many memories of my own childhood. Although brought up in West London, we were surrounded by many parks and could play outside in the streets, thus we didn’t spend all day indoors watching TV except, of course, when it was raining or too miserable to be outside.
Close to where we lived were several children’s recreation grounds (the Rec) where we used to have a lot of fun. Most had Keepers, who used to maintain the equipment and keep us under control. We weren’t hoodlums, just a gang of kids who knew how to enjoy ourselves. We could stand on the swings and often did. The slides were high, scary almost. There were the long playground rocking horses seating at least six children, one behind the other or side-saddle for dares. My favourite was the witch’s hat roundabout. A tall conical ride that used to rock and sway as it went around and around, creaking and swinging until the wooden seat hit the central pillar with a loud clank. Brave kids would stand on the seat, braver ones standing on the bar meant for holding on to whilst seated.
These Recs were always full of children playing together, having fun, letting their hair down without adults fussing, telling us to be careful, to come away and generally spoiling our fun. There were always lots of us, all the local children played together and whilst a bit of bullying or fighting might have gone on, I was never aware or saw any of it. We just all seemed to get on, look out and after each other regardless of age or where in the town we lived.
Opposite our house was an area of waste ground called the Pits. A haven for wildlife as well as us. Ragwort and wild flowers grew in abundance as did the hawthorn, elderflower and brambles – great for picking to take home to Mum to make into jams. The trees and dense bushes made great hiding places and dens. In the middle of the Pits was a large, deep, steep-sided pit where we used to ride our bikes down, trying to see if we could make it back up the other side. Or we would run down one side, usually ending up on our bums and sliding to the bottom, and having to crawl and scramble on hands and knees back up to the top; scratches and grazes battle scars to be proud of. You had to be careful as either side of the narrow path were tall, spiteful stinging nettles. Ouch!
Alongside the Pits was the town’s centrepiece, Lampton Park, with beautifully manicured grass, colourful flower beds, tennis courts, cricket pitch, mini golf course, football pitch, a bandstand and disused air raid shelter. It boasted a large Sarsen standing stone, found locally when new houses were being built. On sunny days the park was lovely to have a picnic in, to ride around on our bikes and play games of hide and seek in the shrubbery and bushes. My favourite part was the rose garden, a circular sunken area full of sweet-scented roses and a shallow, circular fish pond at its heart. Surrounded by trees, it was a secluded spot in which to sit and reflect. Once I left school, I used to walk through the park most days on my way to work and always enjoyed its peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle going on outside its gates.
Near the main entrance grew a massive rhododendron bush, forming the hub of a turning circle for vehicles. As kids, we used to clamber inside, playing amongst its huge branches as we waited for the ice-cream van to drive in, or shelter in if it rained.
Today, the Pits is a shadow of its former glory, subsumed into Lampton Park, itself changed almost beyond recognition. A few of the flowerbeds are still there, but the rose garden is bare. The park has been turned in to a wide space of just trees and grass and in doing so, has lost much of its childhood beauty and magic.
Newsflash: Book Club Podcast: My book Every Step of the Way got a mention! Yay! http://staffordfm.com/stafford-fm-news/shows/bc-pod-29-apr/
Another Newsflash: The Art Gallery in Tetbury, UK exhibits 3 of my paintings on its website. I would be so pleased if you would spare a moment to visit the gallery page, click on any or all of my paintings and click the “Like” button and share on Facebook. Why? They are running a competition for all their artists with a very worthwhile prize. Would love to be in with a chance. Thank you and hugs.