I’m doing new things in 2017; whether it’s due to turning 40 and feeling more mortal (need to start living more!), or simply because the time is right, I don’t know. But I’m making changes to me, to my surroundings, to my perceptions.
I decided last night (so technically on the first of the month) that I’m going to try and keep my blog updated regularly. Ideally daily, but life happens, so no pressure. And, so it’s not just me moaning on, I’m going to use journal prompts I found on Pinterest.
Here’s February’s…I’m starting with the 1st (ooh, rebel), mostly because the prompt for the 2nd will require Serious Thoughts and it’s not yet 6am…
My favourite place.
I grew up in Ilford, Essex. We lived two roads away from my grandparents in a house built near the turn of the 20th century (we still had an Anderson shelter from WW2 in the back garden, but were never allowed in it: it did, however make a wonderful shelf to enable my sister and I to lean over and talk to the kids over the back fence and trade toys with them…The story of the Great Barbie Fiasco is for another time…)
Five minutes’ walk from our house was the imaginatively titled South Park (ermagerd, they killed Kenny!), a square-sided, late-Victorian public park with two playgrounds, a bandstand, a cricket pavilion, a HUGE field, a long, narrow duckpond, and (I remember vaguely from the verrrrrrry early 80’s) two little kiosk-shops selling pop, ice-cream and crisps.
South Park also had the most wonderful trees.
According to my mother, as a tiny baby being pushed round the park in the pram, I’d always wake up if the shadow from one particular lime tree crossed my face. I remember as a five- or six-year-old collecting the big, faintly sticky leaves to try and stick them together and make clothes like Adam and Eve had on on the big bible Aunty Iris had.
There was also The Spaceship: a fir or pine, I think, with a strong, straight trunk and low, curved branches. The way the foliage grew meant that inside the tree were big spaces where we could sit astride the branches or climb without being poked and scratched at by the branches. I’m not sure if it got dubbed The Spaceship due to the faintly spaceship-shape way trees of that type grow, or because spaceships was the game we always played there…
Past The Spaceship and just over a little rise, down the path past the bandstand (a forbidden territory due to the steps having caved in) and on the left was My Tree. Capitals totally justified, IMO. I think My Tree was a chestnut, although I haven’t sat under it for half my lifetime, and I may remember wrongly…But, regardless of species, this tree was special.
I was an unhappy teenager, being weird, poor, not particularly pretty and naturally inclined to lonerishness. What I now know as depression was – in retrospect – present in me from quite a young age, and when life got too much, I’d grab a book, or a sketch pad, or my Walkman, and head for My Tree. I’d sit on the grass, back against the trunk, and get lost with Garion and Polgara or Simon and Binabik for an afternoon, or draw little cartoons and strange, ugly creatures, or listen to decidedly uncool music. And My Tree would help me (this is because trees are magic. There’s no other word for it). I’d sit down angry and afraid and lonely, and get back up contented and more certain of myself.
I miss My Tree.
South Park also had gigantic spider plants (probably actually huge ornamental grasses or something) big enough to hide in and jump out at people; a massive, man-made hill with an oak at the top; holes in the perimeter fence which meant I didn’t have to walk to the gates…And memories along every path.
By the grotty tennis ‘courts’ was the best place for conkering with Grandad.
I had my first ever panic attack aged four, stood on the top step of the slide.
Walking the dog with Mum past the back of the cricket pavilion, and her in fits of giggles because no matter how I tried, I couldn’t say ‘feather’.
The long, straight path from the South Park Drive gate to the South Park Crescent gate where I learned to skate on those rattly, adjustable skates which laced over my shoes, and were not glittery disco roller boots, no matter how much I pretended.
Long, complicated games of pirates/astronauts/dinosaurs/princesses with Kristen and Amelia on the long hump of earth by The Spaceship (there was a bench in the middle where mum would sit and read, but could still see and hear us, so we were allowed free range).
Walking Dill, and later Sam, round the pond while they barked at the uppity Canada Geese; accidentally walking through a cricket match because I was reading; getting my chin cut open because I walked out of the bushes behind the swings without paying attention, and got clipped by someone swinging (three stitches, and I’ve still got a scar); my Nan, pockets full of little bags and a pair of secateurs, unashamedly taking clippings as we walked; falling through the ice on the pond one winter; never being allowed a ‘popeye’ from the ice cream van because they were too dear; and so on and so on…
It’s all changed now, obviously. Time and health and safety have worked their cruel magic, and when I looked it up on Google, it wasn’t the place I remember. But it’ll be that place for another kid in this generation, and in generations to come.
Which is kinda cool, isn’t it?