Welcome to Musings on the Mundane! The world as depicted in the media can often seem dark and overwhelming. So join me and my blog posts to marvel in the mundane and laugh at the little things in life.
The city divide
‘Are you s-s-s-sure this is s-s-s-safe?’
Helicopter Mother winds down the window and sniffs the air to detect any hint of danger.
‘It’s just a park!’
I’m already beginning to regret inviting Marcus’ mum on this day out! Although, to be fair, due to her lack of trust in my parenting style of ‘benign neglect’, she rather invited herself!
‘I know! But we’ve never been this side of the city before!’
Ah yes – we live in a divided city, where those in the affluent south can expect to live an extra ten years longer than their neighbours in the north. A shocking statistic but one that today I hope to take advantage of.
You see, it’s holiday time again and I’ve exhausted all ideas of how to entertain an eight-year-old. Due to government cuts, the park ranger programme of Easter events, which used to be city wide, is now only running in certain areas. I pay my taxes and, as a true Yorkshire lass, I want my money’s worth – so here we are today!
‘Wow mum! Look at that adventure playground!’
The boys pile out of the car and race delightedly towards the zip-wire in the distance, oblivious to the frantic shouts of ‘Marcus! Your inhaler darling!’
We mothers make up the rear-guard, with our rucksacks full of provisions and hand sanitiser, and set up camp on a bench.
‘Look at the great views! And we’ve practically got the park to ourselves!’
Helicopter Mother does not share my delight. She’s on high alert and her radar has detected a potential threat. Over in the corner, shielded from normal view, at the top of an awesome slide is a group of dodgy-looking teenagers, all greasy-haired attitude and foul-mouthed posturing.
Marcus comes running over.
‘Mummy – those big boys are smoking! And we can’t get past them – they’re blocking the tunnel. They’re scary. Can we go home now?’
My own Small Child shrugs his shoulders – ‘We could always go on the seesaw or the climbing frame…’
Helicopter Mother starts packing away her organic fruit’n’nut snacks but I’m not ready to give up yet – we’ve only just arrived for heaven’s sake! It’s time to bite the bullet – they’re only teenagers after all – not wild animals!
I wander over nonchalantly towards the slide – small boys following at a safe distance.
‘Excuse me lads!’ I cough hesitantly in the direction of the teenagers.
‘You talking to us Mrs?’
Acne-face blows a stream of smoke in my direction.
‘Err – yes that’s right. I wonder if you could help out. These little boys here want to have a go on the slide but they’re a bit nervous about getting through the tunnel.’
‘Is that right then?’
Acne-face peers down aloofly, then his eyes light up as he catches sight of Small Child.
‘How old are you mate?’
‘Aah, is that right? Same age as my little brother.’
‘Is he here? Can we play with him?’
‘Nah – he’s in Care.’
Acne-face jumps down from the slide. Small Child is impressed.
‘Wow you’re like a ninja!’
‘That’s right. We’re all ninja warriors, aren’t we gang?’
One by one the rest of the ninjas jump down and surround our two boys. Out of the corner of my eye I can see Helicopter Mother frantically searching through her bag.
‘Do you want to play with us?’
‘Yeah – why not? Do you want us to push you on the roundabout?’
And off they disappear, whooping and karate-chopping, ninja style to the other side of the playground, just as Helicopter Mother rushes up, brandishing a mace spray.
‘It’s alright.’ I say, ‘the natives are friendly! Shall we leave them and go and get a coffee from that van over there.
Helicopter Mother looks as if I’ve suggested 1st degree murder.
‘Ok – you stay here. I’ll go and get the coffees.’
I’m on my way back when a police van pulls up and, as the officer gets out, Acne-face and his gang pelt past me in the opposite direction, leaving our boys looking sad and abandoned.
Perhaps it’s time now to search out the Park rangers and their advertised activities?
We head up to the small, multi-cultural queue that has formed to try the tree climbing. Small Child, who has had climbing lessons for over a year now, scales the ladder in seconds, whilst Marcus is still struggling to put on the safety helmet his mother has insisted he wear.
A slightly podgy Asian child is making his way painfully slowly up the rungs. When he finally reaches the top, he breaks out into the biggest smile I’ve ever seen! I smile back encouragingly. Small Child is not impressed.
‘Why are you smiling at him mum – he was rubbish!’
‘And so were you when you first started!’ I hiss back.
Gradually the park that was once empty, is starting to fill up. News of the events has filtered through. A throng of pasty-looking children have prised themselves away from Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto, to experience the unknown delights of fresh air and wholesome activities.
Life and a festive atmosphere is being breathed into the park.
The catering van is doing great business in cheap burgers, hot dogs and ice-creams and Small Child looks on enviously as he makes do with hummus and carrot sticks. On a grassy slope nearby a group of international students and their families are lighting up forbidden BBQs whilst the rangers turn a blind eye.
Streams of overweight kids queue patiently to try out the grass sledging whilst others take it in turns to hold the magnifying glasses on a bug hunt through the undergrowth. In one of the sheds, wild life and wild children meet, sometimes for the first, miraculous time.
Wonder, fun and amazement are what my taxes have paid for today.
But I still want to get my money’s worth. I turn to Helicopter Mother, who is busy putting sun cream on Marcus’ face – ‘just in case’.
‘Come on – let’s have a go on that zip-wire before we leave.’
‘Oh no! It’s for kids not adults and, besides, I’m not sure it’s sate.’
And so, as I sail down the wire, the wind whipping my face, I’m aware this might be my last ever day out with Marcus’ mum. But I’m not worried – I’ve got to live a little before I return to the privileged south! After all, I’ve got an extra ten years to play with…