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25 June 6:00am. As the sun slowly begins to rise, a peaceful chirping noise comes from the birds hidden amongst the trees. The park is about to wake from its long, tranquil and peaceful sleep. The woodland is beginning to arise-a humming grasshopper and the odd droning bee. The sunlight shines, making tall beams of light through the gaps in the branches of the trees. The tall night-scary trees become friendlier in the early morning brightness. As the woodland prepares for another swelteringly warm, sunny day the air becomes moist and heavy, making it hard to breathe.
When the morning sunlight hits the tall metal structures of the play park, they breathe a sigh of relief. They are about to be played on again. The large space will soon be full of screaming, happy children spending a fulfilled day on the many swings, slides and roundabouts the park has to offer. The two tennis courts do not get used much. They are protected by a huge green wire fence, which keeps people not wanted on the inside, on the outside just as walls keep intruders from a castle.
The heavily padlocked door remains locked as the key is kept in the firm grip of the angry park keepers’ hand.
Gentle rippling waves caress the surface of the pond. The reeds of the pond sway gently back and forwards like adoring football fans with their scarves held aloft at a football match while the moor hens begin their everlasting quest for food jerking their heads like small black snakes.
The park is prepared for the grueling day ahead. It was 6am and Barry the park keeper’s alarm began ringing loudly. Barry yawned and tried to wipe the crusty sleep from his eyes with his shirtsleeve. He was very annoyed. It had been a week now.
Beer cans were strewn everywhere branches had been viciously snapped off the trees and graffiti was sprayed all over the children’s play park. It made Barry red with rage. Dirty graffiti he thought, evil cans. He decided it was time to go on his morning inspection of the park, the park he cared for and loved. That’s when he saw it. Walking towards the play park, he found the first sign of vandalism: a beer can strewn on the floor; its shiny label glinting in the morning sunlight. He picked up the can and tossed it into the black binbag, which he was gripping the top of ever tighter each time he found another piece of rubbish.
If the top of the bin bag had been a neck, the person would be dead by now. After collecting all the rubbish and the broken branches and had tried to scrub off another piece of ‘art’ from the slide in the play park the park was beginning to fill up with many varied types of people. Rather like extras crowding onto a film set. There were weary mothers pushing prams, teenagers flying through the park on rollerblades and smart, bold businessmen with faces like dark clouds thinking about what they would face in the day ahead. Barry walked sternly back to his hut with his bag of rubbish. He was going to catch them he thought.
He had built up a picture of what the vandals looked like. ‘Got to be teenagers’ he guessed. They must look very scruffy and probably hardly ever attended school and had long hair. Barry was sure he was going to get them. Barry walked past the skateboard ramp. It was very busy as usual. The tall wooden structure was hidden amongst the trees and was sheltered from the wind and rain although Barry sometimes had to chase away the alcoholic vagrants getting away from the torment of the cold nights. He carried on walking along the winding path. He observed the tall tees and flowers that bordered it. Then he saw the other side of the park.
In the flowerbeds full of roses and tulips he saw crisp packets and drink cans. The crisp packets blowing around in the slight breeze made him feel dirty inside, as though something was wrong with him rather than just the park. The empty cans’ ring pulls glinted in the mid-morning brightness. It brought a tear to Barry’s eye. ‘How could anyone litter such a beautiful park? ‘ Barry was determined to catch them. Tonight he was going to catch those filth scattering flumps. By midnight Barry was sitting in his small hut with a wind up wireless and a cup of tea. The small gas lamp in the corner was making a humming noise.
Outside, the park seemed becalmed but Barry knew that the vandals were out there. He tried to remain calm although he could not, knowing that the vandals were there. This was it! Tonight was the night! Barry stepped outside and because it was so surprisingly cold, he zipped up his coat and picked his weapon of choice-a snapped broom handle with splinters sticking out of its worn body. He set off, walking at a fast pace as a lion sets out on his hunting trail. The weak limbed trees danced to the rhythm of the cool night breeze and Barry carried on to where he knew the juvenile delinquents vandalized-the play park.
Barry crept up slowly and stood behind a large oak tree. Making sure he did not crunch a twig or rustle a leaf, he could feel the rough prickling bark tingling his weathered, unshaven face. He could hear their voices rough and loud. This was it. Barry moved forward until he had a full view of the vandals and then he stopped. There was a group of three or four thirteen to fourteen year olds standing around. Two were spraying the slide while the other two were snapping a healthy looking branch off a tree. In his mind he was the avenging angel wielding his sword of justice.
In reality he clutched his broom and lifted it to strike at the dark figures when he thought of a more powerful weapon. All it needed was Barry to use his unique shouting voice and that was it. The once tough vandals ran crying and shivering from the park. On the way back to his hut Barry, feeling very pleased with himself bumped into a tramp. ‘Watch yourself’ shouted Barry meanly. The tramp carried on walking, with his head down, towards the skateboard ramp taking no notice of what Barry had mouthed at him. His name was Jed and was very much alone. If he had a family, they were a long way away and he was isolated from them.
The park was Jed’s saviour. For three long, straining years Jed had slept under the shelter of the skateboard ramp. Jed found the winters extremely hard not to say that the summers were not. He saw all aspects of the park-morning, afternoon and night and the four seasons and the effects they have on the park. The new life of spring where daffodils pop their heads out of the earth like a newborn baby. He saw the business of the park in the summer where proud parents push and parade their young children on a afternoon stroll and the trees loosing their leaves in the autumn similar to a moulting dog or cat.
He saw and felt winter. The bleak, plain skies and the cold, harsh wind and snow. The park was empty then: no people and no plants or trees. The trees seemed as if they had grey hair in the old months as it was such a hard time and green and young in the summer because it was an easier, happier time. On the day Barry yelled at him he had just come back from the town where he had rummaged through the dirty, grimy bins for an hour and was rewarded with a stale roll. As he scuffed his way back to the ramp he was almost knocked off his feet by a fast-flying skateboarder.
You young hooligan’ howled Jed angrily. ‘Sorry’ exclaimed the skateboarder whose words were drowned out by the loud noise of his wheels. Jed brushed himself off and carried on. The sight of the skateboard had him thinking. Those wooden things could be quite good fun he thought idly to himself. Over the next few days Jed watched the skateboarders intently. He admired their grace and finesse; he marveled at their speed and dexterity and he wanted to be really young again. In particular a young boy who must have been only about twelve years old caught his attention.
He jumped out of the ramp, flipped his board and then landed back on it. Jed was awestruck by such skill and stayed there watching until it grew dark and the skateboarders went away. For the next two days Jed awoke with anticipation, as he knew he could watch the skateboarders all day. Over time the skateboarders started noticing him and gave him the odd wave or smile. For the first time Jed could remember he was not unwanted or alone. Each day he came closer to the ramp and became more aware of the tricks and technique. On that evening, he made a discovery, which was to him like an explorer discovering a new land.
There, half hidden under the ramp was a skateboard looking lifeless and alone, as he had often felt. Jed quickly looked around to make sure he had no spectators and he silently climbed up the top of the ramp. He silently looked around again. He was caught between two feelings -being very excited about having a go on a skateboard and being spotted by someone. Taking a deep breath he rolled into the ramp. It took three or four rolling motions up and down the ramp before he realised what he was doing. ‘Yes I can do it! ‘ he shouted exuberantly.
Jed was thrilled over his amazing feat. He thought he was in his element-like a duck on water-and when he was on the ramp he felt like he was flying as a seagull does soaring freely above the waves. Jed skated on the ramp until the early hours of the morning. It seemed to him that the time had flown by because he had never had such a brilliant time. He decided he would try to sleep so he could watch the skateboarders and pick up some ideas for tricks to try the following night. Jed hid the skateboard in a large, prickly thorn bush and settled down under the ramp.
The following day Jed watched the skateboarders as he always did. He also noticed the signs for a skateboard competition at the ramp the following Saturday. Jed was excited about the thought of this-it was his chance to show his skills to the park and prove he could do something. Over the next week Jed learnt many tricks, due to his natural ability on his skateboard. His favorites were the ones that made him feel as if he could fly- it made him seem as if he had the ability to fly away from all his problems that the harshness of homelessness can bring.
Jed felt ready to unveil his skateboarding to the park-public. He awoke on the morning of the competition feeling rather tired after a sleepness night full of nervousness. The sky was sunny and cloud-free although not too hot as a slight breeze was blowing gently, through the small gaps in the trees. At around midday the competition began, enjoyed by a crowd who all thought that a seventeen-year-old boy called Ben should win. At the moment he stepped forward a sound of disbelief rose from the crowd as smoke rises from fire. How could this tramp be skateboarding?
He looked far too scruffy and impoverished! The crowd looked on with utter amazement as Jed showed his skill: he flipped acrobatically with back flips and somersaults; he spun three hundred and sixty degrees; He twisted and grinded across the metal pole on top of the ramp, a skater not on ice but on air. After Jed had finished there was utter silence from the crowd; All eyes were on him. As if by magic a roar suddenly erupted from the crowd. Jed was the undisputed champion of the competition. He was no longer just another tramp he was a tramp with a difference. Midday 25 June.
As the bright, midday sun becomes comfortable and contented in the middle of the cloudless, blue sky the park fills to its maximum capacity. The park is overcrowded by wildlife and people. The woodland is now fully awake. Humming Grasshoppers and Bees are making the most of the lush, green plants. The blistering heat from the sun turns the woodland into a moist, humid rainforest full of humming birds and tropical frogs. A group of young children play games of tag and hide and seek like soldiers hiding in the forest waiting for the enemy. The elevated and spacious trees also provide a climbing adventure for the children.
The play park is overflowing with children and gossiping mothers relaxing on the green grass. Children rush around in the midday heat playing a rather aggressive game of football. The younger ones who are not getting the ball enough run off complaining to their non-interested mothers. The other children appear to play happily. Excited children queue up for the big slide looking up in awe at the tall structure as tourists look at one of the pyramids in Egypt, while many others become dizzy on the super-spinning roundabout. The two tennis courts remain silent and un-used as always.
The high wire fences and the angry, unforgiving park keeper is a deterrent to anyone trying to sneak a free game. The pond does not move. The breeze does not blow. The ducks and moor hens look intently at the crowd of people gathering around the water in hope of a stale crust of bread being thrown to them. The reeds and other pond life stay still like small children playing musical statues at a birthday party. The park is beginning to tire it awaits the end of the day when it can be alone. Julia walked promptly and confidently through the busy park like a leader among her people.
Julia was a twenty five year old woman who was very bossy and snobbish (She would not tell you that of course) and liked to boast about everything to anyone. On this particular sunny day she was off to play a friendly, relaxing game of tennis. This was Julia’s favourite past time and she always played with her other snobbish friend, Andrea. To play tennis she wore tracksuit bottoms and top, brand new trainers and a sweatband around her head. One thing she was missing and this was the thing she missed most-a boyfriend. Andrew was a tired and often confused twenty seven year old businessman who worked for an Internet company.
He lived to the very same routine and never complained. Every morning he would get up and eat the same breakfast and put on the same suit, walk through the park to the bus stop and catch the eight fifty-six am to work. Andrew needed a change to his routine. He needed a girlfriend. Although he had never been that good with girls. On this particular morning the dark black clouds covered the usually bright summer sun like a blanket covering a child. Undeterred Julia and Andrew had begun a leisurely game of tennis. They both thought they were very good at tennis although onlookers would have said otherwise.
Julia had just taken a misguided serve, which she had intended to slice Andrea’s baseline but in fact had shot over the fence and out of the court only to roll at the feet of a respectable businessman who was intent on avoiding the impending rain and catching the bus to work. This was Andrew! He was heavily pre-occupied with his pile of papers, which he had to work through that day. He absent-mindedly threw the ball in a direction, which he saw fit. This was actually towards the large oak trees surrounding the court but it fell short of the wire fence and rolled into a very thick and prickly bush where it would be difficult to fetch.
Julia tutted very loudly. Loud enough for Andrew to hear her and Andrea shouted: “What do you think you are doing? ” in her unusually snobbish voice. “Sorry” Andrew replied sadly looking very scared of the pair. He decided to retrieve it and hurried shyly over to the court to pick it up. That was when Julia noticed him. She went weak at the knees and nearly fell over. “What is the matter I say? ” Said Andrea, who looked at Julia strangely. “Who is that young man? ” she whispered to Andrea “A person that cannot throw a ball! ” she replied. “Andrea” Juliet said dizzily “I think I am in love”.
Julia was having exactly the same effect on Andrew. He stumbled around, and appeared dazed. Julia finally managed to get up, holding on to the metal fence that surrounded the court. She was normally so confident about what she would say although for the first time ever she was tongue-tied. Here was the man of her dreams and she could not think of a word to say to him. This was no new thing to Andrew, who is not the most talkative person in the world. All they could do was look at each other while Andrea looked on, wondering if she should break the silence when Andrew suddenly gasped: “Work! I have got to go work! as if the whole idea of work was a foreign language to him and then hurried off to catch the bus. Andrew managed to catch the bus and retained his usual seat, near the window.
There were the usual people on the bus and the normal driver. They drove past the same shops and into the same traffic jam before it hit him. He could not go on living the same way. He had to go back and speak to Julia. He could not even wait for the bus to stop and jumped off while it was still moving. The bus began to pull away when he realised he had forgotten his raincoat a symbol of his old, cautious life which he was leaving behind.
He raced back to the park hardly feeling the hot sun and the beads of sweat running down his temple. He rushed down the path lined with huge Oak and Willow trees where he almost collided with the park keeper but that did not matter to him. He had more important things on his mind. He was filled with anticipation, excitement and hope feelings he had never experienced before… The game was over; she had gone; she was not there. Midnight. 25 June. The park slumbers. Even the alcoholic tramps have passed out under the skateboard ramp. In the woodland area the only animals that appear to be awake are the Owls and the Bats.
The Owl sings it’s solemn, tiresome hooting noise like a bad singer singing a solo. It glided from the Oak tree and between the treetops as it beat away in the night and become less and less real. The Bat noiselessly flies around the wood in its quest for food as a fighter jet drops bombs as a target. The woodland has now become very cool; it is no longer a tropical rainforest it is a temperate one. The play park is again extremely empty and free from noise. Even the swing has stopped its lonely, squeaking motion; the roundabout and slides are still but there cold metal somehow retains a sense of heat from the days burning sun.
No child would recognise the play park as the dusk intensifies and gathers the shadows to itself. The smell of the grass was stronger and sweeter now. The whole park was infused with the scent as sweet as meadow hay. The midsummer moon rose from the dark rim of the wood almost as bright as the sun. In the still water of the pond there was another moon and the reeds rustled against each other in the cool, twilight air. The night was only short and soon there was a paler glow in the eastern sky. The sun was to return, to enlighten the park with another day.
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