So many stories in every season
News from the Friends of Eastville Park
WHAT do you write about life in a park in February, when there are no spontaneous gatherings of friends seated around mini rigs or wobbling on slacklines strung up between trees, no raucous games of rounders or cricket or smoky family barbecues or toddler picnics? It’s just too cold!
Collars are up, gloved hands are thrust deep in pockets and all one really wants is to be inside! No snow to confer a party atmosphere bringing the community together and no floods to alter the landscape and cause things to float away and river and lake to mingle. The colour and glorious chaos of the music festivals are a distant memory. February is a very different world.
There has, of course, been the joyous weekend regularity of the thundering footfall of adult and junior Parkruns and ‘The Big Tidy’ were seen litter picking the edges of the windswept crisp packet-strewn dystopia, where park meets motorway. You may have spotted faithful flurries of activity from Friends of Eastville Park sprucing up the bowling green ready for the launch of Eastville Park Bowling Club in April or have seen the Parkwork truck heading out of their depot on missions to parks across Bristol.
Take one of the many winding paths down from the park and you can rely on the lake to reward with an everchanging screensaver of birdlife but mainly it’s all a bit bleak! Bare brittle trees, mouldering leaf piles and saturated muddy ground where only the scurry (official collective noun) of the grey squirrels might cause one to stop briefly and smile.
However, no matter the season, on any day of the week, there are individuals for whom Eastville Park is a crucial personal choice, not just those obliged to attend to the coiled spring of energy inside the un-walked dog or the parents of pre-schoolers for whom “Let’s go to the park!” promises the muddy, shouty, limitless exuberant release from domestic confinement that we adults can barely recall.
Late January and February is the seasonal inbetween time, neither the rueful melancholy of autumn nor the frozen hard drama of deep winter or the slow promising heave of spring.
If summer is the glory of weekend possibilities and autumn the back to work Monday and Tuesday of our notional “Year in a week”, Thursday and Friday bring new hope and expectation of growth, flowering, partying and sun. February is the Wednesday afternoon of the year. So, who uses the park on a Wednesday in February? I decided to find out.
As I predicted; dog walkers, runners, photographers, those passing through, maybe a few for whom the park might provide one of the few places to sit down on a bench, free from judgement or pressure to engage. I went out in search of stories. I took a clipboard, my best pen and was ready to discover my very own untold stories. Barely had I reached the lake before I was deep in conversation with Mr R, he walks and runs around the park every day. He began this regime after developing a lung infection abroad and a hospital stay made him re-evaluate his health, we shared our mutual awe and gratitude for the NHS - a wonderful first encounter!
My attention was then caught by a young man talking to the pigeons: “Why are you walking on the ice, you silly things? Your feet must be so cold!” A moment so marvellous I did not want to pry further. One of life’s worst eavesdroppers, I knew it would be possible to fill this article with snatched surreal phrases, my favourite was “Ooh five swans, that’s an odd number!”
It was only then that, being local, I began bumping into people I know and my research took a different turn. There were stories everywhere! An eager posse of Cardiff University architecture students conducting a survey about the possibility of restoring the old swimming pool to a modern-day lido and an old running friend puffing who passed, urging me to start running again. Carrying on around the park, I briefly stood and giggled as my lovely friend M attempted to retrieve her dog’s ball from the icy centre of the lake, missing time and time again whilst involving more and more passers-by. She and her dog are hilarious and well aware of the commotion she was making as she hooted about “enterprising, resourceful pensioners!”. Touring the park on the look out for stories had only made me want to return looking for more, and February bleak? Not a bit of it!
Secretary, Friends of Eastville Park
Photo: Alison Sloman