Sunday, 22 June 2014

Thoughts on a Walk through Old Ground

The thing needful was a spray for my glasses. The last one must have been over five years old. I know only one shop in Headington would have it, and I also knew I could check the opening times to find that on a Sunday it wouldn't be open, but I went anyway, because I needed to get out, and exercise those vexatious ankles and chase the Black Dog. So I checked it, and then the places that were open, all without what I wanted (and who says capitalism works?) and decided to walk back the long way, through Headington Quarry.

The parks were all full of weekends dads doing their thing, and bravo to them, but I detoured to the quieter paths, and found myself following someone who obstinately would neither slow down nor speed up. I had nothing against him, he might have had great charms, I just wanted the path to myself. So I took another detour - haha! And then spilled out onto another road with the same guy going down it. I guess, even if you know the alleyways, Oxford is still a very small place.

So over the ring road to Risinghurst, and passed a nice old couple. In their eighties, I imagine, both acknowledged me with their eyes, the husband (I assume) even said hello. I wonder if they spoke to anyone else today. Maybe there is no great need to speak when you've known one another so long, and seen so much? With the television blaring behind me as I type, that seems an attractive option. Then the turn into C. S. Lewis's nature reserve, and a rather unusual little scene. Another couple, maybe a decade younger, with a man, possibly their son, and possible a decade younger than me, in the little alley that leads to the park. He was showing them something on his handheld computer thing, but when she saw me wanting to pass by, the mother shuffled them both along and out of the way, as if having a nerd in the family was something to hide from strangers.

The pond was tranquil. It has been a languid, humid, hayfevery, sort of day. Much has grown since my last visit, with the trees around the pond vested in a sort of chalky pastel green, full of life, but not quite right for the time of year - if one dares say that the time of year makes any difference now, in the era of climate change. There was a lady duck with four misses ducks, and I thought, being in a pond, she had a good chance of raising her brood without too much threat and malice, at least from the current, and then realised that being mallards, the boys won't show in their plumage until later this year or early next, so perhaps they weren't all Miss Mallards. They are such nasty birds that, if I did get that wrong, I'm glad we don't speak the same language. They're nice to eat though. Just saying.

And so through Risinghurst Park, which is now a cricket ground, the central pitch (is it a crease?) locked off by solemn blue rope. I hated cricket at school - I was allowed to umpire rather than playing, and took every opportunity to say that everyone was "out" so we could go home - but somehow I felt glad that the locals can play cricket if they wish. I'd rather a cricket pitch there than an office block. And years ago I learnt the rules, thanks to the Children's Encyclopaedia Britannica which had the MCC laws of cricket in an appendix, and I knew how to signal "one short", which I only ever had to do once, and the scorer didn't know what it meant.

As I left the field two families arrived (I'm assuming, they could have been preparing for a film shoot), four adults, four children, and one of the adults made far more noise than all of the others put together. She was explaining the idea of "diagonal", as they were going to walk almost diagonally across the field. This was a field, no roads to compete with for noise, and yet at top bellow. No wonder the nation's children are half-deaf.

And so to home, and a slumbering husband, and at least one cat eager for treats that don't happen until later as she knows very well. Sunday is very much a children's day, and there's a great deal of space in this part of town to enjoy it in. Is it cost effective? Should it be cut? What price the quality of life?

Richard Haggis
Barton-upon-Bayswater, Oxford
June 2014

1 comment:

  1. Nice post with observations on human nature. Wonder if any of those you comment on get to read this blog or recognize themselves, warts and all?

    Would be interesting to see feedback from them :)