Any 25-year old female who has a million and one things on her mind deserves at least one relaxing afternoon in a park to escape from it all and read a book. That is my belief anyway, and it has been that way ever since I moved to Canterbury and first caught glimpse of the picturesque Dane John Gardens– a lovely, historic park enclosed within the city walls, adorned with beautiful, colourful flower beds and a pathway lined with lime trees. “I simply must sit and read a book there one sunny day”, I have been saying to myself for the past three months, each time I pass it’s gates on the way into town.
The rather idyllic plan finally came into fruition today, when the early morning sunshine convinced me that today should be that day in which I fulfil my vision, before the impending Autumnal weather dashes my opportunities to. I dressed and headed towards the town, and looked forward to an afternoon of sunshine, a good book, and perhaps a punnet of fresh fruit to complete an altogether rather sophisticated scenario.
Wait, sophisticated? Me?
The reality is – I forgot to bring my book, the blanket I brought to sit on keeps blowing about in the wind, and creepy-crawlies are snooping around the pack of cocktail sausages I’ve purchased from Marks&Spencer (fruit had been an option, but ultimately I succumbed to my stomach and not my head). I feel the very opposite of a sophisticated young lady right now, more like a lumbering mess who’s fringe cannot withstand the wind.
Thankfully, I have a notepad and pen in my bag, so at least I can write. It’s time for another hour or two of earthly observation!
Pen at the ready!
There’s a man to my left who looks very serene. With his hat tilted over his face he lies back, relaxing against the grassy verge that slopes down from the city wall. You wouldn’t for a moment think that just a few yards behind him, over the wall, is a traffic-laden ring road.
This park is also situated right next to the train station, and when a congregation of people appear sporadically, pulling their suitcases through the limetrees, you can tell that one of the London trains has just pulled in, as is the case now. Visitors, or perhaps you could even call them ‘pilgrims’ make their way into the city centre, for what? A holiday? Studies? Visiting family, perhaps?
I just love how touristy Canterbury is. I love walking through the streets and feeling like I could be anywhere in the world. Watford was diverse, but not in the same way that Canterbury is.
A teenage girl strides across the grass wearing a pair of headphones that are clearly based on the retro models, with the frame that goes around the head. She is headed towards the bandstand, where a group of teenagers are sitting, making the most of what’s left of the school holidays.
Serene old man has risen from his afternoon slumber and re-gains his bearings after an hour or two in the luxury of his subconscious.
The wind is doing my head in, and I battle to keep my food covered and my rug on the floor. When it rains, we have umbrellas. When it’s sunny, we have sunglasses, but what protects us from the wind? Maybe one day, somebody will invent something that does just that.
The biggest hula hoop I’ve ever seen passes by on the shoulder of a young girl who walks in tandem with a man clutching a bunch of bright green skittles. I assume they must be from some kind of theatrical school. Oh please, stop and perform! They look to be headed towards the bandstand but the group of teens remain seated and I feel a tinge of disappointment that I’m perhaps not about to be witnessing any displays of acrobatics afterall! I also notice that one of the teens who is sitting in the bandstand has bright pink hair.
I want some candyfloss.
What is it about people-watching that captivates so many? There may not be a great deal going on, but this is infinitely better than watching Eastenders or that silly programme I caught last night about single women competing for a relationship with Gavin Henson. I guess it’s because, this is real life. Forget actors, forget those who seek fame and fortune by masking who they really are and forget television programmes: If you want to enjoy an authentic slice of real life – go outside and look at it.
Two men walk past me clutching picnic equipment. They meet a group of women sat next to the war memorial and the lady wearing pink seems particularly keen to see what food they’ve brought along with them. I get ya, sweet’eart!
I have to strongly resist the urge I have to roll down the steep, grassy slope behind me. Flashback to Mrs Ho telling me off for doing so during school Sports Day in year 8. Thankfully, the sight of a lady with bright green hair sidetracks my mind. Welcome to the 21st century! So men, which do you prefer, blondes or brunettes? Jet-blacks or redheads? What about greens or pinks?
The group of teenagers sitting in the bandstand are smoking and it saddens me a bit. If only they could appreciate how great it is to be young and carefree, instead of trying to be ‘adult’, and do ‘naughty adult things’. Hey kids, want to be an adult? Then why don’t we swap places. You be 25. You enjoy the headaches that come from trying to simultaneously figure out your career and settle your finances whilst feeling the increasing push to fund the move into a place of your own. You do that, and I’ll be a 13 year old again, who has no responsibilities, and can sit around eating sweets all day whilst trying to perfect my rendition of Greensleeves on the recorder in time for Thursday morning’s Music lesson. Deal?
It feels increasingly like it’s about to rain and the flash from what is obviously a very large camera held by a tourist at the top of the Dane John mound which overlooks the Gardens meets my eyes. Where has the sun gone? Out to lunch?
Parks are so under-rated these days. Modern day consumerism is gradually destroying our heritage. We have been stolen by the likes of the internet (I realise the irony of the fact that this is an online blog), plasma televisions, new shopping centres, discounted retail outlets, that we often forget about the great outdoors and the fun it has to offer. It doesn’t cost a penny to go outside, yet there is so much inspiration to see and feel here.
I debate what do next. Stay here and sway around battling the breeze or go home and face the important tasks that – EW, a bug on my shoulder. How long have you been there, darling? Say hello to my finger! Ideally I could stay here forever, but there’s paperwork to fill out and job applications to do, plus, I need to blow my nose. It seems as though I forgot to bring tissues as well as my book.
For the second time this afternoon, a fly has found its way into my drink, rendering the remaining liquid undrinkable. Want to buy me another, Mr Fly? Thought not. Cheeky sod.
I need the toilet.
The park is getting emptier. Come back, sun! We’re losing business, and I’m running out of things to write about. Mind you, I do like that girl’s yellow dress. I wonder where she got it. I’ve been looking for one like that. Oh, how I long to be able to shop again.
I look down and see a friend’s face flashing on my mobile phone. I answer the phone. You’re in town too? Cool, so am I! Let’s meet for a coffee. The notepad goes back in my bag, and, albeit somewhat abruptly, normal life resumes once again.
Song of the Day: Jim Noir – Turn Your Frown Into A Smile
Oh this song is so sublimely sweet, it’s impossible to dislike it. I was listening to this in the park at one point, and it fit so nicely. A beautiful classic from Mancunian neo-psychedelia genius, Jim Noir.