Edition number 48; dateline 12 December 2011
Statemanship in Bury Knowle Park
These are dark days, literally and metaphorically. As I write the rain is hammering off the windows as a storm approaches, an economic depression looms large and the government seems hell bent on ideologically driven fiscal vandalism on behalf of those least in need. Local government and public services have been chosen as the scapegoats for the inefficiencies of greed and stupidity, and by this time next year the remnants of the sport, leisure and culture sector will be fending for themselves in a vacuum of leadership, advocacy and support. Dark days indeed. And a year to forget unless you are of a vindictive nature and hold onto the hope that you may be invited to contribute to the retribution commission. I have a vindictive nature to rival that of Tony Soprano coupled with a bizarrely resilient optimism, so I have been keeping detailed notes and wait for the call.
This year I have spent more time in my local park than ever before. The continuous software upgrade function on my small daughter has required daily visits to the larger of our local green spaces and taken us from faltering steps in the wide open spaces of one end of the park to enthusiastic climbing in the newly refurbished and extensively redesigned playground at the other. This routine has offered a fascinating insight into the life of a park and the impact that a park has on numerous lives, not least mine. I have, for example, learned that the tennis courts do actually get used but mostly when the ticket office is closed and, no matter how little sleep I have had, I always feel better for a walk in the park. I have also learned that falling off the end of the slide can leave a scar, that scars take a long time to disappear and that Mrs Editor will never let me forget that I bear responsibility for every mark.
That a huge investment in children’s play facilities happened in my local park just as I had cause to actually use them is a fortuitous coincidence for me but also a great cause for celebration for the people in the part of the city in which I live. These facilities were delivered despite the prevailing economic conditions and local government financial strictures and have been incredibly well used. Throughout the summer months the playground saw phenomenal usage and any calculation of the financial outlay in terms of cost per use would make this one of the most cost-effective investments in the city’s history.
But that, of course, is the point of parks. Our parks epitomise the values of the long-term view and a faith in the future of people. They represent the antithesis of short-term politics and isolated self-interest. They speak of community and generosity in a language that is at odds with the prevailing political mood of the times. Statesmanship, it seems, is a thing of the past. Where once there were at least a number of parliamentarians who understood their responsibilities to future generations, modern politics is determined by little else than the next election. Where once there were at least a number of parliamentarians who understood the concepts of probity and intellectual integrity, now there appears to be precious few who think of office as anything more than an opportunity to enrich themselves and their friends. Having housed a political generation that has emulated the short-term profits beloved by business community it has worshipped, Westminster now reverberates to the sound of pigeons coming home to roost; and they are great big pigeons made fat during the good times that are intent on dropping as much shit on those that fed them as possible.
My advice to those MPs struggling to come to terms with changing circumstances and their apparent inability to shape them is to spend more time in their local park. The marks on my daughters face appear all too quickly and fade too slowly but I celebrate every one. I know where they came from and why they are there.
letter from the editor
The Leisure Review editorial