We’ve written before about how few things there are for the children to do around here – no open spaces, very few places to play and little or nothing in the way of organised out-of-school activities / clubs. We only know of two children’s play areas. One is in Cabrera – an hour away by gua-gua – but very lovely. Well maintained, clean, lots of swings, climbing frames and slides.
The other play area – the one we can walk to, we have christened ‘The Park of Disappointment’.
Today was Sunday – and we had a visitor (Ana Luz) coming for lunch. Yesterday we had a lazy day ‘en casa’ – so were keen to get out and about this morning. We didn’t have time for the beach, so the only realistic option (other than ‘go play in the street…’) was for us all to head out to the Park.
The Park is about a twenty-minute (2 kilometre) walk along the main road. The pavements on the way there are poorly maintained, and often blocked with rubble and/or motorcycles, meaning a quick detour onto the road – so the walk there is not a pleasant experience in itself.
From afar the park looks quite promising. A couple of large plastic play frames, some climbing bars, a good number of swings. It’s surrounded by a high chain-link fence and has a ‘rubberised’ floor around the play equipment – so all looks fairly safe, fun and secure. From a distance.
Once past the fence, however, a different story emerges. Most of the swings are hanging from one chain and/or missing their seats. The rubberised floor displays the handiwork of a number of local fire-starters, and at the bottom of the largest (and fastest) slide, has worn away into a pretty deep hole. To get to the top of this slide the children need to do a bit of mountaineering, clambering across a gaping hole at the top of the slide, the platform having long since disappeared.
Each time we go to the park I spend the first 5-10 minutes scouring the area for broken glass. Inevitably – and sadly, my search is never in vain.
The play equipment does not look old. It just is not maintained. The swings need repairing. The broken glass needs clearing away. The rubberised floor needs some TLC. Public services in this town are scant – so this isn’t all that surprising. Playgrounds across the world are vandalised by the non-law abiding minority (I’ve seen plenty where the rubber matting is far more badly scarred than here).
However someone, at some stage, has invested a considerable sum of money into the Park, and what continues perpetually to surprise and disappoint us is (i) the lack of civic pride in this town (there are always plenty of people around the perimeter of the park doing nothing – but none does anything to improve or maintain the condition of the park); and (ii) the short-term vision – having invested the money to build the park, none is apparently available to maintain it. The cynic in me (surely, no…) thinks that politics was probably involved somewhere – an opportunity for a nice campaign slogan perhaps, or the result of a donation made in return for favours to be granted, but that is just my cynical speculation.
Whilst we are increasingly strong believers in not ‘spoon-feeding’ entertainment to the kids, it would be oh-so-nice to have somewhere where the children could safely let off steam. A ‘Moors Valley’ (for all our Bournemouth ‘with-kids’ readers) would be heaven. Or just a green space with grass (and no litter or glass, maybe even a few trees) – such are the things our child-minding dreams are made of.
If we had options, the Park of Disappointment would be way down our list of ‘fun things to do with the kids’. But we haven’t. So we’ll continue to (in)frequent the Park (and also the Beach of Despair). I’ll continue to pick up the broken glass each time I’m there. The kids will continue to have fun (they are kids, after all). Today Katie made it all the way across the monkey bars, and on the way back the kids all enjoyed an ice-cold ‘jugo de limon’ (old-fashioned, Famous Five type, non-fizzy, lemon-and-water-and-sugar lemonade), so it was a good trip after all.