At the entrance to the park a panel tells me about its history: apparently the park dates from 1376. So, in 2012 it had been going for more than 600 years.
All things considered, it’s a terrific park; it’s worthy of the praise that is conferred upon it by the panel: its size and heritage and people-centredness are all highly commended. AND to underline the park’s credentials, in the distance, I could hear a woodpecker drilling out a rhythm; I could see a smart jay dashing from tree to tree – and below, little patches of mushrooms crouched amongst the russet fallen leaves.
Close to the lower edge of the park there’s a long long avenue of trees that runs east to west; it’s called ‘The Avenue’. There’s a curving hedge near to the avenue. The panel at the entrance said that it is called the Queen Mother’s hedge. Which Queen Mother is that? I don’t know; it made me realise that I had rarely, if ever, called to mind the Queen Mothers that had been around since 1376.
However, I did consider a couple of dogs that were piddling on the Queen Mother’s hedge. I wondered what the Queen Mother would have made of that. The piddled-on Queen Mother’s hedge.
Half-way along the avenue of trees there is a bench. The bench faces towards the south-east and overlooks the roof tops of the small town in which I live. The bench is painted with some sort of black preservative. I think that it wants to be around for a good few years. I reckon it’s there for the long haul. There’s an inscription on the bench; it reads:
IN LOVING MEMORY OF IRIS RIDDLES – WITH CHERISHED MEMORIES OF HER 25 YEARS DOING THE PARK SCHOOL DINNER RUN
No dogs were piddling on Iris Riddle’s memorial bench.
But a dog did pass by. At first I thought the dog was pulling a little dog-cart – the kind that you see in folk tales. As the dog approached me I could see that it was more-or-less only half a dog. It’s back half – including its two back legs – was suspended on the cart and it made forward progress by using its two front legs. That’s all it could do. Maybe the dog had been run over and had been semi-paralysed. There were two women walking a few paces in front of the dog; they were lost in conversation. Judging from what they were saying they had a highly developed moral sense: I’m pretty certain that this had something to do with the care that had been taken of the dog. The dog looked at me as it paddled its way past Iris Riddle’s memorial bench. It had an earnest, inquisitive, mournful look. I really liked the dog’s expression. It was exemplary.
Later, I wondered if the park authorities might one day construct a bone and kennel memorial to all the dogs that had found moments of happiness in the park.