February 27, 2017 by Whispering Smith
Whispering Smith Column published in the Littlehampton Gazette February 9th. 2017
Memories are not what they used to be.
I could hardly believe my luck last weekend, a fast train to London via Arundel first stop Horsham and on time. Lovely countryside, freshly turned fields, some already blushed with green, steaming sheep, an embankment fox, all spoilt somewhat for me somewhere after Billingshurst by the sight of a line of wax-jacketed men with shotguns awaiting the arrival of half-tame, driven pheasants. ‘Country pursuits’ is a catchall phrase for cruel and senseless tests of skill that could easily be replicated with clay pigeons.
ONCE upon a long time ago I was a senior local government officer in a large London borough and as the borough’s leisure officer I had a team of around a hundred keen young workers and a budget as long as your arm. The aim was to provide safe open spaces where youngsters could hang out. We offered arts and crafts, music, creative play and an adventure playground where they could build their own dens with the hammers, wood and nails provided by the council. Also, labelled rather grandly as ‘urban lungs’, a narrow boat and an out of city camp site. Last weekend one of those centres was on my route to a friend’s house in north London so I stopped off for a visit to the first of what eventually became eight play centres and wished I hadn’t. The large play hut looked grimy, run down and beaten surrounded by a grim fence so that one could not see inside. I wanted to go to the top of the adjacent flats which overlooked the centre and where I had, on many occasions, enjoyed a cuppa and a chat with a parent or two. No chance, entry forbidden. Once a thriving adventure playground for youngsters was lost to me. As I left those yesterdays and very different times behind me I made up a little Pooh Bear saying of my own: ‘I have lots of fine memories but sometimes It’s best to forget them…’