Monday, 26 May 2008

A wet forever afternoon in Highfields Park

A week ago I posted a blog about an amble I did along the southern edge of Highfields Park and how I would be back with family on Spring Bank Holiday Sunday (yesterday). In the event I didn't expect to make it. The weather was horrid. Wet, cold and windy at best, but a 2½ year grand-daughter and a 9 year old grandson determined to go to the park whatever the weather ground us down to the point where Owen, my son, and I decided to brave the elements and go to Highfields. This is my account of what turned out to be our mad, unforgettable, adventure.

This is how bad the weather was — empty car parking spaces in Highfields Park!

Owen puts Libby in her wellies.

Lewis and Libby are ready for the off.

Libby steams ahead shouting 'Park park' as she goes.

Libby was making straight for the playground until she saw the lake in front of the Lakeside Arts Centre, so she dashed off for the water's edge and was caught by her dad just before she toppled over the very high steps. Without any warning the wind and rain decided to blow much harder and she caught her hood in an effort to keep it on her head. I was on hand to capture the moment, but lost my Sundowner waterproof hat in the process — into the lake and about five foot out!

As I watched it begin to sink I thought it was lost forever, but the air trapped inside the hat brought it back to the surface, by which time Owen was leaning over the railings as far as he could using his umbrella as a paddle to pull the hat towards him, but it was still out of reach, so he told me to hold onto his legs as he leaned even further and managed to bring my hat closer. After what seemed an eternity he got the open umbrella under my hat and, after several attempts, fished it out high enough for me to grab, but as I did so Owen slid from my grip and was within inches of going headfirst into the lake. By this time Lewis of shouting and Libby was screaming. Whether because they thought it great fun or were scared of what seemed about to happen we will never know, for I somehow levered Owen back in and over the railings still holding my lovely, lovely hat and we were all laughing together and the kids were jumping up and down.

Throughout all this the only thought in my head, apart from trying to save my hat, was that I wished I was getting pictures of this. Then as we turned around and faced the café in the Lakeside Arts Centre, we saw all the customers sitting at the tables applauding and the staff had come from behind the counter to watch the drama which had unfolded before their very eyes. A lady came to the door laughing and shouted 'Well done, that's the best piece of entertainment I've had all weekend'. I put my wet hat back on my head and got Owen to tie its string under my chin so I didn't lose it again and as he did he said 'Dad, now you know why Aussies have corks on their hats — it's to keep them afloat!'.

Once again Libby steamed off, this time heading for the playground. As she arrived she turned around, as in triumph, and shouted 'Swings, swings' and went off with her dad to have a very wet swing.

Lewis found a large puddle at the bottom of a ramp and had great fun making the biggest splashes he could. All the equipment was tried as we all wetter and wetter!

As we left the playground I got them to pose in the mini paddling pool which the rain had created and thought about the old, disused, paddling pool at the other end of Highfields Park. Kids love water and a paddle (so do I) and it seems mean and churlish not to have paddling pools in Nottingham parks anymore.

As we walked around the park in the wind and the rain we saw no one else, until we saw this young couple walking towards us. They looked as happy as us. They let me take their picture. What this picture says to me is that parks are great places whatever the weather. Who needs sunshine when you have a friend to be with?

Owen took this picture of me with Libby and Lewis on the lakeside terrace in front of Nottingham University's Trent Building on the north side of the lake, but before we got here we had another mini-adventure as Lewis climbed up a rock face covered in tree roots only to discover, when he got to the top, that he couldn't get down on his own, so Owen had to go and rescue him and lead him safely down. Unfortunately, all my pictures of this 'escapade' have turned out blurred, probably because I was laughing so much as I took the pictures (sorry Lewis).

We finally made it back to the Lakeside Arts Centre and reached the car soaking wet, but happy. On the way we encountered these young goslings with their adult 'minders', oblivious to us as they munched at the grass. In fact the weather was that bad that not a duck or any other water bird was on the water. All were sheltering under trees and bushes.

As we walked around the park Owen and I told the kids about our own memories of the park and the adventures we have had over the years. Lewis said at one point that he wanted to go in a rowing boat and asked me if I would take him, to which Owen retorted 'All he will do is give you the money and tell you to go on your own, that's how I learnt to row'. I'm afraid he was telling the truth. I did the same thing with my older grand-daughters and the same fate awaits Lewis if he wants to go rowing on Highfields lake!

It was a memorable afternoon and, with luck, even Libby will be recalling the day her dad nearly went headfirst into a lake as one of her earliest memories. I suspect that Owen will recount his version of this story at my funeral (which I hope is a long ways off yet). I also hope it will make him and the kids laugh as much then as it did yesterday!

PS. We did manage to grab a few minutes having a quick look at the history of Raleigh Cycles exhibition in the D H Lawrence Pavilion (part of the Lakeside Arts Centre), which I will visit again quite soon. If you haven't been, then it's well worth the trip.

Between December 2007 and April 2008 Bank executives have been paid £13.2 billions in bonuses. At the same time the Government has given banks £50bn in cheap loans, which they have used to increase their profits whilst charging their customers and mortgage holders higher rates of interest.


Rosie said...

Oh, Robert - I'm still smiling, you gave me much needed cheer today. I hope you all gave a sweeping bow to your appreciative audience :) Not only will you have a 'forever' day to remember but I bet some of the cafe customers remember that for a long time too!
Hope you are all well and didn't catch chills and colds and hope your hat hasn't shrunk :)
Take care

Robert said...

Hello Rosie

We didn't bow, but I did wave. I think Owen was a little embarrassed by it all once he realised there had been an audience. He was also keeping an eye on Libby who had zoomed off at great speed towards to playground and actually got there before Owen caught up.


Robert xxx