My niece, Beatrix, is four years old.
She really is the brightest little creature I know, all wide-eyed energy and sparkling enthusiasm.
Every time I see her she always asks the same question: “can you take me to the park?”
We’ve been going to Westmeads Rec, on and off, for about a year now.
Throughout the winter it was difficult, of course, the weather being bad. But now that summer is here both of us were looking forward to a few months of fun and conversation.
You can imagine how we felt on seeing what they had done to it. What mean-spirited bureaucrat at Canterbury City Council decided that now was the right time to remove the climbing frame, just as the sun is shining, and the kids have the prospect of the summer holidays opening up before them?
According to last week’s Gazette, the “equipment” was beyond repair.
That very word “equipment” reveals the attitudes of those who have had it removed.
It wasn’t “equipment”: it was a pirate’s castle, a slide, a fireman’s pole, a den, an enemy hideout, a defensive position. It was a place to have conversations in, to test your skills, to clamber over, the leap from. It was adventure. It was fun. And it wasn’t beyond repair. It had seen better days, certainly, but it was serviceable, robust, and the kids loved it.
Beatrix loved it.
My guess is that the council were worried in case someone fell off and they were liable for damages. But the stumps of the frame left sticking out of the tarmac are far more hazardous, being sharp-edged and unforgiving.
But here’s the real scandal: that no one thought to consult the users. It was removed without warning. What does this tell us about Canterbury City Council? What impression does it give to our children about their place in the world?
So, anyway, there was Beatrix, swinging disconsolately on a swing, looking at the place where her climbing frame used to be. “I’ll write about it,” I said, to make her feel better. “What shall I say?”
“Tell them they’re stupid,” said Beatrix.
Which is what I have done.