It’s early January and we’re in The Park.
South Liverpool, where we live, is particularly blessed with parkland. Nowhere in it is more than a mile away from a serious piece of open, green space. You may already have seen Calderstones Park, where my bench lives. And I’ll introduce you to many of the other green spaces as the blog continues. They’re a reminder of how wealthy this place used to be, of course. Some of them I’ll show you are land that used to form the estates of slave traders.
But today I want to take you to a place that is at the centre of me. I want to take you to Sefton Park.
I have been walking in this park now since 1977, ever since I moved from North Liverpool, where I was born, to the South of the city. Only briefly and unwisely did I ever live more than a mile away from it. For me it is simply ‘The Park.’ When I tell Sarah I’m going to the park, she knows where I mean. If all of Liverpool is sacred to me, and it is, this place is its centre, the holiest of holies.
Why? Well it’s a big park. Liverpool’s equivalent of Central Park or Hyde Park. Now I can run it takes me well under twenty minutes to get right round the outside of it. And it’s an urban park, popular and loved by all of the various peoples who make up Liverpool. It’s the park where many of our big events are held. Like the Women’s 10k run in May, the Africa Oyé music festival at mid-summer, and the majestic and mysterious Lanterns Festival at Halloween. And at all of them I can almost feel the park welcoming all of the thousands of people who turn up to enjoy it. I go to all of them, and I love them too.
But most of all, me and the park love the ordinary days. Like today. Me and my camera get there mid-afternoon on a mildly wet winter’s day. And I walk around for a couple of hours, until the sun goes down, taking these photographs.
It’s a big park, then. One you can have proper walks in. And even if there are a lot of people there, and there weren’t today, there’s enough space to be alone with your thoughts. And it’s alone with my thoughts that me and the park do best. Since 1977 all of my deepest reflections have taken place here. About endings and beginnings, new starts, new ideas, lettings go and re-arrangings. All of them have to come to the park before I really know what I think of them. Where some might go to a church for reflection and contemplation, I go to the park. This is my cathedral. When Sarah was diagnosed with breast cancer, to help myself deal with the shock, I had to go and tell the park. A few weeks later, walking in the park again, on a brief break from caring for Sarah, the swans sailed proudly past with their new brood of cygnets, the first born in the park for years. Life delighted in life.
And all of the years and all of these reflections build up. It’s like they’re all still there, every time I enter the park. I enter home. Filled with me. Where all of the deepest thinking of my adult life has taken place. And will take place. We will return to the park on this blog. I am always returning to The Park.