Taking the long view - lovely story of the difference Local Government makes...
Park Life - Fran Collingham
It did seem familiar, now, the town, as the train slowed to a crawl outside the station. Decades ago she’d come by the same route and she suddenly remembered how it had looked then: new homes for new families springing up along the railway line, homes fit for heroes back from the war; the schools, libraries, community centres for citizens to enjoy, designed, built and looked after by people in the town hall, recreating neighbourhoods for their people from slums and bomb-ravaged streets.
Today, though, even in the crisp sunshine of an early summer’s morning, the place looked faded and tired. She sighed. So much had changed since those early, hopeful years.
But the park was as she remembered it. Of course, she had seen hundreds like it over the years, but there was something about this one that had stayed in her memory: the flowerbeds of cheerful red, yellow and white flowers in careful rows, occasionally breaking out into a swirling circle of colour; the bandstand, sparkling and freshly painted; and, above all, the grass. Emerald green, beautifully striped and welcoming for families spreading a picnic rug, Tupperware and toys for an afternoon in the sun, teenagers gathering to giggle and share secrets, and young lovers stretched out, side by close side.
Accustomed to her own acres of private park, her hundreds of miles of tended lawns, it suddenly struck her that parks like this were the green jewels in the crown of every town and city. Mostly people took for granted the years of tender care that had gone into them, the skills of the gardeners nurturing the young bedding plants every spring, the patient clearing-up after busy, messy bank holiday weekends. Parks built by her people, owned by her people and lovingly preserved for future generations.
Today her return, half a century since her first visit, would remind the town, for a morning, at least, that their council still did some things pretty well, and the thousands who cheered her slow parade along the well-tended paths agreed that the park had never looked better, the council had done a splendid job in making it look beautiful, and that the town had done Her Majesty proud.
Fran Collingham is an Assistant Director at Coventry City Council where she's in charge of the communications team. She began her career as a journalist before joining local government as a press officer nearly 20 years ago.