THE PARK’S THE PLACE!
As much as my flag is a way to engage, a park is a great place to engage in.Some runners I couldn’t catch as they raced down the steep hill with their thumbs up but occasionally one would run round me in circles while I explained the jist and handed them a leaflet. The benches are a good way of making non-invasive eye contact. Ian was resting from bench to bench as he walked up the steep hill. Brian and Lorna were admiring the “best view in Sheffield” from the top path.
I got hailed from the Playground, the Multiactivity court and the teenage ‘smoking pod,’ and had some really good conversations through the railings as a result. Lots of walkers and dogs of all descriptions with their humans stopped for a chat, including Busu the bichon rize, named after a river in Papua New Guinea, with Anne, who had lived there, Charley the bassett hound with Jack, and Mina the Tibetan terrier .with Roxy and Darren who hope to encourage staff of a well-known insurance company to support spBR as part of a volunteering scheme.
People passed through the park on their way to and from work and play, which is how I met David and Margaret of the Bowling Club and Frank of Heeley Trust (both based in the park) and Gabriel of nearby Hagglers Corner, who all offered to publicise spBR for me.
CONVERSATIONS IN THE PARKPeople with stories, opinions and knowledge come in all ages, backgrounds and heritages and my local park is a great way to bump into them. Little boys and girls as young as 8 recognised the flag and responded independently of adults with a call of “We like your flag” or smiles, shy, quick waves and a whispered ” Free Palestine” in passing or from the playground.
Talk of spBR might take up the whole chat or be bookends to other topics including:Barefoot running, bullying at work, raising an autistic child, living as an autistic person, the effect of Brexit on a French partner, the experience of Windrush generation parents and resilience, the difference between solidarity and ‘performative allyship’, the Sheffield Tree Campaign (Meersbrook Park was on the front line) and ‘Whippet World’ in Graves Park, during an encounter with Cedric (pronounced Ceedric) the tiny Italian greyhound bred originally as Ancient Roman lapdogs. Who knew!!.
Two elderly Iraqi gentlemen, both called Mohamed and enjoying the warm evening on a bench, thought the UK was comparatively tolerant compared with eg France and Germany, but Udit from India was very clear that his ancestors had been ruined by mine (and I had to agree).
Usman, recovering from football practice on a bench, had worked in China, where my son now works and our discussion ranged from politics, to basketball to how easy is it to be a practicing muslim in China. Ian had never been abroad but was an ‘armchair traveller’ and was interested in the children’s healing centre in Gaza as “children had nothing to do with what was going on”. The people I spoke to had been born here, had come from other countries voluntarily or as refugees, had moved here as students and in older age. Some were carers like Keighly taking a well-earned break on a sunny bench. Some I knew, as neighbours or through local community activities like choir, community gardens and spBR itself.”This is why I love living in Meersbrook”, said Jenny, stopping to chat with Arron, a visitor from across town outside a neighbours house, with Bruce the French bulldog, as she took a leaflet. “It’s so random”