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Sunday, 17 March 2013

One for 'The Friends of Ellington Park'

You have got to be joking !
My Vision now of 'The Park Keeper' as he was in my day.

We could smell the acrid tobacco smoke from his pipe and knew when he was around, every one of us was mortally afraid of him during our young lives. Petrified in fact.
That fear rose to a climax about the second or third week in September when the chestnuts hung in bunches from the trees in Ellington Park; it was conker time!
His flat peaked cap and spectacles were imprinted on my subconscious, right up to when I went to sleep at night, planning and scheming for the following morning when I had arranged with my mates to reconnoitre the perimeter, this was where the best conker trees were in the Park. (all chopped down now.)
I have watched him from the long grass at the back of the Park and been racked with anxiety, no long grass now, just a plain brick wall. I have looked in terror at his thick stick, which he always carried as I hid behind the dahlias and rhododendrons feeling week at the knees in case I was discovered.
The Park Keeper was the symbol of authority and the implacable enemy of every small boy between the ages of five and ten. His reputation struck almost permanent terror into several hundred young hearts, ghastly stories of the revenge he took on lads whom he was supposed to have caught lurking in the Park at dusk, long after he had blown the whistle that preceded the ceremony of locking the big iron gates.
The thing was, by hurling large sized sticks into the chestnut trees, it was possible to bring down a substantial shower of the coveted conkers, so much so that you sometimes had to quickly jump out of the way of the falling nuts, this was when you had to watch out for him. Chestnuts were quickly stuffed into your pockets along with fag cards marbles bubblegum and lumps of toffee and you took off like rabbits bolting for home at a pace Roger Bannister would have a job keeping up with, you had to avoid being caught at all costs.
Guerrilla warfare was ceaseless. The Park Keeper did sentry-go for hours on end at this time of year, but us young shavers with devilment in our hearts stalked him and created diversionary tactics on the flower beds while the main party of us went in on the conker raid.
We always won, there was too many of us!
As a footnote that brought on the memory of all this, we were walking in the park a couple of days ago and I noticed a poster nailed to the trunk of a chestnut tree, see photo! ( I found this on the internet, and it is evidently being displayed in another part of the country as well.)
Although we had a good laugh at the time, I have since thought what a crazy, crazy world we live in, because when questioning a councillor this week he informed me, quite seriously, there was litigation in progress concerning a woman that was taking the council to court for damages;
A falling conker had given her a black eye and she had been off work since last September because of it, we are now in March……..6 months later!
Can you believe that? . . . . . .Crazy, no wonder our rates are so high, because no doubt the cost of such an action will come out of the council coffers.
You have got to laugh; otherwise we would all end up in straight jackets.
Thanks for stopping by, please call again.



  1. The world's gone mad with all this health & safety & non PC stuff. Whatever happened to good old, plain common sense ? If you stand under a tree, you take the risk of being hit by a conker or a low flying squirrel. If you don't stand under a tree, you take the risk of tripping over your own 2 feet - who are you going to sue if THAT happens ?? It's ridiculous.

    But anyway - lI ove your pictures, you really are an exceptional artist & I'm only commenting on the park keeper one because . . . my great grandad worked in Ellington park !! :o) NOT as the park keeper, but as a corporation gardener :o) My grandad was also a corporation gardener & all through the 50s, 60s & early 70s until he retired. I can remember seeing him, when I was a little girl, standing in the middle of a flower bed along the front, hoe in hand, getting it ready to planted :o)

    Lovely blog, Alan - I've popped in a few times before but this is my first comment :o)

    1. Oh dear Pat, I remember once getting a real good thick ear from one of the gardeners for treading on his freshly hoed bed of spring bedding plants. I went home grizzerling to Mum hoping I suppose for a little sympathy;
      Guess what? She gave me another one and sent me to bed, could have been your granddad, I was only about seven or eight but it was a lesson well learnt, I never trod on the flowers again.
      Thanks for your comment, much appreciated.

    2. It's possible, Alan :o) I couldn't see him giving anyone a thick ear, because,to me, he was just my quiet little grandad, but my Dad used to say he & his siblings had many a thick ear & telling off when they were growing up:o)