Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Loitering 101

Or, how NOT to look dodgy when waiting for kids to clear off the swings

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Today we visited Meadows West, the other, lesser playground on the Meadows.  I arrived first at approximately 6 PM, and was dismayed to find the place overrun with children.  Indignant, impatient, and a bit baffled, I huffed a bit and then sat down on a bench directly opposite to wait for the other contributors. 'Why are all these children here?' I thought. 'Surely there must be a feeding trough somewhere with several empty spaces?' (It seemed about time for dinner, if you are British and under the age of 12)  It occurred to me that playgrounds represent, in many senses, a type of pig-pen or corral designed to prevent children from escaping and wreaking havoc on the rest of us.  It also occurred to me that it was a good thing I am a girl, because nowadays people are suspicious of adults sitting on benches watching children play.

stock photo of an average child

This brings me to the point of this post: how to avoid looking like a potential child molester when all you really want to do is play on the monkey bars.
  • be female
  • if you have the misfortune to be male, try to trick a female into accompanying you
  • find something to occupy your attention (phone, magazine, etc) and avoid watching the children too closely
  • crane your neck one way or the other, squinting into the distance, as if looking for the imaginary person you are waiting to meet
  • take care to avoid obvious photo-taking, unorthodox clothing, and muttering to oneself 
 That about sums it up.  Good luck folks - get out there and get playing!!  And if the cops ask you why you're loitering by a children's play park, feel free to direct them to this blog.  Or run.

Along the Union Canal and to Tollcross- General Observations on Modern Playparks

What struck me most about the "Magnet Playarea" in the Meadows was how much more elaborate and exciting it seemed then the playparks I remember from my childhood. Maybe this is a reflection of my childhood and where I lived, or maybe it is my memory. Or is it just that playparks in the 1990s were less exciting? I remember swings, simple climbing frames, roundabouts and a see-saw at my local park. Modern playparks seem to have extravagent climbing frames, climbing boulders, swings that can fit more than one person, and other creative constructions I haven't seen before.

Redhall Park in Kingsknowe has a combined climbing frame/roundabout as pictured below. To my eight year old self this could have been the height of excitment.

Climbing frame, Redhall Park, Kingsknowe, Edinburgh
You could crawl inside this, or climb up it and spin round

The playpark in Hailes Quarry Park (home of the outdoor gym) has a climbing wall boulder thing behind in the playpark that two small boys were climbing this afternoon. (Although there was what appeared to be a frame for swings, missing the the swings...which is always disapointing)

Field with playpark in the distance
Hailes Quarry Park - not the best photograph - sorry!

On the other hand I was reassured by my visit to the Playpark in the Bruntsfield/Tollcross end of the Meadows (otherwise known as the Bruntsfield Links). This playpark had a swingset, climbing frame set, roundabout, and funny seesaw things. All much more in keeping with my idea of a typical playpark.

Roundabout in darkness, Meadows Park West, Edinburgh
Lilly on the roundabout
Unfortunately in my old age I found the roundabouts and swings made my stomach churn.

Does anyone else have any thoughts on modern playparks? Have they changed in recent years? When I think back on my childhood memories of playing 'tag' and 'hide and seek' feature more strongly than playparks. Maybe access to the most exciting climbing frame designs wouldn't have made a great deal of difference.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

A post-work Meadows ramble in which we encounter a suspected Weirdo

Today after work we hustled along to make the most of the rapidly fading daylight, our goal being the wonnnnnderfully diverse play park on the Newington corner of the Meadows.  According to the council, the proper name for these premises is 'Magnet Playarea;' for more information, please consult the official website.

The word diverse does not even begin to describe this playground, which seems to exist primarily to overstimulate an already hyperactive generation of kids and adults for whom a basic swingset/jungle gym combo simply does not suffice.  Good old Magnet contains several varieties of swing, multiple iterations of jungle gym, and a plethora of other shiny, spinny things such as the contraption pictured below.

I am admiring its sturdy and symmetrical properties

There is also a tire swing, a flying fox, and a climbing wall that does a fair job of disguising itself as a large boulder.  I have witnessed this playground on a sunny weekend and unfortunately it tends to be packed with small grubblers and their handlers.  There is, however, a bonus ice-cream truck.  We visited just as darkness was falling, which prompted the appearance of quite a different species of human.

As we were spinning on the tire swing, a shortish man with headphones and a rucksack began loitering nearby, watching us in an awkward and (in my opinion) socially unacceptable manner.  Surely, I thought, he would approach us if he had a question; if his only purpose was to gawk, he would surely do so using more discretion.  Not so.  He dithered away for a couple more minutes before asking me if this was in fact a playpark, and if this area was in fact Newington.  I answered in the affirmative and scuttled away.  

Why was he there? Did he suspect our motives? Why did he ask me such obvious questions?  I began to wonder if the sight of adults playing on a playground was an inherent magnet for weirdos.  The answer will have to wait for subsequent adventures. 

Monday, 20 February 2012

A Playpark designed for adults?

This weekend we found a new and shiny outdoor gym in Hailes Quarry Park in Westerhailes. There are machines for pull ups, hand pedaling and other forms of exercise. There was also a playground for children across the other side of the park which needs investigated.

Lilliputian testing out the gym equipment

More posts will be coming soon- once we manage to get together and make it to our first playpark.

Inaugural post!