As I sit here in not-so-sunny Poohaven* contemplating the bitter North wind, the Pound heading back towards parity with the Euro (“amongst a basket of currencies, the Pound is a basket case,” said my colleague) and my status as a permanent laundry maid to shall children, I can take solace in the fact that there’s only two more working days left until the weekend and then it’s play park time.
It may sound sad but the adult and kiddie visits to the Kemp Town play park on Saturday afternoons are becoming one of the week’s highlights. On a Saturday, there’s no need to spend the morning cajoling the Terrible Toddlers into getting ready for nursery (“but Mummy, I don’t like these trousers /shoes/socks, etc.... but Mummy, I don’t want to go to nursery... grizzle, grizzle...”). Instead, I can have a relaxing morning shuffling about at my own pace before joining my friends and their offspring in an area where (a) the adults can enjoy snacks, coffees, beer and wine, (b) the kiddies can run around, ride their bikes and scooters and play on safety-tested equipment and (c) the kiddies cannot escape. I like option (c) best of all. Let’s repeat it... THEY CANNOT ESCAPE.
Ah, so the adults can sit calmly on a bench and drink their coffee or beer while the kids run around safely. The only thing that’s missing, as far as I’m concerned, is a selection of eligible single fathers to chat up while the kiddies play. However, eligible single fathers are few and far between: the play park is the domain of mums of all varieties, it seems.
It always strikes me that the Brighton play parks, with their safety gates and spongy floor materials, are in complete contrast to the Spanish play parks where health and safety rules were clearly not considered at design stage. My local play park in Spain features large gaps in the fence which enable the Terrible Toddlers to escape on to the main road. On one occasion, my youngest son clambered straight through a gap and was almost on the road before I could squeeze my larger frame through and grab him. This particular play park also features a bizarre, round, hedged area in the middle - like the centre of a mini maze. You can’t see the kids but they can see you. “It’s for perverts to hide in,” the father of my children quipped with black humour. Still, he may have a point. I’m fairly convinced that a similar type of privet feature would be banned from play parks in paedophile-obsessed England.
Thinking of the play parks I use in Spain, it’s not just a case of holes in the fence and dodgy hedge rings: they don’t provide toilets. If the nearby bars are shut and one of the Terrible Twosome needs a “number two”, I’ve got a hideous logistical problem on my hands. In particular, those who have recently been potty trained aren’t known for their patience in loo-finding. On one occasion, I fashioned our own ‘portaloo’ behind the concealment of a helpful tree using a rolled-out nappy. This is hardly an ideal method of upholding hygiene but when needs must, I suppose.
At Spanish play parks, when there’s a gate at the entrance, the Spanish mums tend to leave it open. I can’t understand the reasoning behind this lax behaviour but I had good cause to contemplate it on one notable occasion as I chased my eldest son out of the open gate and on to the road. Perhaps the Spanish kids are better behaved and, hence, less inclined to bolt on to roads?
In Andalucia, during the last two to three years, there has been considerable investment in play park equipment for adults. The strange selection of equipment is based around the fitness machines commonly found in gyms but it more closely resembles kids’ play kit and is built in bright, primary colours. So we have a walking-type machine, a machine to exercise your upper arms, etc. Although I’ve occasionally seen elderly ladies using the equipment, it’s a big hit amongst teenage girls. There’s nothing like the sight of sylph-like teenagers exercising in hot pants to make the over 30s mums bolt back to the kiddies’ play area.
When I was visiting the GP surgery in Poohaven yesterday with the Toddler Twosome, more than a fair share of the adults were obese and one lady was morbidly obese. It was frightening to think of their dietary habits. Are they sitting on their sofas all day eating fried Mars Bars and waffles smeared in lard or what? Perhaps we need an adult play park here in Poohaven. Although I suspect the North Wind and proliferation of disaffected youths would quickly chase the obese adults back indoors.
* I mean Newhaven, East Sussex - no, I don't live in Peacehaven.