Pymmes Park was my running away place when I was a child.
To be honest, I didn’t run very far as we lived opposite the entrance and it wasn’t just as a child – the last time I ran away there, I was 26 years old. I gave my fiancé quite a shock when I walked out over mistakes that had been made in the printing of our wedding Orders of Service. But my parents recognised my behaviour of old and sent him to find me after half an hour, knowing that even though I had needed to get away I also wanted to be found.
The park was a safe place for me, a real escape from four walls when life hemmed me in. If feelings or a situation overwhelmed me, the park was where I fled. Angry, heartbroken, or burdened, I stomped the paths around the lake until I found an unoccupied bench set back in one of the alcoves of the stone wall in which to hide.
I suppose happy memories of so much of my childhood spent there (I viewed it as a natural extension to our small garden) amassed into a great sense of security associated with being there. I spent weekends and after school with my best friend on the swings, roundabouts, slides and the dangerous witch’s hat in the playground. Throughout the years we walked all our different dogs there: chased squirrels, caught water rats, and practised for shows. We played tennis on the public courts, kicked through leaves knee deep each autumn, and I dreamed of bridal photos under the cherry and almond blossom.
In the summer, a concrete paddling pool dug deep into the ground was filled increasingly dirty water, pedal and rowing boats could be hired, and most excitingly the Summer Theatre opened for everything from pantomime to ballet. For a while, there was a domestic zoo – until hooligans killed the animals (it was rumoured for Christmas dinner purposes). And the highlight was the annual funfair that set up its stalls and rides for one short week, although my parents quickly tired of the noise and litter that accompanied it.
I don’t have a park to run away to now, even though I still sometimes feel the urge to escape life’s stresses. It’s what my dad calls ‘Stop the world, I want to get off’. But I have something, someone else to give me that same sense of security and relief if I choose to take His escape route. Or as the old hymn puts it:
‘Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee’.