I took some time to myself today and wandered through the People’s Park at lunchtime. It was a lovely day and it did me good to stroll around, absorbing the sublime beauty that is this little gem of a park. We, the people of Limerick, are so lucky to have it, and long may it continue in existence. I realise that the City Council have started giving bits of it away to property developers, in a manner entirely contrary to the spirit of what was intended when the park was first bequeathed to the citizens of Limerick, but let’s not be churlish. Let’s leave that there and not pursue the issue. Speaking as a born-and-bred Limerick man, I would never under any circumstances have agreed to selling part of the Park if I had been offered money for it, but that’s only because I was born and bred in Limerick, and I think some things are worth more than money. I’m sure others would disagree. For example, if I were an official from elsewhere in the country, with no connection to Limerick other than my job, I might well think that an offer of sizeable funds was attractive, even if it did involve disposing of part of the birthright of Limerick people. What’s the birthright of Limerick people, after all, compared to balancing the City Council’s books? I wonder if the current City Manager ever rolled down the hill at the Monument.
Anyhow, let’s leave that there. Simmering.
I was talking about the People’s Park, wasn’t I? A place redolent with memories from childhood and beyond. Ice-creams from the little hatch at the back of the kiosk. Bread-and-butter sandwiches in picnics. Football in the back field, and the old Parkie with the gammy leg waving his stick at you. Fuck off outa there. You can’t play football here. And the Healys kicking the shit out of you cos they thought they owned the Joseph Street entrance, and they did too cos they were a lot tougher than everyone else, but they’re ok behind it all, so sorry lads, I didn’t mean anything, ok, is that all right so? A bandstand where, once, real bands used to play. Real genuine bands in uniforms with oompahs and drum-dee-drums and people used to say ooh and aah and Jesus isn’t that fuckin great?
Not to mention the toilets. They’re gone now, because the world is full of fukken perverts, but in my younger days the park was a land of two toilets. The one near Reeves’s Path (now bafflingly known as Upper Mallow Street) was safe enough, but the one near Pery Square was populated entirely by child-murdering fukken perverts. Why? I think we should be told. It wasn’t too far from a whole load of conker-trees, which was a big problem because on the one hand, you wanted the conkers, but on the other hand, you didn’t want your arse reamed. A genuine dilemma for a young lad, let me tell you. Or perhaps not. Now that I think of it, a dilemma in the classic sense would be a choice between two equally unwelcome courses of action, which clearly this isn’t: get conkers versus get arse reamed. For most people, not a dilemma.
Wandering towards the main gate by the art gallery, I noticed a small commotion at the children’s playground. This is a fine facility, designed to the highest standards, and filled with children and their loving parents. I’m a parent myself, though my children are grown a little beyond this kind of thing, but I think it’s great. It is great. And it would have been great today too in the clear springtime sunshine but for what?
Good caring devoted parents, but what?
Gentle innocent little kids, but what?
Knackers, that’s what. Not tinkers. Knackers.
Only two of them, but enough to have the park attendant on the phone to the guards, to say that a mother and child had been threatened. I stopped, of course, in case he needed help, and sure enough, there they were, cursing and swearing at this poor woman, and at the park attendant. A young boy and a slightly older girl. The boy was shouting I’ll fukken get ya and the girl was shouting We’ll get Mama to sort you out you fucker. The boy was about seven, and the girl was a bit older. Maybe ten. I caught the Park man’s eye, and he said “This isn’t just today. This is every day!”
Now. I have no doubt in the world that those kids came from a fucked-up family, and probably a fucked-up neighbourhood. I feel terribly sorry for them because they don’t see normal human interaction in their daily lives. Ever. They see only anger and incompetence and an inability to deal with the smallest setback with anything except aggression. They probably come from a dysfunctional family, which is a term I detest. What does the word dysfunctional mean? I think this is one of the sucking words, designed to drain all meaning from the language. Words that make our speech dry and arid and academic in the worst mediocre sense. As far as I can make out, dysfunctional is a euphemism for useless bastard unfit to have children. I understand that, and the services should move in to protect the at-risk children.
But in the meantime, while those childrens’ difficulties are being addressed by the services, why should the problems of one family, or one neighbourhood, be allowed to take this beautiful day away from the ordinary children of our town – the ones from functional families?