Fear and Loving in Heaton Park: Part Nine - Park Life

Alone and a long way from home our tremulous author embarks on the dread journey home but is quickly distracted from the task at hand, taking solace in cancelled television programmes and ludicrous blockbusters starring Dennis Hopper, and he wonders why he spends his life scrawling nonsense in a garret rather than playing an active role in society.

Homesickness is rarely experienced by those who live in South Wearside. So leaving Heaton Park I was confused by the unfamiliar yearning that surged over me like the immigrants Nigel Farage imagines constantly swarm over our borders. I was actually missing Hartlepool, mainly because you can walk home, but it’s a start.

My hometown is a place you escape from, not pine for. It’s famous for three things: indolent, alcoholic, wife-beater Andy Capp; mistaking a monkey for a Frenchman during The Napoleonic Wars and hanging it and, in twist that would embarrass the most hackneyed Simpsons’ writer, the football club’s mascot H’angus the Monkey was elected mayor. It’s the only town where the estate agents run Buy One Get One Free promotions.

Why on earth did I want to return there? I could start a new life here. Didsbury was too bourgeoisie, but I could make a new life in the undergrowth bordering the path. I’m no Ray Mears but as a climber I have honed my survival skills in the unforgiving terrain of the Tees Valley.

I could construct a yurt out of litter and twigs, using abandoned clear ponchos for windows. Survive by scavenging nuts, berries and discarded fast food. Barbeque whatever rodents, birds and cute children’s characters I could catch over smouldering takeaway menus, discarded shoes and stained panties. The inevitable nocturnal erotic liaisons providing a suitable receptacles to store water. It could be done, look at the wombles. Not only did they survive on the things that everyday folks left behind, they prospered.

Without the adulation and cameras it wouldn’t be an idyllic lifestyle. I had sobbed uncontrollably as I read Uncle Bulgaria harrowing biography Recycled Lives: Common of Broken Dreams and was aware how tough things got when the show was cancelled. I’m sure that Madame Cholet didn’t relish prostituting herself so there would be fir-cone soufflé to eat, but if push came to shove I’d do what had to be done. I just hoped that I wouldn’t sink as low as Orinoco and butcher a young woman out walking with her son when I was ripped to the tits on magic mushrooms and acorn juice.

(Despite my adulation for the wombles I must take this opportunity to state that I was elated when I heard that Tombermory had finally been arrested by Operation Yew Tree. For too long the playgrounds and paths of Wimbledon Common have been unsafe for our children and finally they can sit proudly atop the slide without fear of molestation.)

I wouldn’t be the only one to choose this solution. There must have be four or five other middle-aged people thinking exactly the same thing. For a few hours they had captured the essence of their youth. A time before their effervescent dreams coalesced into a dreary scum. Why leave this hallowed ground, baptised by a hundred thousand believers, for a world of mortgages, direct debits, family and soul-crushing responsibility? Not when they could remain here reliving that euphoric night over and over again like the acid casualties who never left Golden Gate Park. I would join their deluded band, even though my decision was based on laziness rather than revelation.

One concern was the lighting levels. As I left the concert it was almost as bright as day, mainly because the o’erhanging firmament was fretted with golden fire. Unfortunately using nightly pyrotechnic extravaganzas to light your municipal parks is economically unviable, although I believe that buffoon Boris Johnson is currently considering it, so on the days when there aren’t any I imagine that the gloaming will be almost tangible. The glow of crack pipes providing little comfort.

I would be scratching out a pitiful living, barely surviving but why should I be any different in a country ground down by Cameron’s brogues of undeserved privilege. Anyway I was a child of the seventies. I knew how to live off the land. I had heeded the pleas of Bungo, Tomsk and Wellington to ‘make good use of bad rubbish’ and had deified Tom and Barbara Good. (It is ironic that the BBC – that most conservative guardian of the establishment – did far more to further the cause of the nascent green movement than all the new age charlatans in California.) I knew what I had to do.

My better half would be less than happy, but once established I could send a message via carrier womble telling her to drop what she was doing an join me immediately. Mentioning, as an aside, that I’d appreciate it if she brought fresh underwear, foie gras, ortolan bunting and the key card for a suite at the Lowry.

Before being able to implement my plan the crowd surged forward disgorging me into the coach park. My homesickness intensifying when I spotted one destined for Hartlepool. A brave man might have tried to sneak aboard. It would have been simple as such vehicles tend not to be favoured by terrorists as they don’t fly very well and cause only superficial damage when driven into skyscrapers. I briefly considered secreting myself in a luggage compartment, but discounted this idea when I remembered the African refuges found dead in plane undercarriages. I didn’t want to arrive frozen solid like a ready meal as my microwave wasn’t large enough to defrost me. If only I’d brought that C4 I could have hijacked the coach, who knows Sandra Bullock’s might have been driving. Typically I’d left it on the bedside table.

Who was I was I kidding. I was almost overwhelmed by the thought of making my way across Manchester. It was pathetic to imagine that I could bivouac in the bushes or purloining a coach. There was no easy way out. No help available. I would have to proceed on my own. I took a deep breath and went gently into that good night.


NEXT ISSUE: The art of brisk walking.


Due to imminent deadlines and lack of funds Stephen is confined to his barracks for the foreseeable future and is eager for distraction, particularly of the erotic kind. If you’re at a loose end too drop him an email at theheadcleaner@live.co.uk and see if you hit it off. Go on you know you want to. He’ll be gentle.