Sunday, May 01, 2005
Hainault Country Park
Coot on one leg!
I have discovered a new species at the Hainault Country Park. The Car Park Visitor. I was forced to become one myself. A thoroughly enlightening experience.
Colin was running round the park and forest. My plan was to visit the farm and then enjoy a coffee from the hut. This went wrong from the off.
1 October to 31 March – farm closes at 3pm.
1 April until 1 October – farm closes at 5pm.
Time: 3.30pm. Date: 31 March. What a bugger. A day too early to see if they had any pigs. A pig would be the best ever present. I’m obviously not sure the council would appreciate a pig living on the grassy area behind my flat but then I don’t appreciate very much they do (or don’t do) either so it would at least be a mutual thing.
Having the wrong footwear to squelch through big gloopy puddles of mud, I went for a brisk walk around the lake and returned to the car for a coffee. A little, smiley man commented I was very lucky to get one as the hut was normally shut by then. I clocked him as a regular.
Sitting in the car with the door ajar for clean air, I soon realised there were lots of other people doing a similar thing. Solitary men - car, paper, cup of tea and packet of sandwiches. All of a certain age and mostly smartly dressed. I really wanted to laugh. One half of the couples you see sat looking at the sea eating their Tupperware lunch. The cars were all parked looking at the grass and lake.
They are Car Park Visitors. I learnt, from the aforementioned small smiley man, they do not acknowledge one another. On the pretence of putting rubbish in the bin next to my car (there was clearly a nearer one), he sidled up, pulled the door open a little further and leant very coolly on the top. (Urgh). He started off by reinforcing the point I was lucky to have bought a coffee.
“Think he runs that place as a hobby. He don’t have proper opening hours. You couldn’t run a business like that love. A hobby. You know when we had that bad weather? He didn’t even bother coming down to open. Had to go to Hainault Industrial Park. 3 burger vans. Bought a cup of tea from the best one and brought it back. Definitely a hobby. Normally shut by now. Perhaps he knew you were coming, eh love? Do me paperwork here. Better than sitting at home. These others just sit here though. Have you seen ‘em? Same ones all the time. Probably what they say about me an all.”
“You seen my car there. Got the bit on the side showing I’m a driving instructor, Take the boards off though ‘cos you get stupid people pestering you otherwise. Ask all kinds of silly questions and want cards and prices and things. I’m a driving instructor but I don’t just want to talk about driving. I tell you what though, love, women are better learners than men. They listen. Men think they know it all. Tells a bloke the other day, keep your hands at ten to two and use push pull. He starts trying to pull the steering wheel backwards and forwards. And I says to him, ‘Whah, mate! Stop. Stop.’ Nearly everyone can learn to drive nowadays as well. Not that’s a wrong thing. But it is hard with the deaf and dumb love. They use sign language and lip reading. They trying to look at me and I want them looking at the bloody road, love. Signals. You have to have signals but they all want different ones. Not as easy as it sounds this job. Women don’t normally sit up here on their own. You passing by?”
Suddenly very scared that he thought I was either touting for business or just looking for a bit of the other I blurted out I was waiting for my boyfriend who was running round the park.
“Don’t he drive, love?”
I explained he is blind in one eye, has never learnt and doesn’t really see the need to now.
“He can do it though. Tell you what if the deaf and dumb can do it, he can, love. Taught people with one eye. Make good drivers cos they have to be careful. Lot they can’t see though. Tried that once. Shutting an eye to see what I couldn’t see. Wouldn’t want to do it meself like. Going to do me paperwork. Bye, love. See you up here next time.”