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Monday, 22 June 2009

Impossible Playground

Walking with my friend Jo through a park in East London, we came across a children's playground. We have a habit of playing on playgrounds, which started one night at the Level in Brighton a few years ago. A couple of weeks previously we had found an excellent wooden play apparatus in a park in Hackney, which included a very difficult wobbly bridge and some chain walkways that reminded me of the marvellous and terrifying high-level polyprop walkways of tree protest sites (comment of fellow protester as I'm trying to work out how to remove dead trees from the path of a walkway: "Why don't you hang off the walkway and cut them?" My reply: "Why don't you hang off the walkway and cut them?". I then discovered that if you try to saw something while hanging in space, the friction from the saw is greater than the friction in the rope, so you just swing unless you apply opposing force holding the tree with the other hand - quite strenuous). Sharing the obstacle course with some small children, we were gleefully shown how a wobbly bridge is a lot less wobbly if you weigh 1/3 as much as me and scamper unhesitatingly across it.

This time the children would not have been gleeful. The first thing I noticed approaching the playground was what I called the 'Dali slide'. It was roughly the shape of a slide, but almost vertical and made only from two paralell steel tubes. Was it a slide? Was it for climbing up? I made the most of it by trying to climb up feet first. The grip was slippy on the shoes and uncomfortable on the hands. On another side of this structure was a roughly rectangular steel tube frame, again almost vertical, slightly folded about 1/3 of the way from the bottom edge, with a swivelling hinge at the top and bottom. The result was that when you try to climb up, it swivels round and you fall off. Frustrating, uncomfortable and perlexing.

The final bizarre challenge was the monkey bars. Again steel tube, surely too wide for children's hands, and for some reason arranged in an arch shape so that for the first half of the climb, each bar is higher up than the one before it. This required repeatedly lifting one's entire bodyweight on one arm in a dynamic fashion, a feat attainable by an average gibbon but certainly not by an average, untrained homo sapiens (our self-awarded title sapiens, meaning 'wise', proved to be sadly over-optimistic by this odd structure) who is not a professional circus performer. Jo, a trapeze artist, was unable to conquer the challenge.

I could only conclude that the playground was built for a little-known naturalised population of gibbons or other brachiators, or that it was designed by some perverse and sadistic bureaucrat to induce a sense of despair, bewilderment and failure in the local youth.


Jo said...

Ha! Great to see you blogged the playground. I will try to work out how to get the pictures off my phone - though I don't think they will capture the ridiculousness sufficiently.

Jo x

Froglover said...

Hey Mango,

I met you at EF! and I told you I follow your blog. Hello.

I just read your last post through google reader, but when I tried to find it on your blog itself, I couldn't. Nor your plastic tao piece. Do you get why? Have you deleted them?

I wanted to be able to share your last piece with the people I know who feel the same.


(Presuming you screen your comments - I mean this as a message to you rather than a comment to post. But I won't put my email here incase they go up automatically. You can get me back through my old blog if you want to (bioduels.)