Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Hamilton doesn't really have hills, but instead is riven with many gullies, like hills in reverse. One of these is near my present home and across the road from my old primary school. When I was little, my friends and I used to play on the edges of its impenetrable wild, weedy, scrub. More recent walks along Grey Street have allowed me tantalising glimpses of the gully transformed into an impeccably groomed lawn, cut by crisp, white concrete paths on which I've occasionally seen people walking.
Curious, I've wandered all the nearby streets trying to find an obvious way into this half-hidden park but with no success. In yesterday evening's sultry heat I was determined to solve the mystery for once and for all. On Beale St I found a path leading down to a small, scruffy, clearing smelling of sewage or dead things, between Boys High and Marian School. Not the right place or the right ambiance, so I retraced my steps and then entered the grounds of Boys High.
I've avoided that Beale St shortcut to Boys High for my whole life, even though it was the obvious short cut to my intermediate school. Back then I was too self-conscious and scared to walk through teenage boy territory, so for two years took the long way round. I wonder if something unpleasant did ever happen to me there, because I continued to avoid it even as an adult. Yesterday I told myself I am too old to care what anyone, let alone unknown teenage boys, think of me and finally used that track alone.
Once on the school grounds I followed the border between Boys High and the NZTC, seeing the elusive park more clearly than ever through the high barbed wire fence. My desired destination was obviously part of the NZTC grounds, and when the Boys High track petered out in a over-grown swamp I turned back. This time as I passed the NZTC the entrance was swarming with people, and I could hear choruses of amens coming from the windows.
Wondering if I would fail in my objective to enter the gully that evening, I walked back along Grey Street looking hard for any other access points. Suddenly, I spotted an open gate half way along a private right of way. I quickly ducked through the gate and down a steep gravel path and lo! I was in the park. A great expanse of velvety lawn stretched in front of me, broken only by lush flower beds, and beyond a beautiful orchard and vegetable garden.
I had the whole large area to myself, except for a few ducks behind a dam. In it's silent emptiness it reminded me of the description in Robert O'Brien's The Silver Crown (one of my favourite children's books) of the grounds of the black castle where Ellen rescued Otto from brain washing. The black footpaths in the book were one of the mechanisms of mind control for kidnapped children. That creepy association, and my fear of being told off for trespassing, somewhat spoiled my walk in the park. And now, with my curiosity sated, I'm not sure I want to go back again.