Children Playing…

My childhood home in London backed onto the playing fields of the school I attended until I was eleven.  Even as a youngster myself I loved the happy noise of children playing.  I’d hear it on the occasions I was home sick and it marked the time of day for me in a tangible way.  I could picture exactly what had taken place just before their release onto the fields and when the whistle blew I knew just what was coming next for my contemporaries.  There was not that kind of order at home when I was ill.  My mother had her own routine that I was not a part of.  I just sat and watched and listened and willed myself better so I could re-join my friends.

During the holidays there was silence from the adjacent fields.

I would watch the trees turning color with the seasons from my bedroom window and grew to love the ugly, pollarded horse chestnuts that showed off their grand trunks and symmetrical boughs after shedding their leaves, leaving distinctive outlines against the oft changing sky.

In the summer with the heavy foliage,


the stillness was so complete I could hear the bees and insects busy pollinating our small vegetable patch where my mother grew runner greens and stocks.  The smell of freshly mown grass filled my nostrils without causing me to sneeze and I could imagine myself out of the city and in the countryside with my grandparents where it was peaceful all year round.

My parents sold our London house and sometimes I would return to the Georgian terrace to visit a neighbor who remained a good friend.  Although my childhood home had been gutted and the front door had changed color,


the view from the upstairs window was still the same, pollarded horse chestnuts casting their shadows before the sun.

Then my neighbor moved to Brighton and I no longer had a reason to walk along Cavendish Road and relive memories trodden deeply in the stone pavements and stored in the cast iron gate that used to lead to my front door.

“Vivienne, I just had to get out,” my neighbor said.  “I was knocked down by a boy on a skate board outside my own house and had to go into hospital for six weeks…” she told me when I called her to find out how her move went.

“Why that’s terrible,” I responded.

“It was no longer safe to venture beyond my front path,” she said indignantly as if her freedom had been snatched from her.

“You had to leave your pretty roses and wisteria and the playing fields at the bottom of your garden wall…”

“Don’t get me started on the playing fields,” she said getting on her high horse, “the school authorities divided those expansive greens into nine soccer fields and rented them out – from 7 in the morning until 10 at night – to local clubs and organizations for practice.”

“What?”  I said, “at night too?”

“Yes, massive lights flooded the whole area spilling, like boiling milk, over the edges of my garden wall and into my rooms.” I could hear the exasperation in her voice.  “It had been going on for ages and none of us could do anything about it so I decided to sell up.”

“Oh my goodness, I can’t imagine anything more awful,” I said.  My stomach had dropped and I clasped my hands together in an attempt to keep my childhood memories intact.  “No wonder you decided it was time to move…”

My treasured playing fields that our London garden backed onto,

Once a place where happy children ran and shouted, played hockey and lacrosse in the winter, tennis and rounders in the summer…

Where nature could run wild at the edges under the protection of the horse chestnuts…

And there was no fear of housing estates being built in our back forty…

Had been turned into an outdoor sports mecca, noisy, bright and intrusive all year round.

“Well, I hope you’re near a school in Brighton,” I said to my friend.

“Yes, as a matter of fact I am…nothing like the cheerful sounds of children playing at lunchtime.”

I smiled to myself in agreement.  Even though I now live in the country where there is birdsong and insect activity all year round, I do get to hear children playing merrily when I am asked to substitute in the lower school and am transported back to my childhood.


Share this:



2017-03-10 15:58:22 Reply

Nice. That was fun seeing your old home!

Leave a Comment