All work and no play

With the AGM in the bag we move swiftly onto the monthly Parish Council meeting. A bog standard, business as usual, routine affair for the other six Councillors; but for me, the new boy, there are the pangs of excitement and anticipation that accompany any new endeavour.

There is a slightly comical standing down and re-election of the Chairman and Vice-Chairman. With both positions uncontested, the whole charade plays out over approximately 15 seconds. Next up, allocation of roles and responsibilities; this could be interesting. A number seem to be pre-allocated, with matters pertaining to Finance, the Village Hall, Roads & Drainage, all in safe hands. As we approach the position vacated by my predecessor, I can feel the eyes of my colleagues notionally and actually focussing in my direction.

It is introduced with a gentle sales pitch; not much to do, generally looks after itself, only requires a brief monthly update. I break the brief silence by declaring that I would be happy to take on the role. They say a volunteer is worth a thousand pressed men, and I am genuinely happy to put myself forward. I will take on responsibility for management and maintenance of the village Recreation Ground.

It was only relatively recently that I realised the village had a ‘Rec’. Out walking with the dogs one day I stumbled across the secluded grassed area tucked in behind the local shop. It has all the mainstays: slide, swings, roundabout, and a pub-style park bench for parents to take the weight off whilst keeping an eye on their sprogs. To my untrained eye the Rec looks extremely well maintained, with not a rusty surface or sharp edge to be seen. I clearly have a lot to live up to.

The creative streak in me sees nothing but potential in the level grassed area adjacent to the play park. There is ample space for a five-a-side pitch, or perhaps an integrated goal/basketball hoop/metallic wall structure, the like of which adorns many a recreational space; albeit typically blighted by graffiti and not quite in keeping with our more rural setting. Either way, I feel something needs to be done. Not only to make my mark and leave a lasting legacy, but also to increase utilisation. Having passed the Rec three or four times now, I have never actually seen a single person using it. Excellent news from a maintenance perspective, but not quite serving the strategic intent.

The upcoming Village Fete provides an excellent opportunity to increase awareness of the Rec amongst the Parishioners. The grassed area would provide a perfect location to secure a Bouncy Castle, and the inevitable Coconut Shy could serve as a useful means to start introducing ball games to the arena. I decide to maximise the amount of Fete activity concentrated in my new domain, principally for two selfish reasons:

  1. A mechanism to fund a before and after mowing, with the potential addition of a restorative seeding;
  2. A means of weeding out any objections from the neighbouring houses, allowing me to target the problematic stakeholders likely to resist my long-term plans.

I am pleased to have secured this particular role in the team. It provides the kind of ‘light touch’ responsibility I was after, but sufficient healthy distraction from the day job. Coupled with secondary responsibilities of reviewing planning applications (but providing only observations and strictly no formal opinion on them), I am confident that my Parish duties will provide sufficient material to continue to fill my inbox, and of course these pages. I may be too big for the swings, but I can still gain recreation from this facility.

People who cannot find time for recreation are obliged sooner or later to find time for illness.

John Wanamaker

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