A Festival of Nightmares

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I won’t lie. We had a bit of a near death experience today.


I had the notion that Festival Park (because it has quite a cool, hip-sounding name and is reasonably new) might be a good place for dog walking. On the map it didn’t look much, but it’s about the size of Newlands Park, and is in a location where hitherto I hadn’t discovered much to write home about. So I packed the squirrels and the mewls into the car and set off on a Doggynet adventure.


My first clue as to the unsuitability of Festival Park, was the TOTAL LACK OF ANY PARKING. Yes, in capitals, italicised, underlined. And as I discovered to my peril at Bishops’ Loch, any park that offers pretty much no roadside parking/parking in an area that last featured in Quentin Tarantino’s imagination, is not going to be a good park.


Call me naïve, but somehow it hadn’t occurred to me that there would be nowhere to park my car in the surrounds of The Hub and The Village and the Science Centre. Yeah the whole area is basically a sort of chic industrial estate, but really, no public parking at all next to a city park? Seems a bit odd to me.


Even the phone sat nav, which usually offers a door-to-door service, gave up. It literally asked me to park up and walk the last bit.


I managed to bump the car, which is to off-roading what Boris Johnson is to international relations, through a very makeshift, pot holey car park and executed a rather perilous 3-point turn before abandoning. The whole area seemed to be one continuous set of double-yellow lines, but I finally found a spot sort of opposite the park in a very exposed area. It wasn’t really a parking bay, just an area that had been tarmacked next to the road and was already furnished with some sort of 4 x 4.


The big one was VERY MOANY when I was assembling the pram/dog experience and only just placated by the thought of some pseudo-nutritious, child-friendly snack.


On getting to the entrance of the park I felt a small spike in my spirits, due to the reasonably pleasant opening (no herbaceous borders, but it looked respectably verdant). I ignored the sight of workmen – workmen are allowed near parks, I told myself, no harm in that – and continued into the park. We caught sight of a small play area and I managed to bribe the big one with snacks so that I could walk the dog first before returning to the play area.


There was some sign that the park continued on a bit, but we were soon met by work barriers – it seems that Festival Park borders quite a large building site – so we turned back. I was disappointed, but we hadn’t hit the swings yet, so all was not lost. That is until we rounded the corner into the play park and I momentarily lost sight of the mewls. This is not entirely unusual: we often lose sight of her while she truffles in some tangy pile of shit. Usually she emerges a few minutes later, happier but smellier.


But just as the big one was happily straddling a springy horse, I heard another dog walker shout, and turned to watch the mewls dash off into the distance in the dust of a female jogger. Joggers are one of the mewls’ great weaknesses and I think on this occasion it just got the better of her. I had a moment of thinking I could dash after her and leave the kids in the play park, but my annoying mum instincts told me this isn’t really the right thing to do. At the end of the day, kids trump dog (sorry mewls), so I had to bark instructions at the big one to get into the pram so we could hot tail it after her.


Getting the big one to do anything at all, even if you offer her chocolate, milk, paw patrol and class A drugs, is tough at the best of times. What was worse was that she had only just been taken to the promised land, only to have it mercilessly ripped away from her.


Somehow, with a mixture of promises and finger clicking (I think in my confusion I started to communicate with her like she was the dog), I managed to get her to succumb. But this had already lost us valuable time. We had well and truly lost the mewls, who to my absolute horror, had exited the park and was teetering about in the central reservation.


Fortunately the mewls had somehow discovered that emotion we call FEAR – previously unknown to her - and didn’t actually throw herself in front of the white van that was hurtling towards her.


The mewls also managed to get herself safely back across the road without me having to use my shouty voice too much (a bit of a reedy, posh, nasally nightmare if truth be told). I had of course ignored the fact that this might be a bit upsetting for the big one and then had to try and undo any trauma that she might have experienced as a result of being snatched from the swings and then watching her dog almost get hit by a car. Amazingly, she merely whined a little bit and re-focused on her primary objective of getting to the swings.


Now of course this near death experience has nothing to do with Festival Park. This could have happened anywhere, but to me it was simply a sign that Festival Park was not meant to be.


I optimistically took a few photos, but it was hard to ignore the dark, dank, druggy corners, the building sites, the limiting size and the fact that despite its newness the play areas had already fallen into disrepair. Much as I would like to add it to Doggynet, I just don’t think it’s worth the trip.

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