There is something about the smell of wood chips that is incredibly nostalgic for me. You don’t have to be doing anything in particular, but the smell suddenly comes from somewhere, anywhere, and you find yourself transported back to yester-year in the blink of an eye, smiling blindly to yourself despite various funny looks whilst walking back from Waitrose.
There was a park near where I lived, fondly referred to as the “Spinny Park”, largely based on the fact it had a roundabout and no other in the area did. Looking back, it wasn’t anything special, a few swings which were the focal point, some climbing equipment mostly occupied by youngsters and their parents (sporting disapproving glares at us on the swings) and of course, the roundabout.
The entire park was covered with wood chips, and in Summer smelt like nature encapsulated and scattered amongst the steel shapings and social shenanigans. At the time it didn’t mean much of course. We carried on about our business, which mostly consisted of trivia and talk of, well, whatever it was you talked about at that age.
I guess I didn’t have the most conventional childhood. Most say that age was the ‘simpler’ time of life, and that for me strictly wasn’t the case. It was complicated and confusing, and one that could be covered in an infinite amount of other blog posts i’m sure. But what I can say, is at the park, things were simple. There was nothing discerning or depressing. Nothing difficult or disheartening. Except of course; the occasion I attempted a “180°” on my bike on the skate-slope to impress a boy I liked. Suffice to say, I got to 90, and realised my biking skills weren’t really ‘all that’ at all, before tumbling with said bike to the bottom with many grazes and bruises in tow. (Rather funny as all since future attempts to talk/interact/impress the opposite sex tend to end in a similar embarrassing fashion).
In fact, aside from the odd injury (and when I say ‘odd’ I really mean ‘frequent’ as my clumsy nature rears its head far too often for my liking) the park holds some of the best memories of my childhood.
Come rain or shine, I met with my friends. The rest of the world hazed and disappeared, and nothing mattered outside the confines of the fairly flimsy fencing. We laughed and joked, we gossiped about boys and bands and whether Pokemón cards were really cool at all. We planned mix tapes and movie nights, ultimately culminating in a sleepover involving excessive junk food and very little of anything else.
The park, for me, was my haven, my escape. Everything was ‘okay’ at the park. I was happy. I look back fondly on every memory there. Trying with all your might to swing over the top of the bar, always in vain and panicking at the last second as soon as the chains started to jangle a little too much. Twisting up said chains with every ounce of strength and swirling out faster and faster, leaving you too dizzy to walk and falling head first into the floor with a thud. Finding creative ways to sit on a roundabout without falling off at 80mph (okay, so the speed might be an exaggeration, but I was only 11. Judging speed wasn’t my strong point!).
The smell of Wood Chips takes me right back to then. Flying through the air and for that split second, not having a care in the world. The world flying past you at 80 (ish) mph, never stopping, stopping caring.
Before you know it the years are turning and turning, faster and faster, and in what feels like a mili-second 15 years have passed, and you are left wondering what happened to that place you used to run to.
I think even now, I could quite happily go to the park, and spin around to my hearts content (though considerably slower now mind you). Surrounded by the smell of wood chips, I doubt a negative thought would cross my mind. Spinning and turning, swinging and swaying, wondering what it is you were really worried about anyway.
That of course, and whether now with all your acquired age and wisdom, and a you could just about get the swing over the bars after all. If you really, really tried….