I found myself walking through the gates of Chingford Park looking forward to a nice relaxing stroll. I put the thoughts of the campervan I had been following along a busy North Road at a frustrating slow pace to the back of my mind and headed for the tranquil surroundings of the park.
My intention was to photograph the Chingford Stables. The Stables were used from about 1872 to 1937 by businessman Percival Clay Neill of Neill & Co. At one point the stables were part of an extensive estate which included a homestead, stables, dairy, and coach house. After Percival Clay Neill’s death in 1936 the Dunedin City Council bought the property and developed it as a park and recreation grounds. Unfortunately the homestead was demolished in 1968, and the coachhouse in the 1990s, meaning the stables are all that remain of Neill’s estate.
It was these remaining stables that I had come to capture. I had not long begun my stroll through the extensive gardens when out of the corner of my eye I spotted a man with a dog watching me. Thinking nothing of it, I continued on to the stables. After carefully choosing a range of compositions, I set up my tripod and went to work. At some point, and I’m not sure when, I became acutely aware of someone watching me. With a creepy and uneasy feeling, I looked around me.
Suddenly the man walking his dog was no more than two meters away from me. He looked intently at what I was doing with a wired, manic look in his eye while his small dog was extremely keen to be let off his led and wasn’t happy at all with having his walk interrupted. For a second I honestly wasn’t sure if he was going to hug or punch me. Whatever it was, his dog clearly was the less agitated.
He spoke in a voice that was sharpish and bossy while announcing “it’s the trees you should be photographing, they will be gone soon. Thinking I had missed some giant excavation plan by the city council he then added ‘It’s the frisbee’s that are destroying them. They’ll topple them over soon. No bodies protecting them or caring for them.’ The abbreviated version of what was a lengthy rant is that he didn’t like the fact a frisbee golf course was in the park or maybe he had something against people enjoying themselves, at times it was hard to distinguish.
I took stock of what I was being told. I might be wrong, but it sounded like he was telling me that people were cutting down trees with plastic freebies! Without realising it, he was now deep into a tale of secret video cameras, arguments with lawyers, letters to the mayor and phone calls to the city council. His voice was becoming animated, his hand gestures dramatic, myself a little afraid and the dog extremely bored.
It was then that I decided I needed to separate myself from this conversation. If for no other reason than his little dog would be extremely grateful. It was now lying flat on the ground and looking very comfortable and had settled down for a long wait. Clearly this wasn’t the first time his walk had been interrupted in such a manner and I daresay it wouldn’t be the last.
It was at this point that I made a very grave error. When he said, and I quote
“I gave the fingers to a secret, hidden video camera” I foolishly replied with
“How did you do that if it’s a secret and hidden?”
Now I would like to be able to tell you what his reply was however I can’t, because I don’t entirely know what he said. It went something along the lines of knowing the general area and doing the fingers to where he thought it might be but then again if a UFO had suddenly appeared over head it would have been only the second strangest person or object in the park that day.
Seeing no other way to escape the conversation that I was now very much a part of I wished him well in his quest and turned back towards the stables. Sometime later, as I was making my way back to my car I watched a group of teenages making their way around the course. They were having the most terrific time and it did look fun. I hope that they hit a lot of trees!
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