There’s a park in Belconnen called John Knight Park, a grassy and shady expanse on the shores of Lake Ginninderra. As I child I picnicked there with my family, paddled in the water (with or without permission), and played on the playgrounds. As a teenager I attended Lake Ginninderra College (which in Canberra means Year 11 and 12), and wandered out between classes to daydream that one day I’d wander there with the boy I liked.
I’ve been there for parties, barbeques, and dates. I’ve walked from one end to the other countless times, and often fallen asleep in the soft grass.
But before I knew it as John Knight Park, I knew it as “The Snake Playground”. One of the playgrounds is a veritable castle of tin and plastic slides (the former is extra exciting on a hot day), ladders and poles and bridges – all leading up to the highest chamber, where numerous snakes weave in and out of the wall gratings, guarding (presumably) great and terrible treasures.
I distinctly remember screaming while one of those snakes slowly swallowed me whole (if memory serves, my brother was giggling. Typical). I also remember wrestling a two-headed fiend, screaming for my life.
But best of all, perhaps, is the distinctive bulge some other child left behind one fateful day.
I think it’s a rite of passage on the North side for children who’ve grown up to return to the snake platform and be quietly surprised that the snakes don’t writhe in an untamed mass – don’t even TRY to eat visitors – and are in fact made of metal and paint. AND, to add insult to injury, there’s less than half a dozen actual snakes – when memory states they were beyond counting. There’s a moment of grief as all the memories choose to either edit themselves into a different shape, quietly disappear, or defiantly stay themselves – bloodthirsty and triumphant.
Mine stayed. Naturally.
CJ’s stayed too. He grew up on a farm North of Canberra, so when his family visited the city they were drawn to John Knight Park just as mine was.
And it’s worth noting that my teenage daydreams turned out rather better than plausibility would suggest. Perhaps my childhood daydreams aren’t as silly as they seem.
So if you take a pleasant ramble through John Knight Park on a sunny day, don’t forget to cast your eyes upward – way up to the very heights of the highest playground. If the childhood giggles filtering down from above turn suddenly to screams of terror – run. And don’t look back.