Spending a lot more time in the park these days means I’m observing a whole other range of behaviour in people I don’t usually see.
If we get to the park early it’s what we call the ‘jog and dog’ crowd. (In truth the joggers seem to be there most times of the day but certainly in the morning you notice them more in the absence of other people.)
It’s not just the number of joggers I’ve noticed but the range of jogging styles. There are the people who seem to jog in what looks like a normal kind of jogging style. There are the not-quite-walking joggers who are moving marginally faster than if they were walking but not much. Quite often these are elderly people but not always. There are the sore-foot joggers who run like they have blisters on the soles of their feet, or their shoes are too small. They look like every step hurts them and I feel pained to watch them. There are huff and puff joggers who you really worry about because they are making such a noise and are so red in the face you really worry they are going to have a heart attack.
A lot of the dog people seem to know each other, or at least are used to making small talk with strangers while their dogs sniff each others’ bums. Having a dog is a lot more social than having a cat so it makes sense you would get to know other people who also have to get up early to take their dog to do a poo in the park (let’s be honest here, that’s what most of these people with dogs are doing).
I’ve noticed that most of the dogs in the park are ‘breed’ dogs. There aren’t lots of one type of breed, but there are pugs and spaniels and greyhounds and french bulldogs and a few bigger dogs like huskies and Alsatians and I think even a chow? Sorry, but I’m not a breed dog person. I don’t like the idea of something that has been genetically engineered to be defective, which most pedigrees are in some way. Give me a mutt where the strongest genes win and you’ll have something healthier, more intelligent and a lot longer lived. Also – not giving money to puppy farms which I won’t go into here.
Early in the morning is also the best time to find middle-aged hipster (or aspiring hipster) men at the skate park. Obviously they can’t come later in the day because the young folk who hang out late in the day will laugh at them.
Around 8.30am / 9.00am the people with babies and little ones appear in the park. This is probably on the post-school-drop-off circuit, but the knee high children tend to take over the skatepark at this time and the hipster blokes have to head off to drink cold press lattes or bake sourdough bread or write screenplays or do whatever it is they do. I like that you get a mixture of boys and girls at this time. Hipster Dads want their kids to skate no matter what their gender.
Early in the park you also get the pre-work personal trainers – and I’m thinking of one in particular who seems to have not paid any attention to social distancing rules throughout the lockdown. He’s been training his client on boxing skills for some months now. You do see a few other PTs around – you can spot them, they’re the ones standing, doing not very much, watching their client who is huffing and puffing and doing some kind of strenuous exercise.
Around mid-morning the yoga enthusiasts come out. It needs to be warm for these people. I think you need to be at a reasonably advanced level to do yoga in the park where people can see you. I’ve seen people doing sun salutations. And on a windy day, someone very impressively doing (and holding) a headstand.
Up near the museum on weekends you get the toddler crowd. This is another group who also don’t seem to care about social distancing. They have been gathering in spaces of less than 2 metres and letting their offspring play together. I know being at home with a toddler must be somewhere between boring and terrifying, and so it’s important to have a space to unwind in the company of other adult humans, but 2 metres is 2 metres. You can still talk across 2 metres.
The museum on weekend also has a farmer’s market on its grounds and that attracts the hipster grazers. By around 11am, all the benches in the area around the museum are taken up with people eating from cardboard cartons with their hessian bags full of organic vegetables at their feet.
There are ducks in the park. I still see people feeding the ducks bread and I have to swallow my annoyance. We’ve seen the baby ducks grow up from fuzzy little bundles back at Easter time into non-descript brown teenage ducks. One of the ducks must have started late with her eggs because last week there were new fluffy ducklings again. We like to pause on the bridge and look at the ducks, although recently the heat has not done wonders for the pond water and it stinks, so we don’t stand and look for long.
Bootcamp couples come out on weekends. These are super fit couples, but doing high speed exercise in tandem to get even more fit. I don’t like to watch them too closely. I would struggle to do that kind of workout by myself and know for sure that husband would never agree to join me.
My favourite member of the Park life is the Victory woman. I think she is doing some form of Tai Chi. Imagine you’ve just won a race and are stepping forward and lifting your arms above your head to the sound of rapturous applause. This is the movement she does. She does it slowly and repeatedly. The other day she was doing a forward step with a half bow. I decided that was her bowing to the cheering crowds in recognition of their applause. I hope when I am in my senior years I can also do the victory work out to the sound of cheering crowds.