I remember one day deciding with a friend that we would explore the very edge of our world. We jumped on our bicycles and set off resolutely in that general direction. After about 15-minutes, we had already entered an entirely new world about which we knew only rumor. Here, there were supposed to be roaming gangs that if they caught you, would carry you off to their secret lairs in the ‘blackgang’. We felt, well, very brave to have gone so far and to be in someone else’s territory.
Parking our bikes by the side of the street, we entered some gardens discovering a veritable paradise of willow trees and grass surrounding a small private pond. It was magical and it was someone else’s secret garden as we had hauled ourselves over a 6 foot brick wall to get there. To me, this was a secret and deeply mystical world. The grass and the drooping willows gently moving in the breeze stirred my imaginative juices and I recall sitting there savoring the atmosphere.
Of course, we were afraid that whatever Giant owned this garden, they would be miffed to find us trespassing there, so we shortly left taking one last long look back over our shoulders, hopping back on bikes and cycling down the street home just as fast as we could. We half expected to hear the thump of feet as we were chased down the street. We half expected to meet the members of ‘blackgang’ on the trek back. Of course, we arrived home safely and enjoyed a sandwich and fizzy drink in front of the TV.
I recall this expedition with clarity. I recall the feelings and emotions. I recall the secret garden at the end of the world. It was magical day in a magical childhood.
Not so long ago, I had an opportunity to go back to my childhood house in Westlands Rd., Hull. A quick stroll up the street, one block essentially, and I found that ‘blackgang’ was now a sprawling housing estate rather than the square of bomb damaged wasteland it was when I was growing up. Another block and I found a block of flats and peering over the brick wall, I was surprised to find the magical garden. It was much smaller than I recalled and there was just one willow tree there and a small muddy green pond unkempt and overgrown.
Imagination is an incredible thing. Far better than the reality we surround ourselves with. On the other hand, perhaps that reality is created through our imagination? In which case, we simply need to imagine better just like I did as a boy. Just like we all did when we were kids.