‘Playground Number 12′

Standing in a pool of watery engine oil in the middle of  the Winnie Mandela block on the Swamp Estate at the edge of Ruraltown at 9.00 pm is probably not the best time to be trying to remember the name of a song.

‘Winnie’ as it is known locally, is a giant low-slung concrete square. There is a handy drug dealing area in the middle of this area, known locally as ‘Playground Number 12′. The Orwellian name ‘Playground Number 12′ is actually a misunderstanding of the words left on the original sign which said ‘Playground No persons over the age of 12′.

Legend has it that after being set on fire, spray painted and shot at, the sign read ‘Playground No. 12‘. The local council used National Lottery money to ‘re-invigorate this exciting communal space using locally based community volunteers’. When it came to a new sign for the play area, no one involved could speak proper English so the replacement was made in the manner of the vandalised original. This is how Playground Number 12 came into existence, and I always think it is a perfect social comment on the whole area.

When we ask local youths where they get drugs they grin ‘Up at the twelve’. Tonight, I am ‘up at the twelve’ and apart from the discarded, used condoms all over the ground, I am alone. The condoms have been used for bringing drugs into the country and are, how can I put this delicately, ‘expelled’ in a squatting position by the mules under the swings after dark. The more professional mules swallow drugs, the swamp mules stick them elsewhere. Condoms are not used for birth control here; reproduction and the subsequent child benefit payments on this estate are a major source of income. Along with being a mule.

I have come here as part of a ‘Tasking’ which has promised local councillors that we will see if it is true that Playground Number 12 is a ‘no-go area’ after dark. If the definition of a ‘no-go area’ is that no one goes there, the councillors are correct. There is indeed, no one here. I do these tasks myself to save emergency response patrol time (the only officers out after dark) and so that I can get an idea of what disturbs the good citizens of the leafy suburbs 10 miles away.

The place is deserted except for me and some foul evidence of the presence on board flight 713 from Kingston, Jamaica of a mule from the ‘Winnie’.

I remember the song. It is Pleasant Valley Sunday, the version by The Wedding Present, not the Monkees original.

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