The Park Pool, Kingswinford, West Midlands
King George VI Park has a grand name nobody ever uses. To us, it’s the Park Pool.
My first summit of the steel climbing frame happened here; my first adventure without Mum and Dad; my first date where I got a nosebleed and ran home looking like an extra from Casualty.
And presiding over it all, from a rusting green iron park keepers’ hut, a man who never changed, never cracked a smile:
Winding Ralph up was our favourite pastime. A glare over his chipped Wolves mug was a prize. Get him to swear and you’d won the game.
Then one day, three words changed Ralph.
On one side of his hut, a white painted legend appeared. Nobody claimed responsibility. But it was the only piece of park graffiti Ralph never removed:
Ralphy’s Surf Shack.
He still swore, still grumbled.
But every now and again, he would almost grin.
Thinking about the setting for my memory map instantly brought back the stories that accompany each detail. I spent my childhood playing at The Park Pool and hanging around it when I reached my teens; I walked to school across it; I met friends, made friends and lost friends here; and so much more. It made me realise how synonymous with stories the places from my life are, particularly growing up in the Black Country, where stories are currency. I used colour, collage and cartoon to bring my map to life and reflect the fun.