Exploring Hinksey Park
“IT’S A TRAIN! IT’S A TRAIN!” Sophia, Sierra and Siobhan shout with childlike excitement.
They’re perched on a bridge in Hinksey Park, just a few blocks south of our flat at 76 Chilswell. It was a lazy Saturday and our best idea of what to do with our time was go to a park; we enjoy being loud, awkward college-aged children, this time with the added benefit of our accent placing us clearly as foreigners.
The bridge overlooks about four train tracks, where varying passenger and cargo trains go rushing underneath the feet of the bridge-goer. It’s long — with staircases, even — and just wide enough that Alex’s wingspan can’t touch edge-to-edge.
The bros (Oliver, Alex and I) were lagging behind, distracted by our brief photoshoot on the lower portion of the bridge. Trains are cool — “dope,” even — but we were a little confused by the joy for a passing train from three 20-year-old young women.
As they wave, the train honks and the conductor waves back. They squeal with excitement, and I (embarrassingly) holler and howl with laughter. We all wait for the next train to come to watch it wave and hear it honk.
We return less than an hour later, walking back toward home. Strangely, the bridge is populated now, with neighbourhood children and at least three dogs. In fact, we walk up to the bridge to see Sophia flopped on the ground talking to a timid dog named Bonnie.
A train comes rushing past, honking at waving children (including six American, college-aged ones), and the dogs go wild. Barking animatedly, they run back and forth between the rails of the skinny bridge, hoping to catch the train.
There’s a lot of joy in Hinksey.
OLIVER AND I ARE WALKING THROUGH THE PARK. It’s the first time I’ve seen it, and I can’t really see it. It’s late Friday night, nearing Saturday morning.
I’m staring up at some trees that could have been in the Pacific Northwest (something in the conifer family, but I’m no ecologist) as we walk along the perimeter of the lake, noting the way the leaves overlap each other, disappearing near the top due to darkness and my bad vision. We pass by a bench where, were it daytime, we could sit overlooking a beautiful view of the lake, filled with water fowl. Tonight, it’s far to cold to just sit and stare into darkness.
I’m called back to a summer trip in Portland, Ore., where I sat with a friend on a small lake much like this. We discussed painful parts of growing up: telling parents hard things, ending romances, losing friends. We watched the sky go from pink to dark and sat until the air was just too uncomfortable to sit in — something that makes me chuckle as I walk in temperatures near 0º C.
I don’t talk to this friend much anymore; something that’s sad when noting we discussed how hard it was to lose a friend. As I often reflect, that’s okay — some relationships ebb and flow stronger than others, and they can come back. What’s beautiful is how much they helped you and shaped you while you were with them.
Neither Oliver or I were having our best days prior to our cold adventure around Hinksey park. I, like any 20-year-old occasionally endures, was experiencing a moment of crippling self-doubt. Oliver needed some time to get into nature and take some photos.
We walk around the park and have a nice, cold chat, about how wonderful England is, how great life is, and just how much it can hurt sometimes.
That’s okay, I think — or maybe rationalise — because sometimes you need to share your pain to keep it away for longer.
IT’S STILL VERY COLD AT HINKSEY PARK THE NEXT DAY, ON OUR LAZY SATURDAY VISIT. The type of cold that permeates through the whole body, breaking through protective layers of fleece and windbreaker, leaving your ears burning when you get home and soak up the warmth at your flat (finally, after the furnace guy came more than 3 times in the last few weeks).
We spend thirty minutes standing at the pond, thwacking the thin ice with sticks. Each of us reaches into the frigid water, further turning bone into icicle, and launches a sheet of ice into the centre of the lake; hitting thicker ice, it shatters satisfyingly.
Forgetting the pain walked off in the cold the night before with a full dosage of laughter with a touch of childlike wonder — it feels incredible.
This story was written more than one week ago.
This Medium page contains short stories from my time abroad, like this one. The stories will be “creative nonfiction” as storytelling, not journalism. It will be honest, perhaps too honest, but quotes won’t always be verbatim and I will take some creative liberty.
It’ll include photos, but for a dedicated photo blog/journal, head to mattsalzano.tumblr.com.