The fast and the furious

Lately Amelia and I don’t take a lot of walks. I am either working or cooking or driving us to and from shops, play dates, my mum’s house, etc. Yesterday it was the most spectacular spring day and after lunch I decided we should hit the pavement and enjoy some of the springy (but unfortunately smoggy) air. Amelia climbed into her stroller and away we went. I can’t remember the last time I took any exercise at all so it was a good day to start afresh.
After a good twenty minutes or so I was feeling completely exhausted and we ended up at our local playground. It’s a run-down little place hidden away in a back street which we have nicknamed the ‘secret park’. That makes it seem much more exciting and enticing than it really is, for in truth I find it kind of bleak and sad but it’s the closest to home and Amelia enjoys it enough to visit it from time to time. I also end up feeling quite uncomfortable spending huge amounts of time there because it’s quite isolated and I am a paranoid “they’re gonna get us” kind of person. These days I recognise that this is kind of silly so I do my very best to ignore my gut and rationalise with myself; “they’re not going to get us, they are busy doing other things” and so on.

I was doing a good job of it today, until a shambly kind of guy came striding through the playground. “Hello!” he called to us cheerfully. I said hello cheerfully back. I don’t think I sounded terribly forced – brave face and all that. Amelia immediately loudly said “who’s that?” and I had to say “I don’t know – I guess someone who lives around here.” and the shambly guy, who was still striding by was kind enough to say “A stranger!” and give a kind of chortle. Not exactly a wicked cackle but most definitely a chortle. So I was feeling a little less brave as he disappeared around the corner. We moved on to the swings and as Amelia stuck her feet up high in the air in front of her, I noticed another man striding down the path looking intensely at us as he strode. I can tell you now that my heart rate quickly jumped higher than it had been after the Lost finale and all those jelly snakes on Thursday night.

Here were the things about him that made me feel uneasy.

a) He had a bald head

b) which is obviously not bad in itself but he also had a large bull neck

c) and he had a huge bushy moustache

d) He had little round sun-glasses on

e) He was wearing a woolen button-down black shirt covered in sewn on badges and black track pants and big boots

f) and finally -(and I kid you not) – he had a pick-axe swinging at his side!

He kept staring at us all the time he walked through the playground, and his jaw was jutting out in a most aggressive manner. All the while I kept pushing Amelia on the swing making small talk (in a thin, high, terrified voice) with her about Buzz and Woody, trying not to make eye-contact with this creature from my worst, most paranoid daydream. I know, I know. I am prone to exaggeration for the sake of a good story but he really was there, really and truly – with a pick-axe.

After I was sure that sudden movements would not incite him to come charging towards us, I whisked Amelia (loudly protesting) off the swing and bundled her into the stroller and seriously gunned it home. I didn’t know my legs were still capable of moving so fast. I had to lie on the sitting room floor for a good fifteen minutes afterwards while my body recovered. Wow! Now that was a good workout.

So I have successfully started my new exercise regime and confirmed all my worst fears about being out of the house all in one afternoon!

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40 Responses

  1. Ew. That’s way too creepy, Claire. But the way you described it and illustrated it was so fantastic. I scrolled down frantically with my mouse to see what happened next!!
    I reckon you won’t be frequenting the secret park anymore?

  2. I’m sure it wasn’t so funny at the time, but your story made me laugh out loud. The pictures of him getting progressively creepier are just brilliant. Glad you made it home in one piece!

  3. oh, how terribly frightening! Here’s for looking on the bright side–you got a great work-out, a little adrenaline is good from time to time! (haha)

  4. Lucky you – you saw my dad! Tee hee, only joking. And don’t worry – I get paranoid about very quiet parks, too!

  5. Wow — you had my heart pounding too! I almost feel like *I* got a workout right along with you.
    Love how you built up the suspense with the illustrations. Brilliant!

    Glad to hear you and Amelia made it home okay. 🙂

  6. Great post Claire! Welcome back to your blog. :)Fantastic illustrations.

  7. Whoa..that sounds like quite a creepy experience, even if the illustration is funny. Good thing you scadattled rather than waited around to see what he’d have done.I had a “beware the stranger” experience when I took my niece to the playground in Reservoir. A car follwed us there from the corner shop, then the guy sat parked near us and had his camera phone out the whole time. After a while I whisked my niece home in the opposite direction, and out of the corner of my eye, saw him leave right after we were out of plain site. Not good!

  8. Creepy! That would be so scary! A pick-axe?! I think it’s safe to guess that you won’t be going to that playground for awhile.. I would’ve had a heart attack!

  9. oh my! that’s horrible. I have definitely been in similar situations with my bebes (though no pick axes involved!) and it is so difficult to control the urge you have to run screaming at the top of your lungs for help… sounds like you kept your cool (no small feat!) and got in a rather nice little session of cardio…
    by the way, I loved the way you told the story by building onto the character. made for a fascinating blog read.

  10. You poor thing! This sounds like an instance of manifesting one’s worst fears! Was he perhaps running late for a working bee of some kind, perhaps to help pull up some concrete at the local kindergarten?? The mind is a marvelous and boggling thing..By the way, I started a new blog today!

  11. Yikes! That is truly BIZARRE! I live in a town with lots of guys that look like that. Its easy to feel intimidated. The pick-axe would have had me running for my life!

  12. Oh my goodness! What a fright that must have been! You illustrated it very well, for as I was scrolling down the page reading I found my heart beating faster, then faster still. When I got to the pick-axe I froze. I can’t even imagine experiencing such a thing in person. I’m glad you are both safe, and remember that the only intuitions that are foolish… are the ones you don’t listen to. Hugs, Ez

  13. I know you probably didn’t intend that anecdote to be funny – but the way you ‘showed’ the scary man in ‘frames’ piece by piece, was very very funny.
    I can symppathise – I live in a less-than-posh neighbourhood and am constantly sure that that dodgy person on the street is going to be “the one” that drags me off behind a bush. Just part of the joys of being a woman in modern life, I guess…?

  14. Oh wow, what a creepy-sounding guy! Although the illustrations of him made me smile, he did sound quite scary. I would have done the same thing and ran home. You really can’t be too sure these days …
    Anyway, I love your site, I visit it quite often but I’ve never commented on it before. You’re so talented and I love your drawings and whatnot. 🙂

  15. wow! i dont know if i should laugh, or be worried..i mean, a pickax? yikes! glad you are both safe, the illustrations are so adorable and really add so much effect to your story of your scary day! :O

  16. says:

    That story would have been scary enough but with the illustrations it’s REALLY scary. A PICK-AXE for heaven’s sakes? I’m sure he was just on his way to chop down a hedge or something but did he have to stare at you? You were very brave I think.

  17. It’s good to take and remember description about this person. I’d even notify the police (in a calm, concerned way) and let them know about this individual. It could be nothing but it’s better to be safe!
    I’m a bit on the paranoid/secure side but it’s better to be safe than sorry! Take care!

  18. wow – you are such a great storyteller
    glad you arrived home safe and sound and had the presence of mind to draw your own identi-kit in case anything happened in the neighbourhood 😉

  19. says:

    What a great post. I was holding my breath…too creepy. Proves my theory…the suburbs and the bush can be as creepy as all hell!

  20. says:

    Oh, that is a positively marvellous story! Ha ha! I’m going to drag you out for walks now.
    Being a playground advocate I’d love to say ‘you’ll be right’ and all that, but isolation is one thing that savvy councils try hard to avoid. If you come across creepy people in a park where no one can see you, you are very vulnerable. And councils don’t like people getting up to mischief in their playgrounds!

    You’ll just have to get fitter and walk a bit further to the next playground!

  21. Yikes! I would have reacted the same way…I’m not the bravest person in the world when it comes to odd creepy people. Do they think it’s normal to walk around with a pick axe? Is there a situation where you might actually need a pick axe on a suburbian playground??? Better safe than sorry…I’d wear exercise clothes the next time for an even quicker getaway. 🙂

  22. I loved the illustration buildup, but when you got to the part about the pick-axe, I totally lost it and laughed so hard the bed shook. Thanks.

  23. well… the second guy certainly sounded scary… but the first ‘cheerful’ one sounded not too bad… I kinda like it when total strangers say hello cheerfully on nice days.. maybe I would feel different if I felt responsible for a little one 🙂 either way… funy post 🙂 x

  24. Hi:
    I’m a big believer in if you feel uncomfortable somewhere leave. Your brain may be trying to tell you someting.

  25. im so glad to see your blogging away again! Your story was fantastic–loved the way he got creepier and creepier! the pick axe was crazy! im sure it was scary at the time, but funny the way you write it. My husband and I have foudn ourselves more paranoid when we have the kids with us (which is funny since we both have visible tattoo so we probably look like the creepies) But for instance we were on the subway once in new york city with the kids and this odd shambly fella across from us kept saying how he was going to kill him, just kept mumbling “im going to kill him KILL KILL KILL him” over and over. I motioned to tom and we got off at the next stop, feeling much safer. When we talked about it later we realized had we been alone without the kids we would have just thought “what an odd man” and nothing more. Its just when the kiddies are involved everyone becomes a bad stranger!!

  26. I am one of those people that think ‘they’ are after me..even in a busy playground (something having children does to us i think) If i had been there today, after seing a dodgy looking ‘stranger’ i would have ran home screaming, locked all my doors, put my pj’s on and cuddled up on the sofa with my family… brave brave girl.Nat.
    P.S. (waves) hellow, i’m natalie, i love you blog, great creations.

  27. Great story – great illustrations. I would have reacted the same way. I wonder what the dude was doing with a pickaxe? That’s weird. And what a jerk for doing that through a kids playground. Are you going to call the cops?

  28. OMG Claire! That turned into a scary adventure, but you turned it into a very exciting and entertaining blog post. Clever!

  29. good grief! a pickax?! maybe he was on his way to do some hardcore gardening? well, I’ll never grumble about our unbelievably crowded neighborhood park again.

  30. My lord! But he looked like such a friendly pick-axe wielder!

  31. i too am paranoid, is it since becoming a parent do you think? i check the windows sometimes in the middle of the night to make sure they are all locked, and sometimes i even have to check that the kids have not been stolen in the night.
    the responsibility of parenthood is huge, looking after these helpless people – being their protectors making sure no harm befalls them.

    And claire, welcome back to blogging, missed you. love all the other things – the everyday stories, not just the craftiness.

  32. says:

    ok. step one-call the police and give an account. 2. take a self defense course from your local cop shop 3. stop going to secluded parks until you take said course 4. wear tennis shoes.nice story, nice build up, nice crawings, nice result.

  33. if he had a hook and a patch and a pegleg, it would have been way better. too bad you didn’t have a camera with you….

  34. can’t believe he had a pick-axe!!!
    i love your illustrations of him though…..

  35. i love the description buildup! and then the pick-axe.. YIKES!

  36. says:

    Playgrounds attract weird men, that came clear to me when i worked with children. We had to call the police couple of times. I get so mad at these people…How dare they come and ruin others day!

  37. heh, sorry that you were scared, but was a funny story :]
    Im sure he was just a local borrowing his neighbours pick axe, for some tree stump removal or body burying or soemthing ;p

  38. EEEEEEP! I’m with you on the creapy feelings. I have very little regard for my own safety, but when it comes to that of my child I become Super Paranoid Girl! Able to spot a suspicious character a mile away. My motto as SPG is “I’m paranoid, but am I paranoid enough?” I say you did the right thing by skeedadling. Way to go on turning it into a fantastic illustration. I was definitely giggling by the end. Keep Safe!

  39. Ha ha! I’m not laughing at your plight (I would have been scared too), but I loved scrolling down to see more details of the pick-axe creep. I love your illos!

  40. says:

    That was a cool trip!