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John Howard Reid

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A Lost Paradise
by John Howard Reid
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Rated "G" by the Author.
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It was a rude shock yesterday to be suddenly surrounded by six burly officers of the law and asked if I had taken a photo "at the school". In fact, I had not. I'd taken a photo in a public park adjacent to the school of trees and clouds in the park itself. I had not photographed any children, although it was possible that a small corner of the school's fence which obtruded into the park at an odd 45-degree angle, had been captured on the photo. I was then told it was illegal to take photos of the school itself (including its fence), whether or not any persons at all were present. "If that is the case," I answered, "then my wife and I will be suing the school for damages. For when I bought my house from the school 18 years ago, it was on the tacit understanding that we would be welcome to photograph their beautiful grounds whenever they were empty."


 

A Lost Paradise

 

We bought this house, my wife and I,

because we loved our next door neighbor:

the local school, the loveliest in all the world!

 

The building itself with slanting roof

and misplaced gable, held a certain charm,

but it was the grounds that held us spellbound:

 

Towering trees that raised their branches to heaven;

long, sweet grass with scents of spring, and blossoms of

red and purple frolicking in the wake of every passing breeze.

 

Exotic birds of paradise, mingled with doves and sparrows,

called to their mates with sweet twitterings of sibilant chatter

that never ceased from a carpet of dawn to a bedspread of dusk.

 

And it was ours! Ours to share at any time of day or night,

for a long-established pedestrian laneway that never closed,

ran into the school between our home and a house-next-door.

 

But times change! The first sign of trouble ahead came in a letter

from the new headmaster, seeking our support to petition council

to close the lane. To their everlasting credit, residents in the street

 

opposite (who used this shortcut to frequent friends in another road

behind the school) created such a collective howl of protests, council

negated the idea in an instant. Council elections were coming up. This

 

was no time for controversy. Council wrote the headmaster a nice long-

winded letter that in effect said, “No! Not in a million years! It was right

against council policy to alienate public laneways or close rights of way.”

 

A victory for Paradise! The gates were wide open. Birds continued their

praises, and weary residents could trudge home from work and stores

while resting minds and invigorating spirits in the grounds of Eden.

 

It didn’t last of course! A more enlightened headmaster got police

onside by pointing out the dangers of traffic to young limbs at a

blind spot on the corner. The police suggested the laneway

be locked and only opened at starting and finishing times when

children could be supervised. And so gates were installed

and padlocked, and only opened for a mere half-hour,

 

morning and afternoon.  Within six months our precious right of way 

was locked and barred forever. But if Paradise was closed, we could

still enjoy the view, take photos of our favorite trees against the sky.

 

“Not any more, you can’t!” said a minion of the law the other day.

“Since when?” I asked. “You never could! Taking photos at a

school is illegal.” “Since when do God’s trees belong to the

 

school, His clouds and skies, His birds and insects, His

grass and flowers? If we are not permitted to cherish His

gifts, we would not have bought a house next door at all!” 

 

John Howard Reid

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Reviewed by John Flanagan
John,
A well told story with a salient point, but the text is in serious need of cleaning up; in its present presentation it's frustrating for the reader.

John
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