Richard Warren

"Clearly I tap to you clearly along the plumbing of the world" (W S Graham)

Tag Archives: boundaries


The “park” is less a park proper than a vast, levelled, uninterrupted area of urban grassland – what used to be known as a recreation ground. A playground and a sports cage occupy one end, and a pair of drooping goalposts the other. Along the far side a tractor pulling a mower spews out clouds of grass cuttings. At intervals a middle aged man appears on a motor scooter, riding up and down the turf for no apparent reason other than recreation. Under the relentless sun my two year old grandson and I kick a ball around inexpertly by a bench at the perimeter. There is no one else much about.

Except for an oddly thin young man walking rapidly inside the otherwise empty sports cage. He circulates the inner face of the wire compulsively, sometimes pausing at the corners as if to get his bearings. At present he is moving anti-clockwise. He keeps his head as close to the mesh as is manageable, holding his left hand with palm and fingers flat to blinker his eye, so that his field of vision is filled by the pattern of the wire. From time to time he reverses direction, changing hands. He does not venture out of the open exit, and he does not deviate inwards across the open tarmac. Nearby, two people who I take for his minders wait by a small white van.

I watch him for a while. He is engaged in the maintenance of his boundaries, checking the vital security of their closeness, reinforcing and repairing the borders of his known space. By so doing he allays, from moment to moment, the anxieties that threaten to overwhelm him, defends his sense of self against the horror of the vacuum. Good for him. I don’t blame him.

While I have been preoccupied in watching, my grandson has toddled off across the grass at an astonishing speed, heading for the enormous, empty heart of the sunlit plain. The inverted flower pot of his sun hat bobs to the rhythm of his running; his hands dangle decoratively, but his short legs shunt like pistons. His diminutive silhouette finally comes to a distant halt under a huge sky and turns to look back at me.

There are no obstacles or pitfalls, no discernible danger in the featureless field; no one else is anywhere near. The motor scooter man can no longer be seen, and the tiny tractor is still busy mowing on the far side. My grandson is free to run as extravagantly as he likes into the exhilarating openness. But I hear my voice shout out: “Kieran, don’t go too far!”

I am recalling him to his boundaries.