From my little bench under a tree in the town square, I'm quietly eating a sandwich and reading a very hefty tome by Charles Dickens. It is more than a thousand pages long and along with a chilled can of store own brand cola, it is an apt way to while away a pleasant lunch hour. Small sparrows chase each other through the air, children shriek with joy as they play chasey on the village green and a lady is walking her very small dog, coffee in one hand, mobile phone in the other and is chatting away to someone who probably can not get a word in edgeways (poor soul).
In the old scale, the mercury is well on its way to smashing through the century. It is hot enough that the tar on the roads is bubbling, hot enough that if you wanted to fry an egg on the pavement you could and hot enough that little kids are playing in the fountain in the town's square and having a whale* of a time.
Little Miss Six and her brother Master Four are looking for coins in the fountain. Between them they have probably not collected anymore than about a dollar at most, but for them, it is like looking for the treasure left behind by pirates... or it would be.
For out from behind the council chambers comes the big bad brown council Ranger who promptly tells them that "everything that is in the fountain belongs to the council" and that they are stealing. Little Miss Six runs away crying and Master Four angrily chucks what little he has found back into the fountain. He is very cross indeed and his eyes have become red with a combination of rage, disappointment and tears. Every coin that he throws back in makes a splash and with it, his fun also sinks back below the surface of the water.
The Ranger finds Little Miss Six' and Master Four's mother who is sitting not very far away and politely informs her that she could have been fined for allowing her children to take coins from the fountain. Not because of some Occupational Health and Safety reason but because those coins belong to the council.
How ridiculous is this?!
For a start, Mosman by income is the third highest per capita earning council in the country. I seriously doubt that they'd notice the loss of a couple of bucks from the fountain. Secondly, it seems oh so churlish and mean-spirited to tell off a couple of children for collecting coins in the fountain. Admittedly the Ranger is possibly only following a council directive but even then, all that means is that the organisation has the power to absolve someone from their actions. It says nothing for the fact that a small joy of childhood has been smashed to pieces.
I sometimes wonder about the sorts of people drawn to various uniforms. Police, Fire and Ambulance workers do so out of a sense of wanting to contribute something to their community. Military personnel join the forces because they want to perform an act of service to their country. Even the humble Postie who goes about with their little red motorbike, often does so because they want to meet people.
Rangers and Parking Inspectors though, probably do so because they secretly enjoy inflicting misery on other people. In their weird world it must be a joy to leave an offensive yellow envelope under the windscreen wipers; there must be some power kick in giving a telling off to a couple of children playing in the fountain.
I bet that in their world, the waters of the fountain are very sweet because they're not really waters at all but the tears of ten thousand children, all given a right scolding. These are the people who tell their own children that when the ice cream van is playing Greensleeves, that it has run out of ice cream.
The mother leaves the town's square with her two children, in tears. Perhaps they might be given an ice cream? Who knows. If they'd been the Ranger's children they would most likely not.
Mosman Council has on its crest a whale. It also bears the legend "Tutus In Undis" which in Latin means something but in Bogan means end of season footy trip (Tutus in Undies).