I came across Tim Hopgood’s Here Comes Frankie at my local library. Like a moth to the flame, I was attracted by the ‘shimmery shiny pages.’ It’s not truly about the city but something innocuous as a boy learning to play the trumpet. The narrative goes on to explore the quiet lives of the boy, his parents, his pets and his neighbourhood. “Ellington Avenue… wasn’t the kind of street where children played happily outside.” Having gotten past the ‘shimmer shiny pages’, it was that line that hooked me in. Nevermind that the children weren’t happily playing. Why weren’t the children outside playing full stop. What kind of street would invite children to play? For the past 10 years, I have lived and breathed in an understanding of children‘s enjoyment of their neighbourhoods. You already know my barometer of a good city. I was hoping that the story would unfold and answer my questions. It does to a point, a very very fine point. And I digress.
Onto the story: Frankie the boy decides he wants to play the trumpet. We are then introduced to the fascinating notion of synaesthesia or a union of the senses. When Frankie plays the trumpet, he hears sees and smells sounds. “The lower the note the darker the colour.” As his confidence in his trumpeting abilities grow, so does his music in transforming the quiet street into a place where his neighbours “started to tap their feet, clap their hands and dance to the sound of sunshine.” Adults and children alike dance as vibrant hues reflect the vivacity of the residential street.
Besides the fact that this book introduces an ‘inter-sense’ with beautiful imagery, I enjoy this book because it inherently presents these dual notions of outdoor play and community cultivation. I suspect this wasn’t Hopgood’s intent. Nevertheless, nothing like a sunny day to invite children to get outside. How even more special when small gestures initiate neighbourly connection. Be it sitting outside, sharing fruit or saying hello to the garbo every Wednesday. (All of which my ankle bitter has done). If that isn’t place-making, I don’t know what is. Certainly, dancing to the sounds of sunshine is my kind of urban imagined.
(Photo by Vivian Romero from the book Here Comes Frankie, Tim Hopgood)