I’m a hard-hearted beast, rarely do my eyes express saline for the sadder things in life. Its been a life-long affliction; on first watching Bambi thirty-something years ago, I came away not with a terrified sadness; nor a deer/rabbit-friendly warmth, but with a glee that venison would be fractionally cheaper in the future.
Ok, I do cry, and heavily. Contact lenses are cruel beasts. Yet at most things: films, music, sporting events: I can feel a slightly lumpy throat, but my eyes remain drier than a camel’s toe. So it was with a little surprise that on Wednesday I actually felt genuinely moved by something, to the point I honestly believed moisture could be detected in the corners of my eyes.
It wasn’t, before you ask, the result of a realisation of Tesco’s existence; neither the sighting of one of the increasing amounts of one-footed pigeons in Beestonia (have a look, i saw FIVE today), nor the pitiful dreadful mess that is my life and the contemplation of another fortnight stretching out a giro cheque to cover my lordly expenses, a task akin to a sufferer of dysentery retiring to the smallest room with a postage stamp to mop up his problems. Tough, but nope, its not drawn a single drip of sob-juice from me. My middle name is stoic.Yep. Well,nope, its actually Kenneth, but Stoic is better. Sorry, parents.
What got me was its purity of expression, it was a spontaneous, respectful outpouring that I am going to struggle to do justice in print: I recommend you go and look yourself if you are local, while it lasts. A Beestonian teenager called Chloe died recently, I have no idea how, and, except for a fuzzy idea of her face garnered from a black and white photo, who she was. Except she dies, and her passing was of such great sorrow to so many of their contempories they decided to mark it by a gesture that was both grand and understated at the same time.
Beeston’s Bandstand: that raised bit in the now-doomed square; was festooned with scores of bunches of flowers on tuesday evening, taped six-high to the flagpoles, carnations, lilys, roses, daffs and tulips all turning the normal sober square into a cornucopia of wonderfulness. A spread of tea-lights flickeringly glowed in an arc on the wall: I truly gasped at the incongruity of the sight. And I’m a cynic. So I initially blamed it on the florist who plies his trade on the precinct having a breakdown and taping his wares to any available surface before some demoniacally dysfunctional act involving a Venus Fly-trap, or some tiresome marketing promotion by some dull company, but no: the testaments, written on lined A4 in teenage script: dotted I’s, drawn in smileys proved me wrong. Slipped into plastic wallets to render them legible whatever the weather may force down, they were neither self-conscious nor mawkish; just honest expressions of sorrow, regret and respect. My eyes itched.
I know that the modern phenomenon of flowers tied to lampposts is deemed to be, by some as a bit naff, and sometimes it can be seen as a post-Diana thing, but I doff my cap: they are a secular form of respect, an almost paganistic marking of a tragedy, in tandem with the transience that occurs in death as well as much as life. I once was walking in the Atlas mountains in Morocco, when our guide informed me we were walking on a Islamic graveyard. I recoiled, and scanned around: aside from a few uneven tufts of grass, it was just a field. “Don’t worry” said Ibrahim, ” Dead be dead. They don’t mind”.
And yes, he was right. Commemoration of death is not for the dead, its for the mourning, which explains the intense intoxicating catharsis of the Wake. So to see this expression of grief so explicitly, so openly manifested was profoundly lovely. I don’t know who initiated it. I don’t know anything other than the above, but it doesn’t matter. I don’t mourn Chloe directly: I didn’t know her, so my little bit of weepiness was not for her passing, sad though it inevitably was to her friends; to her family, but to those that made such an effort to commemorate.
To them, I doff my cap, and take back anything I previously wrote about teenagers all being alcopop swilling, joy-riding, granny-mugging, N-Dubz worshiping misanthropists (which is, to be honest, only jealously as I appear to have suddenly become a man who views slacks as an option and recently listened to the Radio 1 Top 40 with no idea what the hell was going on).
Cheers, youthful Beestonians. Drop me a line if you know more about this/ initiated it. I’ll buy you a pint.
Though I’ll probably be back in work/ won the Lottery by the time you’re old enough to accept. Phew.