I do like to stroll along the prom prom prom,
Where the plaques and wreaths say “mourn mourn mourn”.
I went to Llandudno North Shore Beach where my kids and I played by the slides, pottered about the pebble beach and threw a few stones into the waves, and then sat on a bench for snack.
We sat on a perfectly normal bench, not a memorial bench. And yet it was one of three benches in a row by the promenade.
One had my twins eating crisps sitting on it.
The second had a mum and teenager girls sitting on it, looking around it, and then looking under it, all in search of a geocache.
Despite numerous passers-by, the third one remained empty.
Empty, but of course not empty. It was populated. It was populated by a recent memorial plaque inscribed ‘In memory of Brian Keith Armstrong, 1945-2015. He spent many happy times fishing on this beach’,
Adjacent, and taking up a large section of the back of the bench, was a wreath. Flowers were tied behind the bench.
This explains why it remained empty. Just like seats on a train, no-one wants to sit down on someone else’s lap, or next to someone else unless they can help it. The same human behaviour works here in relation to memorials. No-one wanted to sit next to the wreath or cover the plaque. The bench was for the living, but not really ready for them yet. It remained for the dead.
Me and my twins approached, and passers-by started to pay attention to us: why were we looking at the memorial? Why was I letting my kids look at it? I could also hear their silent questions. Keep moving, don’t contemplate too closely, don’t get too close…
Yet the dead are always by the seaside…
So just let me be beside the seaside,
I’ll be beside myself with glee,
And there’s lots of dead beside,
I should like to be beside,
beside the seaside, beside the sea.