Reflecting from Paul Van Looy’s memorial bench

Today I visited Paul Van Looy’s memorial bench …

One of the observations visiting various parks and green spaces around Southend, and on my occasional out of town excursions, is finding benches strategically placed, as a tribute to one or other loved one or ones that had died in the recent past. It strikes me as a splendid idea and, given that often I see floral tributes placed on such benches, meaningful tokens remembering those left behind. I often find myself sitting on these benches, and even having imaginary conversations with the deceased, a tiny few I knew or knew off, especially these days given my walking endurance has become somewhat limited. One of my favourites is in the Priory Park Secret Garden, where I often sit and meditate. If I have to offer a slight dampener, it is that the more popular locations are often inundated with such tokens of love and yet there are other places, where such places of repose would be welcomed, yet are absent.

This brings me to today’s experience of sitting on a memorial bench. Last year, Paul Van Looy, my local councillor died (see here for my write up). Paul was a larger-than-life character that was loved by many, including those he wound up (such as me), who contributed much to the local community. Soon after his death, local residents raised money, to pay for and install a bench in his memory. While I have passed the bench in my car many times, I have not sat in it – at least until today. Apparently, the idea had been discussed with Paul shortly before he died and he even gave instructions where to place the bench. It would be by what is a busy road, at a point where people would need to cross on their way to shopping at the local Waitrose Supermarket, along Eastern Avenue. Not an obvious choice to be sure, nor one I would choose, and hardly a tranquil setting, unlike with my aforementioned favourite location, but I understand Paul’s rationale was something along the lines that old dears and families might appreciate a sit down when going to or coming from doing their shopping. I spent a happy few minutes there and paid my respects to my old friend. It occurred to me after, if anyone has the bright idea when I am gone to put up a bench in my memory, I would like it to be installed in Blenheim Park, in the segment entered from Blenheim Chase, just past the school I once attended, and where I spent happy hours playing as a child.  

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