I had occasion to visit Kingston riverside last weekend and something quite remarkable happened. My Australian friend Karen, whom I met ‘virtually’ through DSN, arrived in the UK last week and she and her husband were staying with us as part of their European trip (of which I will write more later…)
Visiting Kingston was something of an emotional pilgrimage, of course, but there was also comfort in sharing and it was amazing to be able to show Karen the physical reality of Kingston rather than images. We walked and talked together and were rewarded by an unusual sight – the Royal Barge passed along the river just as we reached the point of really needing a lift to our spirits.
We stood by the barriers and I gazed out across the river, thinking of James and just ‘being’ in the moment.
Karen nudged me… “Look”, she said, “Watch that family …”
I became aware of a man, woman and two young boys who had just walked past us. The man stopped to look at the RNLI Tonne of Water installation. He called back the family.
Karen and I were not close enough to hear the conversation but it was easy to guess it from their expressions and their body language…
“Look at this, boys, you should read it and take note…”
the boys duly read the words and each tried ineffectually to push the installation, pitting their boyish shoulders against it and grinning ruefully when they couldn’t move it.
Meanwhile, Karen and I thought that mum was reading James’ plaque; she looked pensively out across the water for a moment.
The family spent a good five minutes examining the installation, reading the text, and obviously giving it some serious consideration before they moved onward.
I was briefly tempted to approach them and tell them of its personal significance… but it felt wrong to do so and it would have brought down the entire family’s day.
On this occasion it was sufficient to have such strong visual evidence that our work at Kingston is not over and done with. It continues, thanks to the RNLI and the other authorities who are involved in making our riverside a safer place for future generations.