Whilst I was at The Field, as we Stoke Gifford villagers imaginatively call it, last Saturday afternoon, two young lads, Luke Bartley and Dave Talbot, along with their respective partners, were carefully removing the flowers from beside the football clubhouse. These were the flowers laid by the family and friends of Ben Hiscox following his tragic accident just over a month ago. And there were loads of them, many more than any of us realised. I have seen many floral tributes in my life, but nothing to rival this one.
Luke and Dave had brought with them a number of black refuse sacks. Their concern was they might not have brought enough. The more flowers they removed, the more they found. Luke shook his head in amazement.
Most of the flowers were tired and dried out. From a distance, it still looked like a beautiful display, but on closer inspection most had seen better days. There is no right time to remove something like this. It just happens when those closest to the departed feels it is the right time. I think they got it bang on.
As we know, nothing good came of Ben’s accident and how could it? A fine young man taken away in his prime. Nothing positive there. But what about the aftermath? I have definitely seen some light in the darkness.
The tribute stayed in place for over a month. It was in a public park, unsupervised, unguarded. In the back of my mind, I worried that some idiot might trash it or even remove some of the artefacts. It only takes one person to spoil something good. But no one did. No one took the footballs, no one took the little radios, no one took the shirts ands flags and no one took the chocolates. And the flowers, with their lovely messages, were untouched, barely disturbed by the wind and rain. Do you know what that says to me? Ben Hiscox was a lovely, lovely man, but he lived in a community of lovely, lovely people, many of whom probably didn’t even know him There are always young lads by the field, having a smoke in their boy racers, kicking a scruffy football round. Maybe some of them might do something silly? Oh, ye of such little faith. I forgot that I was once young, a daft scallywag who did a lot of stupid things that I am not proud of. But it turned out that they had as much respect as anyone else.
So when the flowers were removed, nothing really changed. No one had forgotten anything that had happened. We had simply moved on to another level, another stage of recovery but still another stage of the loss. In their place, as I saw tonight, were a couple of footballs and some beautifully fresh flowers. It was no less of a tribute, no less of a memory.
I get the sense that the community is still very much together. Time has not dulled the pain but I feel a sense of moving forward, of sustaining Ben’s memory and helping the family get by because, I am very aware, they carry the greatest burden, the greatest loss. We have a void in our lives, they have a chasm.
I spoke with Clive Hiscox, Ben’s dad, earlier this week and together we are meeting to talk about a new, exciting project that will sustain the memory of Ben and keep the spirit alive. We are going to write a book. We already have a working title, I have a fair idea of what the cover will look like and how we will go about writing it. The small matter of writing the actual content could be the tricky bit, but it’s going to happen, so watch this space. It will take an enormous amount of work because the subject matter had an enormous personality and tucked a great deal into his short life. We have done a lot of crying lately and the challenge now is to celebrate the joy in his life and the happiness he gave others.
The flowers have gone from the clubhouse now, but don’t worry. It doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten. In fact, it means the opposite. We’re going to do something very special, something that will keep the memory alive and we want everyone who knew the great man to be part of it.