February 22, 2012

River of flowers, Beckenham (22/2)



On February 22 last year, at 12.51pm, I was at the movies. I went from the movies to home to school, on wrecked roads clogged with traffic, drivers in states of shock or panic. At the school, or in the park next to it, all the kids sat in tidy, quiet groups with their teachers, waiting for their parents. It was the calmest thing when everything else around us was chaos. In places, liquefaction -- grey muddy water -- burst through the grass and pooled on the surface, creating piles of silt. There were aftershocks. But still the kids stayed put.

A year later, most of the same kids and many of the same teachers assembled in exactly the same place in the same way. Two minutes' silence, then balloons, a short speech, then class by class, they went to the river. Flowers came from home, from gardens, and were thrown into the river. I liked to think, as the flowers floated past, that some were coming from further up the river, from other sites -- other parks, schools, houses. Notes were hung from trees, some written by children, some by teachers, some by parents.