Last week on the 10 th September I met up with some old friends and looked around our old house (how happy) and now I’m writing a piece for the local paper (how exciting). However, the reason for these events is neither happy nor exciting.
We have a great group of friends from our University years in Bristol. But one of our group, Charlotte Jones, was killed in the Boxing Day 2004 tsunami. She was only 24. This was a gathering of old friends that tasted a lot more bitter than sweet.
When somebody dies a vacuum is left where they once were. When that person is especially young, vivacious and has such a strength of character as our friend did, then the vacuum is too large to plug. Too large to plug with funerals, with consolation or with trivial distractions. What results is a strong individual desire to try to straighten the glitch that has been torn in the order of the world.
To remember her by we thought it appropriately cheeky to rip-off the establishment’s choice of commemoration for great people. So about 20 of us, including Charlie’s parents and some friends from her home town in Hampshire, gathered on Collingwood Rd in Redland. We erected our own version of English Heritage’s blue plaque. It is fixed to the wall of the house where our best memories are set. We came to say a few words, and have a minute of quiet contemplation. During the silence I took in my surroundings. I stared at her old bedroom window, which looked out over the front garden, and I was overcome by memories of our student years, where time seemed to slip by unnoticed. These memories have now become so heavy and poignant.
There we were, all of our friends, all of us standing there. But instead of Charlie there was a blue circular piece of pottery. Hardly a replacement for her colourful personality, her boldness and loudness, with hidden depths and intelligence (and crazy dreadlocks!). What a waste.
The unveiling of the plaque was punctuated with a thirty-barrel party popper salute. Then, in a fitting tribute perhaps, everyone got inebriated.
To compensate for some of Charlie’s potential that was lost last Boxing Day, her friends and family have been fundraising. Her family have started up “Char’s fund” which it is hoped will soon be a registered charity.
This will go to a scholarship for a girl from the Thai island of Racha Yai, where Charlie was swept away. The gift of education is one it is hoped will continue to correct that random deadly violation for many years to come.
If you want to donate any money to Char’s fund it would be greatly appreciated. You probably didn’t know her, but if you had you would have remembered her. You would understand how much this fund means to all who knew her, and moreover, how much it will mean to the child that it is going to help. Our friend will survive in this scholar’s achievements. And she will always be that irrepressible young character in our memories.