Half way through our morning constitutional stroll around the West Kirby marine lake, we came across Mabel.
Mabel died in August 2011.
In memory, somebody kindly paid for a brass plaque to be placed on a welcoming bench on the South Parade not far from the stack of boats inside the West Kirby Sailing Club. To be fair, there are benches every 30 metres or so along the parade, and nearly all of them have memorial plaques on them.
What was different about Mabel, or at least her plaque, was that it didn’t follow the usual boring format. I use the word ‘boring’ cautiously, because wanting the memory of somebody to live-on after they have stopped existing, and paying for a bench, or contributing to the upkeep of the bench, in return for the local council (I assume) mounting a brass plaque seems a pleasant and thoughtful thing to do. However, the most common wording on plaques is usually, ‘In memory of … full name … Date of birth … Date of Death.’ Sometimes a solemn phrase like ‘Sorely missed’ or ‘Remembered for always’ or ‘Rest in Peace’ or similar is added.
Instead of this, the brass plaque with Mabel’s name on it said, “Somewhere Beyond the Sea, She’s there Watching for me.”
We were resting on the bench having walked around the outer side of the marine lake, having started at the northern most end. To explain, the inner side of the lake is walled by the promenade just lke any sea-front, whilst the outer side of the lake is actually a wall with a width slightly less than a single track roadway. To one side of the walkway there is the water of the marina. To the other side is the water of the sea. Or maybe it’s technically still the river Dee. This no-man’s land is the estuary of the river and its connection to the Irish Sea. Large areas spend low tide as extremely dangerous muddy sand, but have tidal sea covering them at high tide.
Walking along the relatively narrow wall and walkway when the tide is high and all there is is water to left and water to the right gives a slightly weird feeling of, well, vertigo. It’s as if you are actually walking on the water and will fall in and drown at any second. During spring tides and extremely bad weather the water and waves break over this walkway and would happily sweep away anybody stupid enough to be on it. This knowledge adds to it feeling a little odd to walk on despite it being a hot and calm day.
Hence why Mabel’s bench provides a welcome rest for survivors before they head back north along the much safer feeling promenade. And it’s why we were sitting there thankful to have once again survived undrowned.
After a while Mabel’s plaque caught my attention. The “Somewhere Beyond the Sea…” triggered something inside my head. I was puzzled for quite a while. It was a poem. No. It was a song. Dammit, Google became my friend as we sat there burning in the sun.
It was the 1946 song made famous by Bobby Darin in 1959, but I recognised it more as being sung by Frank Sinatra. I found it on Youtube and played it. Well, I played it for Mabel. We sat there singing along, with some passers by stopping and listening to my brief and somewhat awkward explanation. Soon for a tiny moment in time we had a small choir smiling and singing for Mabel.
Eventually we all went on our way.
But I got a little bit OCD about Mabel and her song. Firstly I tried to find anything on the net about Mabel, but whilst there were plenty of near misses, there was no Mabel Agnes Prescott. Yes, I could look a bit deeper, but that seems almost a bit stalkerish, so I have left it as a failed Google search.
All I know about Mabel is what her bench told me. She was born in May 1920. That’s just 94 years ago almost to the day. She died in 2011, being 91 years old. 91 seems a fair age to reach, but what of her life? I know nothing.
Maybe Mabel was just a regular person leaving nothing behind for Google to unearth, but she left a bench. Or somebody who cared and loved her, left the bench.
And what of the song? Did it mean something to her? Love lost across the seas during the war? Did it reference her love of the sea? Did she have a crush on Bobby Darin or just love the song? Or is it a more subtle reference to death and the meeting up again with loved ones in heaven that many believe happens, which indeed the lyrics to the love song could easily be about? Or is the song more from the person who organised the plaque and expresses their feelings about Mabel, in that respect?
Mabel Agnes Prescott has a complete story from birth, through childhood, and into adulthood. I wonder what it is.