Take a seat – With love

“They sat on a park bench, held hands, and told each other their stories hour after hour. They were not lonely anymore. They had found and been found by their 100% perfect other. What a wonderful thing it is to find and be found by your 100% perfect other. It’s a miracle, a cosmic miracle”. – Haruki Murakami

“You know how you can be romantic? You can be romantic by going to a beautiful setting, sitting on a park bench, and getting good ole-fashioned golden arches, a.k.a. McDonald’s. That’s probably the best I can do romantically.” – Omari Hardwick

Love is what makes two people sit in the middle of a bench when there is plenty of room at both ends – Anon

Take a seat – In the country

“Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us. We need hours of aimless wandering or spates of time sitting on park benches, observing the mysterious world of ants and the canopy of treetop.” – Maya Angelou

The first stage of the roadmap out of COVID lockdown comes into place this week and most children will be returning to school. This first step will also see people allowed to meet up with one other person from outside their household for either exercise or recreation. At last a chance to meet up with a friend to have a coffee on a park bench. However, judging by what we see on our walks, this simply legalises what many people have been doing anyway. A government official announced “The PM thinks there should be no harm in two adults sitting on a park bench to enjoy a coffee and a chat. It’s a small but important step — one he hopes will start to raise people’s spirits.”

My next few posts will celebrate the humble park bench and other forms of outdoor seating. Even if you can only ‘visit’ them from the safety and comfort of your armchair perhaps these posts will raise your spirits a little.

As I searched for suitable quotes about park benches I came across the story of 24 year old Sam Wilmot from Bristol. Sam has visited hundreds of benches and gives them a score out of 10 based on comfort, design, location, and view.

City benches usually score one for location, countryside usually gets a two, and then a three is reserved for those with a special wow factor. There are also marks for arm rest, back support, an inscription or plaque, concrete base, whether it’s wooden, curvature of the seat and the final thing – that additional wow factor of whether it’s nicely carved or sculpted. His Instagram site – ratethisbench has amassed a following of over 12,000! Do you have a favourite bench?

St. Modwen

I have always liked this sculpture of St. Modwen, patron saint of Burton upon Trent. It is part of the Washlands Sculpture Trail on Andressey Island, an island formed where the river divides into two branches. It is by John Fortnum and was unveiled in 1995. Larger than life at some 14ft (4.2 metres) tall, official records simply describe it as ‘A statue of St Modwen without limbs’. Little is made of the fact that it is a wind sculpture whose head and shoulders turn to the prevailing wind and sounds are created as the wind passes through the steel strips forming the cloak. The statue is in a quieter part of the trail and washlands. I quite like this misty morning shot which gives the sculpture an ethereal quality. A lone figure patrolling the boundary or taking an early morning walk.

St. Modwen was a 7th century Irish noblewoman who built a chapel on the island in the Trent, and founded Burton Abbey. She spent seven years in Burton before embarking on a pilgrimage to Rome. Upon her return she built churches in the area and founded Burton Abbey. It is believed there was a well in the abbey with mineral rich water which was perfect for brewing, thus the very start of brewing in Burton, later to become the brewing capital of Britain. Today, the town’s parish church, St Modwen’s, is situated between the market place and the river and very close to the original site of the Burton Abbey.