We’ve just returned from paying our respects to Gaz, the popular owner of Fingerprints cafe who died in a road accident a couple of weeks ago. The whole area has been in shock: Gareth was only in his thirties; his parents were still alive; he had, as they say, his whole life in front of him. And then one night an accident on a lonely highway took that all away. In the midst of life we are in a road traffic accident – and suddenly the whole of Clarendon Park is in shock.
The cafe reopened after a few days; then a note appeared in the window saying that the funeral cortege would pass by at 11 am on the morning of Tuesday 29th. Holly and I went down: as Fingerprints was closed we first had tea on the terrace of the delightful Salvador Deli and by the time we crossed the road a large crowd had gathered. In the end there must have been over 200 people come to pay their respects. They lined both sides of the road and many of the local shops had closed so that the staff could attend. Then the cortege came, slowly, slowly, with a man in full fig walking in front.
I hadn’t expected to find it so moving. Before the cortege even reached us, I was in tears, and by the time it drew level I was sobbing. I turned to see that Holly, too, was weeping, as were most of the crowd.
Then the whole street went silent. It was like Princess Diana’s funeral when the whole of London came to a standstill: I remember my parents were driving up on the M1 and they said all the cars slowed down and moved at the same speed as a mark of respect. The cortege stopped to take on an arrangement of flowers – the cafe’s tribute – and then it slowly moved off; one entire hearse full of flowers, then another with the coffin, followed by four or five limousines with mourners.
And then it was over. I came home feeling utterly drained; I don’t know if I even met Gaz, but the event struck a chord with me as it did with so many; not only because of his youth, but because of the kind of cafe Fingerprints is. We felt like family. I felt like a mourner.