This is my original blog for all our non-caravanning trips since 2009 and more recently posts about coming to terms with being single again having been widowed in 2018. And anything else too really!

My caravanning blog is (Get Your) Legs Down and all our trips in the caravan are there. My grog blog is The Ale Archive where I list every beer I’ve ever tried.

Trev’s Memorial Brighton College 5th Oct 2018 | Address by Steve Marshall-Taylor

Trevor and I bonded over parking. Lots of men talk about cars. Fast cars, old cars, big cars. Trevor and I talked a lot about where to park cars.

Trevor and I shared many a moment, stood in the quad, sometimes with the rain falling, or the wind blowing. I would look around us at the quad, rammed, packed full of cars, thinking that the pristine green lawns were the only space where another car could possibly go. And then I looked at the queue of cars trying to get through the gate. And the minibus of elderly visitors coming for Community Service. And the teams arriving for a match. And the perfectly organised line of Pre-Prep pupils arriving through Security. And the porterage van reversing across the quad. And then I would look at Trevor. In his hi-vis jacket. And when I looked at Trevor, in his hi-vis jacket, I knew that everything would be fine. It’s ok, I would think. Trevor’s here.

Nothing seemed to faze Trevor. It was a thing of beauty, almost an art form, to watch him coax and cajole a visitor from Clapham driving an enormous 4x4 into the tiniest parking space in a distant corner of the quad.

As ever, last week’s Open Morning was weeks and weeks in the organisation and planning. As a broader context, at one point, there were some question marks as to whether the Head Master, Richard Cairns could definitely make it. The first question on my mind in that meeting: how are we going to manage Open Morning without Trevor? Richard Cairns obviously plays a reasonably important role, but in my mind, the key gap we needed to fill was Trevor’s.

And that – I think you all know – is actually nothing to do with his ability to park cars, and everything to do with his ability to get on with people – how he treated people, us, how he made people – us - feel, how he interacted with us, from the very youngest to the very oldest.

Since the start of term, we’ve had a huge banner in front of the College library, shouting out into the quad the famous Henry James quote: ‘There are three things in human life which are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.’ Now, you may think that the banner was put there to disguise the current building works on the school library. But as I stood in the middle of the quad last Saturday, and looked around me, this time without Trevor next to me, the banner and quote felt much more profound than that: it was almost as if without the physical presence of Trevor in the middle of the quad, we as a school community had wanted to declare – to shout out – a huge, loud reminder of who Trevor was, a reminder of how he treated every person he met, a reminder of what made Trevor so very special to us all – be kind, be kind, be kind.

We talk a lot as a school about kindness. And the big banner is great, by the way. But when Trevor was stood there, or when he was stood at the top of the hill by the Pre-Prep entrance, we had no need for such reminders. Kindness is what Trevor lived and breathed. And we were all caught up in it.

As a Pre-Prep parents, Mandy and I saw this all the time. Tired, distracted, sometimes nervous children would be ushered out of the car by Trevor, swept up with a huge smile, a joke about the size of the bag or the crazy costume they were wearing; our children were caught up immediately in his reassurance, his friendliness, his kindness. That same emotion I always felt on seeing Trevor in the College, my girls I know also felt when they saw him – it’s going to be ok. The school day, the next step, the new adventure could begin.

I’m not sure there’s ever been someone like him at the Nursery and Pre-Prep. How many other staff would play tag with the children, hi-vis jacket flapping behind him? One little girl, now in the Prep school said of him ‘He felt like one of the gang, and he always made us laugh.’ The pupils loved him – apparently, on occasions when the pupils were all having to sit in silence, Trev would walk past them and secretly high-give them. ‘I think our teachers knew’, said a pupil, ‘but he was allowed to, because he was Mr Webdale.’

And if my daughters were reassured and given confidence by Trevor, we can probably multiply that a hundred-fold for the effect he had on us Pre-Prep parents, who would have exactly that same sense on seeing him at the school entrance or on the grass pitch or in the quad. It’s ok. Trevor’s here.

In the last few days, I’ve tried to reflect and to understand how he did this. How did he manage to reassure and connect with so many of us, of all different ages? I think I’ve unearthed a couple of what we shall call Trevor’s Secrets – Trevor’s Secrets, which could so easily have been the name of a new men’s underwear chain in Kemptown to rival Victoria’s Secret…sadly – I should say - it is not.

One of Trevor’s Secrets was that he smiled. Trevor smiled a lot. And he laughed a lot. I think that might sometimes have been quite easy at the Nursery and Pre-Prep, where it is not uncommon shortly after 8 in the morning to see the arrival of Egyptians, Aliens, Angels, Harry Potters and Demon Dentists walking through the gate. My daughters remember Trevor putting a pupil’s tie around his head, Rambo-style, and walking proudly around the play area for ages, making everyone laugh. Remarkably, even when Trevor was faced with frustrated NHS visitors or swimming centre drivers, or impatient taxi drivers, or simply us BC parents rushing madly to the next thing, Trevor still smiled. He smiled a lot and he made us smile a lot.

Trevor’s other Secret was, I think, that he knew us. He knew me. He knew each of my daughters by name. He would greet them by name as they arrived, often offering that sneaky high-five. He knew parents by name – although he tended not to high-five the parents quite so much. He knew us. We probably took that for granted; I know I sometimes did. But how remarkable, how powerful that in a big school, a big organisation, the very youngest, those arriving brand new, those feeling just a little bit nervous, might be greeted by someone smiling who knows their name.

His Secrets were – to us as pupils, parents, staff – amazing gifts. Reassurance. Confidence. Comfort. A sense of peace. And sometimes I know that I received those things simply by seeing Trevor or even - I know this will sound a bit silly – but at times I felt those things simply seeing the shiny red Honda parked nearby – whether at the Pre-Prep or in the College quad, I suspect we have all at some point whispered to ourselves: ‘It’s ok. Trevor’s here’.

And now – now we find ourselves still trying to come to terms with the fact that Trevor is not here – he is no longer physically with us. And in this moment, we want those very things that Trevor used to give us – reassurance, confidence, comfort, a sense of peace that it will be ok.

In the film Shawshank Redemption, one of the main characters – called ‘Red’ says this of his closest friend and companion:

“Some birds are not meant to be caged, that's all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. So you let them go, or when you open the cage they somehow fly out past you. And the part of you that knows it was wrong to limit them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live feels that much more drab and empty for their departure.”

As a Deputy Head and as a Pre-Prep dad, I feel incredibly lucky that we had Trevor with us at Brighton College for this time. I know that he and Richard travelled all over the place, often in their trusty caravan, often collecting a whole array of fridge magnets and souvenirs from the places they stayed. We were indeed lucky that Trevor – this man who brought such brightness, such colour, such life – that he landed here, that – in caravanning parlance – he and Richard put the legs down here, that Trevor was with us for this time.

He brightened up this place. Like Red in the film, we may sometimes feel that this place is more empty for his departure. But actually, I think we are more full. Trevor left his mark. He impacted so many of us, he made this place – by which I mean us – he made us more thoughtful, more open, more colourful, more kind.

We don’t need the banner to remind us; perhaps we just need to pause, to think about what Trev would have done, to remember his smile, his laugh, his stories, his contagious appreciation of so many things in life – and as we do these things, we know that we are changed, and our school, our friendships and our relationships are richer, more full, more colourful because of Trev.

So let’s make sure that we do think about him; let’s think about Trev often; let’s talk about him often; Let’s all follow Trevor’s Secrets, remembering to smile; remembering to invest ourselves in knowing each other, looking out for each other, having time for each other; as we do those things, we can say again, ‘it will be ok’. It will be – in just a very small way - as if Trevor’s here.

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