Quite often, Karen and I train at a theatre school called Sylvia Young. It is near Radio 2 and the ladies at reception are always ultra-friendly. We sign in and spend hours on the second floor. We turn on our Bluetooth boombox and play our song again and again. This week it is “She” by Elvis Costello.
In the corridors outside the room, children who attend the school hurtle up and down the corridors, full of mischief and conversation.
Eventually we need a break. The break is part of the routine too. We walk out of the building, often in the dark, and past the Marriott Hotel to the Edgware Road. We have a rule ― anything but dancing. So our conversation ranges over football, films, even love. Our families. Travel. Our personal histories. What we like. What scares us. What excites us. The future.
We buy coffees and we sit on a particular bench outside the dance school. Usually we laugh, but one day we stopped.
You wonder why we are looking serious. It’s because, after a few breaks on that bench, we took the trouble to read the plaque.
The close-up tells you why we fell silent. Saffron was a little girl of twelve when she died. She had just been accepted by the Sylvia Young Theatre School. So she would have become a dancer, or maybe an actress.
Karen and I looked on our phones for more details of what had happened.
We found the story and read it intently. Saffron’s symptoms were a lack of appetite, tiredness and a cough ― she was being treated with antibiotics for what the doctors mistakenly thought was pnuemonia. No one was really to blame. Sadly she had a cancer of the kidneys that was so rare most doctors never see a single case. The disease was first identified only thirty years ago. Because people have two kidneys, it can envelope one (as it did with Saffron) without being detected. She collapsed in hospital and died soon after, on March 25th 2007. There is a memorial website here.
It made us pause and think about our day and how lucky we are. We are in a dance contest that sometimes feels quite serious, but it is not. Strictly is pure fun ― the kind of fun Saffron would have had if she had lived.
I wanted her parents to know we use her bench, so I am writing this in the hope they might see it. The school very kindly tried to contact them, but drew a blank.
We will be thinking of you when we dance, Saffron, and all the dances you missed.