Abbey Road is a special place. Down through the years I’ve seen everyone from Jon Bon Jovi to NFL cheerleaders in formation on the famous zebra crossing. For some it’s a bucket list holiday snap; for others such as the NFL guys it’s z publicity stunt; for others yet it’s devotional place.
But the most memorable sighting along the route of any of my tours involved not a star, but an ordinary person.
On any other day, she would have been as anonymous on any London street as you or me. And on any other day I wouldn’t have given her a second glance.
I was leading a private musical London tour for a family from New York. It was an all-morning tour and we had taken a taxi to finish at the famous Abbey Road crossing.
We were waiting for the traffic and the crowds to calm down a little so that I could snap the obligatory photo of the family on the world’s most famous cross walk.
As we waited our turn, I noticed that one woman was crossing back and forth. Not in a conspicuous way. She would walk, at a regular pace from one side of the road to the other, pause for a few moments, and then cross back.
It’s not uncommon for fans to pose for two-or-three “takes” – if you’ve come a long way to get this shot then it would be a shame if it wasn’t right.
But as we waited for our turn – it was a particularly busy morning at Abbey Road – something caught my eye as the woman, in her 50s, maybe her 60s, crossed again.
It first glance I thought she was smoking – a cigarette or vape contraption was creating wispy clouds from her hand (Paul, after all, has a fag on the go in the famous sleeve picture).
But the cloud wasn’t drifting up. It was falling down.
It was then I realised… she was scattering ashes. Solemn and discreet, she was carrying out the last request of a loved one.
Elegiac and strangely joyful and strangely joyful, it was a most moving scene.