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Thursday, 4 August 2016

Irreverent piety.

Near our house is a large Victorian cemetery full of mature trees of all sorts and many ornate grave stones.
It has broad thorough fairs and lots of little tributaries to these.Little paths that snake down to unexpected vista's and nuggets of history.
I go there to collect the bark the Silver Birch has dropped.It's the very best thing for lighting a barbecue.I go again on Christmas eve.It's beautiful in the snow and yields many different sorts of pine cones plus holly and ivy.On these visits I always treat myself to a tomb or two so to speak.
I thought I might treat you to a couple I particularly like.
However, I could not remember exactly how the wording went on each.So I wandered through and prised the Saxophonist out of his book and in the dusk we strolled round there.

Naturally they had put chains and big padlocks on the gates for the night.
So obviously we had a discussion about side gates that might have been forgotten.
They hadn't.

"Nothing for it" says the saxophonist "we'll try to find the lowest part of the wall".
It doesn't look that low to me.He's over in a flash and takes my notebook and pen and then looks on with interest.
I have a long linen dress on,knickers and sandals and that's it.I am not exactly dressed for mountaineering.
I try bracing my arms behind on the wall and jumping up.The saxophonist stands behind a convenient beech tree.I try several times.I'm too short and I don't have athletes arms.
A man strolling down the road can see only a solitary figure manically jumping up and down.
Unfortunately he then sees the next attempt at illegal entry.The manic jumping stops and the small figure turns to face the wall and tries to get one leg up on it.It tries again,it wobbles,it flails with its hands and finally seems to be crouching on all fours on top of the wall.It then says something pithy to a beech tree and then in short order disappears on the other side of the wall.

So,two monuments.One huge table tomb and another tall affair which we will start with.

Side one: daughter Sarah died on the eve of her 94th birthday,18/2/20.

Side two: Lydia.Accidentally killed  by a motor cyclist at Scarborough August 13th 1904 aged 78.That's her not the motor cyclist we are guessing.

Side three: blank.

Side four: Woodham.Funny name for a girl.Interestingly no other info at all.She died 16/3/1889.

If you work out the dates it turns out that Sarah and Lydia were twins.

Second monument.
Side one:Katherine called sister Katherine of the Women's Settlement Hospital,Canning Town.Died 3/12/1927

side two: William.The father. Worthy , good etc,etc. Died 21/3/1874

side three: blank.

side four:   My favourite.The mother. Martha. This is the only inscription carved ,quite clearly, by another hand. It is the most precisely chiselled of the lot. The letters cut deep and with crisp edges.It has also taken no damage from time or the weather.Like her husband's inscription someone has taken trouble to list that she was beloved,was a blessing etc,etc.Her dates are clearly noted.She died 10/2/1864 aged 40.Then there's a gap and a further sentence added by itself.
I have looked to see if there could possibly be wear and tear here.I have traced it with my finger and brought the stern gaze of the Saxophonist to bear upon it.But no.The stone mason has clearly omitted to continue the capital "G".He has made the letter symmetrically curved and finished at both ends.There never was a foot to the "G". Thus the naughty stonemason has insured that for all time the world will be quite clear:


More to ponder in that,I think,than if he had been merely diligent or well behaved.You can see her,napkin round her neck.Heavy silver knife and fork akimbo ,getting stuck into a huge haunch of well buttered cod , grinning as she goes at it.

Anyway, its nearly dark now and there's the matter of getting home.
The Saxophonist has found a place in the wall where the ground lies much higher inside the cemetery than out.All that's needed by both parties is to climb onto the slope and then spring over the wall.One big jump.It's easy.
I should say at this point that it's been hot today.So not only am l in the pale grey linen dress but the Saxophonist is in pale knee length shorts and a pale tee shirt.In the gloom of the cemetery our clothes dimly stand out against the blackness of the trees and the tombs.
We look ghostly with our pale skin and clothes.

For fun we jump together and land side by side on the other side of the wall,apparently from nowhere,making only a soft thud.

A young woman is walking away from us at some distance down the road.She instinctively turns as we jump.
 She sees us land. I think she is going to make a comment but she doesn't.
 She just turns and walks as quickly as her legs will carry her without breaking into a run.
She puts another hundred yards on it and turns again.
She stares at us, visibly shivers and then goes off even faster.

What did she think she saw? Did her imagination or her eyes play a trick on her?

Silly girl. A little more observant if you please!

Improve your eyesight.Put those things in your diet that will enhance your vision.

Oh happy girl, if one day ,many years hence, they can put on your tombstone SHE LOVED COD.


  1. I enjoyed this excursion around the epitaphs. Wonder how the young woman is telling the tale of your ghostly appearance?

  2. How well you set the scene for this tale of twilight exploration.

    Thank you for finding a way to take the rest of us over that wall so that we might also see what you all saw. Cod was quite a surprise! Your ghostly airborne exit from the cemetery probably has provided a certain young lady to tell her own tale a time or two.

    Old stone biographical carvings interest me, too, but I don't have an inviting Victorian cemetery within strolling distance. Thank you again.

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    1. I love this post - - because of your vivid and humorous observations, and because I have always been very intrigued by old cemeteries. It would be wonderful to live near one!

      I'm certain that the woman who was passing by is now telling lurid tales of her encounter with two ghosts.