14 April 2009

a trip to the cemetery

Round about this time of year, my mum likes to get along to the cemetery to wash down the headstones and do a little planting. It weighs on her mind if she doesn't. This may sound a little maudlin, but it is not at all. In fact, this is no different to any of those other seasonal springtime tasks. And walking through St Patrick's is like a walk through time, as you pass by the graves of aunts and uncles, grandads and nans, neighbours, school teachers, bishops. Oddly comforting.

It is not the smartest of cemeteries. There are no famous people buried here, and it probably has more than its fair share of public graves. It's all a bit ramshackle unlike the more orderly and regimented affairs managed by the Corporation of London further out on Wanstead Flats. The rumble of traffic from the A12 and passing Central Line trains don't make for a particularly peaceful setting either, though that doesn't seem to stop the blackbirds singing away.

The superintendent seems to know everyone and has shown infinite patience towards my mum with her prevarications over various designs of headstones and the intricacies of family politics over who is responsible for whatever. (Let us not even begin to think about the tellings off I've had from various relatives because of tardiness in organising appropriate memorials.)

When she was younger, my mum and her sister used to trip along during the summer with their flasks of drink and some tuck and have a nice time sitting in the sunshine. Now she wants to organise a memorial bench for others to enjoy.

Another little something for the to do list.


Anonymous said...

Know what you mean about St Patrick's, although I have to admit to having less than happy memories of some of the nuns buried there - while recognising that they were a product of a particularly harsh formation. My dad and many of my relations are buried there. You mentioned the lack of famous people. OK so hardly famous but St Patrick's has among its residents the nuns who perished in the wreck of the Deutschland, commemorated in Gerald Manley Hopkins' poem. I also love the graves that give a street address for the person commemorated - all those Donovans, Dorans and Murphys can get easily confused. It does make it look like they are waiting for redirected post.

Best wishes,


colleen said...

Thanks for these comments. It's good to find someone who understands St Patrick's in the same way. I've missed out on the Deutchsland nuns completely and will have to look out for them next time I visit.

I heard a snippet on the radio the other day about a butcher's memorial stone which said something like "deeply missed by his widow who carries on the business at (address of shop in Borough). Imaginative marketing.


60 Going On 16 said...

My mum is buried in Kensal Green cemetery, which dates from the Victorian era and is sandwiched between Harrow Road and all the railway lines that run into Paddington Station but is also a wildlife conservation area. I don't get there as often as I would like, living so far away, but when I do visit, I could spend hours there. It's like stepping into another world, which is rather appropriate.

The stone-carver/letter-cutter friend who made my mum's memorial stone was equally fascinated. When we first visited we happened to meet one of his students, who was also on his first visit and was mesmerised. Just stood there open-mouthed and then said: "All those lives."

Anonymous said...

this is a beautiful post, thank you. my 93 year old aunt told me she had been visiting the family graveyard in tiny, almost obliterated, hinsdale, NY, every memorial day (may 30) since she was tall enough to see out the window of the car. she took me there for the first time this past september. all the people there are named after me....no, wait.....

i think my great-great grands are there, with everybody on down. there's no room there left for anyone new; my grandfather and grandmother got the last corner, overlooking the meadow. the town may be almost gone but the cemetery is perfectly well kept.

colleen said...

Thanks all for these comments.

I've never managed a visit to Kensal Green and should make an effort one day.

The family graveyard in Hinsdale NY sounds a beauty.