A Stroll among Graves 21Sept 2016
“Before he was a grave digger he dug trenches during the First World War. He could dig a full grave in less than a morning. When it was filled he had nothing left over. The turf could be laid like there was nothing there. Flatten it with his boots, he would. Compressed it so nothing rose up. ‘Learnt that in the war,’ he said. Probably dug your grandmothers grave. Some stones are gone but a lot are still standing. You can’t read ’em, mind. Flaked off in most cases. He wrote all their names and dates and spots in the churchyard in little books. When he died his daughter threw ’em all out.” He shook his head sadly.
His face and demeanour belied his age, “I’m eighty-nine, only lived here sixty years.” He did lean on his stick a little as he walked the short distance to visit his wife’s grave. ” I look after four graves now.” He said, a wry twist to his jaw.
Continuing: “I am dn r, do not resuscitate, you know. The doctor knows. I have a small bottle in the fridge, you know.”
We continued chatting for the walk to the gated churchyard next door. “One of them’s in here. It’s the Catholic Church. I’m not Catholic but I like to keep ’em tidy.” He passed through the gate and replaced the chain after closing the gate between us. His accent wasn’t quite local, almost subsumed by sixty years though like many people his age he had managed to retain a baseline of his child’s voice.
“Nice to meet you” he held a soft hand to mine over the top of the wooden gaterail, turned and walked comfortably with his stick towards the small cluster of headstones before the modest, modern church.
I left the church grounds via the narrow path beside the old church, it’s ancient Cotswold wall grey-mottled with age stretching skyward on one side. On the other was the green hedgery-and-ivy mix feeling it’s way through the old black railings and reaching overhead half-arching over the width of space above.