Sunday, 23 January 2011

Arnos Vale cemetery

I love visiting cemeteries. I love the stories told there, of lives led and cherished. I love thinking of relatives in years gone by, coming to remember their loved ones and placing flowers on their graves. I love the old headstones, the inscriptions, the lettering, and the moss and lichen that grows on them. I love the idea that people return to the earth, becoming part of the life cycle again. And I love the fact that they are, or should be, peaceful, holy places.
Yesterday I convinced some friends to share in my pastime, as it was a bright and chilly day, and we had an afternoon to spare. So we headed to Arnos Vale.
Unfortunately, this huge, sprawling cemetery has been ruined in parts, by neglect and, this being Bristol, traffic noise. The graves go on for acres, but many have caved in or have been completely overtaken by flora. But we still saw hundreds of graves, finding our namesakes, searching for the oldest we could find (1865) and the newest (2010), the youngest (babies) and oldest people (97) laid to rest in them.
We got very muddy on our travels, and very very cold and hungry, so we didn't stay long, but we had time to pass the memorials for those killed in the Second World War, and take a minute to contemplate the loss of life and what it meant for the families involved.
Visiting cemeteries can offer an opportunity for reflection. This week, as we celebrated my boyfriend's birthday, I lost a great aunty and my friend gave birth to a baby girl. When I'm walking through a cemetery, I can't help but appreciate the people around me, and assess my priorities. Cemeteries can be fascinating, especially if, like me yesterday, you are sharing the company of a talkative, enthusiastic twelve-year-old.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Staple Plain

It was a beautiful sunny winter's day yesterday, and we headed to Somerset for a Sunday lunch. After food we went to Staple Plain for a walk, where until very recently Rhododendron Valley (or Vinny Coombe) was full of rhododendrons. Apparently they have been giving diseases to all the native trees, so gone are the flowers, and many many trees too, restoring the landscape to the way it would have originally looked years ago. The views up here are panoramic. You can see as far as Wales ahead, Glastonbury Tor to the east and Exmoor to the west. On the way home we stopped to see the deer at Alfoxton Drive, this time spotting around 60, but a little too far away to resemble anything other than brown blobs to me.
It was such a clear day. We were lucky. I thought that again as I cycled home from work today in the hailstones and gale force winds.