Saturday, 13 May 2017

trip to yorkshire, lovely evening with family, mum and dad's grave, university of bradford welcome, carillon magic, poem





Midweek, I drove to Yorkshire to assess a Latin American collection at the University of Bradford library.

I stayed the night with relatives - what a lovely evening - and visited my parents' grave at Little Ouseburn. It was the first time I had returned to the grave since my mother's funeral eighteen months ago. Since then the stone cross had been reinstated. The carved emblem that Mum had wanted looked far more striking than in the photos the stonemason had sent me - good though those were.

I really enjoyed visiting the library at Bradford and was made so welcome by the special collections librarians.

When I got home, I was thrilled to find that a new carillon had been installed in our church. I had no idea this was happening. When we first moved to the village, we loved the old carillon - it was so magical to hear the tunes being played throughout the day. But the mechanism was old and it broke and it was too expensive to replace it. But now, as a result of a bequest, there is music again - a different tune for each day of the week, played at 9 am and 5 pm. Today's is Home Sweet Home. I'll try and get a recording soon.

Little Ouseburn Churchyard, 10th May 2017

Past the bench, the Meysey-Thompson plot
Is defined by a tall dense line of cypresses.
A green room for my ancestors,
Partitioned from the rest of the village.
A place perhaps where they wait to go on.
Dad certainly never quite got to that point.
A life forever about to happen.
I look for my parents' grave and walk
Straight past it.
I turn and there is the carving for Mum,
In the centre of this side of the cross.
It is finer than the photos suggested -
The ones the stonemason sent before
He replaced the monument six months
After her funeral.
After the earth had settled.
Instinctively, I check the level by eye.
For now it looks perfect - Dad would be pleased -
And come to think of it, so would Mum.
It is unlike the other crosses:
Leaning tipsily,
Suggestive of the fun times they would
Have had at the hall - designed by Lord Burlington,
Pulled down by the reclamation firm,
Nicknamed the Forty Thieves.
A business thriving on the stately homes
That could not go on,
Broken by war.
Great-grandfather's heart broken
When Claude, his only son, was
Killed in action.
I think Dad thought that was when it all
Went wrong. An imaginative man,
My father.
Nettles are sprouting lustily on the
Grave side of the cross, near the head.
Without thinking, I find a cypress branch -
Fallen, dried but still strong.
Not yet brittle.
I beat the nettles away.
Some break cleanly,
Others are stubborn.
I hack and at last they flap into the air.
I wanted to tidy the grave,
To make it look loved.
I went out of my way to spare
A red dead nettle,
The only posey.
Though when I look harder,
There are speedwell flowers
Peeping through the grasses in the dip
Of the grave.
Even a stem of ground ivy.
Mum and Dad face the old
Mausoleum, not used since the Victorians.
The sun lights the different shades of
Buttermilk stone. The Doric columns,
The triglyphs, the dome of lead.
It was Dad who taught me about
The classical architectural orders;
Learned at Stowe, where I would follow.
I look at the haloed crosses,
Some rough cut like granite.
Mum and Dad's, smooth pale stone to look at,
Fine sandpaper to touch.
His side, a skull and crossbones -
Or Glory, 17/21 Lancers - 1930-2012.
Hers a wren above a crown and anchor -
WRNS - 1925-2015.
In the sycamore beside the building,
Not a wren but a fruity-voiced blackbird.
The tree and the holly beside it are in
Abundant flower.
To the west, clouds thicken.
There is the faint sound of traffic in the village.
I lay my hand on the cross.
'You stupid lot. You stupid lot.
I hope you're at peace.'
As I pass the bench, I notice a pair of glasses
Laid on it.
For a moment I think they must be
My Dad's.
They are owlish. They suggest his face.
But they cannot be his.
I walk on.

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