Monday, 21 January 2013

Inspiration from the Past

When was the last time you went and REALLY looked at a gravestone? If ever people pass through one they tend not to linger or, if they do, it's at a grave of a loved one. But think about all of the other stories that lie there.

Some of the older graves often have an interesting story to tell. In my local churchyard lies Ann Cook, wife of Thomas, who died in 18?4 (the grave is weathered too much to make out the detail), and underneath, in four simple lines, is her life story:

On a Thursday she was born,
On a Thursday she was a bride,
On a Thursday her leg was broke,
On a Thursday died.


Clearly, Thursdays were a mixed blessing for her, some being good, whilst others being not so good. But what a wonderful overview, and how poignant that such things all happened on a Thursday (albeit that, mathematically, there was a one in seven chance of these things happening on a Thursday anyway). Do other people remember the day such things happened in their lives?

In this cold weather, it's worth nipping into the church too. In the nearby village of Eardisley, the church has a memorial plaque, near the vestry, to the Barnsley family which recounts the terrible tale of their 'Bubbles Broken'. Anyone who has read Charles Dickens' Bleak House will spot the plot line laid out for all to see in this memorial. (And yes, records show that Dickens did visit the area.)

So, if you're stuck for inspiration, it might be worth hanging out with some folks of the past. You never know what you might come across. And if it was good enough for Dickens, then it's good enough for us!

Good luck!

14 comments:

  1. Wonderful post Simon, yes I agree the local churchyard is full of inspiration. I had a good walk around our local churchyard the other day and I felt the same, though I did not see any graves with such amazing messages as that one. I love the fact that it changes through the seasons too. Definatley worth a trip now and again

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  2. Yes a great atmospheric location to generate some inspiration. For anyone visiting Paris check out Père Lachaise Cemetery – lots of famous graves including Victor Hugo, Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein, Edith Piaf and many more

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    1. Sounds like an interesting travel article there, Rob!

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  3. I am a stone's throw from our well-tended local graveyard (literally, it's our view from one side of our house!) and it does have some fascinating gravestones (and some highly intimidating rooks who seem to pop out of nowhere to just suddenly appear perched on a gravestone. Think they've been watching too many horror films, they're obviously aspiring actors!). I must go in there for another wander. Villagers do tend to traipse though their quite often because - irony of ironies - for at least half the village population, it's the quickest route to the doctor's surgery... :D

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    1. Or even 'through THERE'. This is what happens when your computer is messing you about so much that you hit publish without checking your words! Slap my writerly wrist :D

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    2. Having to traipse through the graveyard to get to the doctor's surgery is one thing - traipsing back through after your visit to the doctor must be even worse!

      Mind you, there's a road in Hereford where there is the doctor's surgery, then next door is the chemists, and if that doesn't work then next door to the chemists is the graveyard and crematorium!

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    3. Yep, that's the standard joke here: 'If this doesn't work, I'll see you next door!'. The chemist (one of the few things we have!) is ten minutes walk away, though. I don't think I've ever 'visited' Hereford, as opposed to just gone through or past it - so if I have it must have been many moons ago. I should rectify that. I visited Ludlow for the fist time in 2011. Gorgeous! It's definitely on my Places I wouldn't Mind Living list :D A fine sprinkling of book shops, as I recall, and shops selling stationery!

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  4. We've come across some interesting gravestones over the years from those of famous people to local characters such as a pirate, a midwife and several blacksmiths. I think the stones with verses often tell some interesting tales if only they can be read in full. Often it is the tantalising detail that is obscured. Quite a few authors seem to have found inspiration in these places.

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    1. Yes, it's a shame when the weather wears away someone else's creativity. More people should take photographs so we have a records of what the stonemason took time in carving.

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  5. Glad to hear I'm not the only one who likes to wander through graveyards. They can be incredibly inspiring places for story ideas. On the Isle of Wight found a wonderfully atmospheric graveyard full of statues and ivy clad tombs. And came across the tomb of Tennyson's wife overlooking the river, was one of those quiet moments of discovery.

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    1. I think we should all wander around a graveyard from time to time - not just for the inspiration, but just to remind us that we're alive should should be making the most of it, too!

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  6. I often take a trip to our local cemeteries if I'm taking the dog for a walk or sometimes armed with my camera. They are such serene and, like you say, inspiring places (I've found fabulous names for characters amongst the graves).
    One place in particular has tombs from the 17th century and a grave that had a Skull & Crossbones on it that used to scare the bejesus out of me and my friends when we were kids (apparently it has masonic origins).

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  7. Skull & Crossbones, heh? Now that is spooky! Especially when you're a kid!

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  8. Knights Templar origins and Freemasonry (but then they've 'borrowed' heavily from the KT). Having been intrigued enough to look into it, it seems to be literally a reminder that we are all mortal and time is short - as a modern Freemason puts it on one site, 'an emblem of our limited opportunity to do good'. And also the symbol of the Yale Skull and Bones society, but there's some suggestion that may be because they are connected to Freemasonry. Or of course, perhaps it was the graaaave of a piiiirit. Arrrr! :D

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