Well, I finally managed to get to the Cemetery on Tuesday. I promised The Old Man I’d go after Samhain, so I packed up my backpack with blackcurrant hooch, camera, notebook, bags, gloves, a pack of cigars and birdseed, and after dropping the Witchlets at school I set off.
Incidentally, I can wear pentacle earrings, a t-shirt with the logo “Neighbourhood Witch” and Monty Python mobile phone message tone that shrieks “It’s a Witch! Let’s burn her!” and no-one bats an eyelid. But turn up to school with a rucksack on your back and I swear every eye in the playground turned my way and stared. Go figure.
The old cemetery in town (we have three; old, newer and very new) is about a mile and a half away as the crow flies, but if you walked there by the roads it’s four miles (so sod that). I took a short cut through a Victorian Park (we love the park, we go there as a family pretty much every weekend) which is next to the back wall of the cemetery. I had the park to myself, apart from one dog-walker.
It’s a bit of a drop down from the wall into the back of the graveyard, so I kind of assumed I might have to take the long route back, but when I got there, part of the wall had broken down and I could just step over, leaving a penny on the broken wall as my entrance fee.
I must have spent nearly two hours trying to find the right grave to leave my offering on. It had to be abandoned, any graves that were neatly kept by relatives were out of bounds. I wandered up and down, down and up (the cemetery is on quite a steep hill, which seems bloody daft to me, as half of the headstones have sunk into the hill, or cracked, or slid into the one below it) with no clue which grave I was looking for.
At one stage I thought I’d been pointed to the right spot, as a solitary crow was sat on a granite stone, but when I got there, it wasn’t the one. Although it had a wonderful inscription on it:
The heart of the town here was once coal-mining, and several graves were those of miners who had died in colliery accidents. There were a lot of soldiers’ graves too - the headstones are identical except for the names, and fairly new - I’m guessing a local armed forces association has paid for the memorials. Lots of graves of whole families, some with five generations.
Two hours in, and no joy in finding the right spot. I started grumbling to the Old Man under my breath as I got wetter and wetter in the fine drizzle, and eventually I gave up and headed back up the hill to where I came in. I was ten feet away from the break in the wall when the Old Man hit me with a metaphysical plank of wood. There, in the grass in front of me, were three toadstools. And just behind them, two more. And another two. Then five. In a fucking LINE! I followed them, and there behind a hawthorn tree was an old abandoned granite grave. This was the one. I bent down, trying to read the inscription, but it was too worn away - I could make out “In Memoriam of Thomas B…” but nothing else. Quick burst of elation, then I noticed a seven-spot ladybird walking along the edge of it. Red and black, the Old Man’s colours.
Ok, I got the message. I put down the bottle of hooch, and lit a cigar, placing it carefully down on the granite side piece of the rectangular grave. Which is where he really laid it on thick, and I suddenly saw twenty, thirty maybe, different ladybirds huddled together on the main headstone. Look, I got the message with the bloody fungi, the ladybird was a nice touch, but really? THAT many? How thick do you think I am, Old Man?
I poured the hooch over the cigar; even in the drizzle I wasn’t leaving anything burning unattended, then sprinkled a handful of birdseed on the ground and left, tiptoeing around the toadstools and leaving another penny as payment to leave. Mission accomplished, offerings given, one witch metaphysically slapped with the obvious stick.