The road to the graveyard is greased.
[Willie The Lion Smith]
As often happens when viewing some suddenly significant, if once only vaguely
perceived milestone, reflections on mortality rise to the surface of
consciousness. Where in younger days my impending birthday might have signalled
a prolonged hangover - from New Year's Eve right through to its actual date,
January 2nd - the year 2000 threatened to be rather different. Its
approach meant my own sixtieth anniversary would immediately follow that far
greater and indeed global anticlimax, the New Millennium.
Whether or not one will feel like celebration, I'd speculated a few
months previously, there could well be a general sense of relief at having
survived in the first place. "Look, we have come through", as D.H. Lawrence put
it. Viruses of every variety may fail to wreak their deadly havoc; no longer
shall we think to bury ourselves prematurely in bunkers, hide out in woods or on
mountaintops... If, after all, Apocalypse is not now, nor even very soon, we
needn't drink up in haste and repent our pleasure and ready ourselves for close
of play. Yet perhaps it does no harm to anticipate the end, or at least some
sort of an end. Without taking matters quite as far as actual dress rehearsal-
lying shrouded inside one's coffin, like Donne - a little meditation on the
purposes and ends of journeys mightn't go amiss.
'Last things' had been much on my mind since a visit to that great Parisian
necropolis, Pere Lachaise. It was a sunny October day in 1999 and the leaves
were beginning to be whirled down the long alleyways between the graves. A
curious almost welcoming autumnal melancholy within the morning light itself
seemed to lend trees and stones, marble, earth and mausoleums alike, an
unexpected quality as, blissfully mild and serene, it suffused the whole area in
intimations not so much of mortality as of utter peace. The thought occurred to
me as an atheist that somehow despite myself I'd detected an oddly attractive
aura about the whole gigantic boneyard. H.R.Wakefield's wonderful ghost stories
may describe some urban cemetery as "Garden of Corruption" or "many-acred
morgue", but no poetic coinage prepares the wanderer for such an expansive,
extraordinary place. 
There was something very affecting yet hard to define about this enormous and
truly democratic City of Death. Such feelings, however, had little to do with
aesthetics, with nostalgia or consolation, nor with sentimentality, awe and
advancing age. None could fail to be moved by this vast cemetery's multi-racial,
multi-lingual aspect, for here are included all religions and nationalities;
here lies every shade of belief or lack of it. The famous, the infamous and the
ordinary crowded together; corrupt and honest politicians; heroes of every
persuasion, right and left; communists, communards, martyrs, anarchists,
deviants, suicides; the creative and the destructive; smug bourgeois beside
scandalmonger, infant next to greybeard. Family plots and grandiose sepulchres,
baroque memorials, grotesque monuments, pious, braggart or simply modest
inscriptions... Poor and rich are all properly allotted space and place of rest,
while the conventional, decent, logical French allow them their dignity and due
Pere Lachaise that day was full of whispers and surprises. People were
rambling around, either aimless or purposeful. Strollers or seekers, tourists
and locals... It was Sunday, so some had come from nearby churches: these
visitors were dressed up accordingly, they'd no need to consult the large maps
at the entrance gates, and quite a few of them bore bouquets and wreaths.
Various visitors remained silent. This seemed tribute to the overwhelming, truly
awesome stillness of the location itself. Others by contrast made noisy and
almost nervous smalltalk.
Who and how are these presences - absences really - to be recalled? Which
chasms are we staring into, and of what last things do we remind ourselves? Here
are found relatives and friends, dead poets and living legends, artists and
artisans, simple and anonymous victims. These fertilise the continuing struggle
for human freedom, perhaps ... The abiding impression is anyhow neither
of creeds nor credulity: that whole multitude of incised memorial words movingly
relates a greater, most mysterious solidarity, always broadly republican rather
than royalist or religious. Given this unique and precious libertarian ethos
-the loving comradeship of death -the living processes of memory must, from time
to time and for future time, dwell on Resistance, Holocaust, the horrors of
War... So here the flowers of history and of the present are visible, are
renewed and live on - whether at the foot of that wall where the Communards were
shot or beside the memorials for the International Brigades members killed
during the Spanish Civil War. The flowers rest always there too for those
casualties of three wars against Germany, starting in 1870. And onward, through
every form of barbarity - hostages, partisans, POWs; the brave, the innocent and
the helpless all alike -first tortured then executed. Memorials too for everyone
slaughtered in the concentration camps... What else in this fine, private yet
most public of places should we wish to remember?
The living must also, I suppose, celebrate their own continuing luck.
Survivors, by contrast, with our relatively happy lives to date... We exist and
endure still, while only too well aware of what lies ahead: the dilemma both
simple and complex remains quite insoluble. No wonder I can't remember my
previous visit! I just wasn't old enough to appreciate the place. How could
any adolescent - let alone that distant, depressed, hypersensitive
boarding-schoolboy I was forced to grow out of- have interpreted such sights, on
such a site? What did I ever retain or recall of all this? Absolutely nothing:
that temporal gap from sixteen to almost sixty had been a huge abyss, hi
consequence I was visiting Pere Lachaise as if for the first time. I'd steered
well clear of the place while actually living in Paris, in my twenties. You do,
at that age, since you believe yourself immortal; you and your own world go on
for ever. Only when those close to you start dying is your youthful blind faith
in survival, your confident indestructibility shaken.
And in your youth you don't have much to remember, nor do you feel the need
for remembering. Everybody's still with you, still around; you have that
boundless present sense of energy and potential; you enjoy a present tense where
nothing ever winds down, stops or disappears. But after the deaths the memories
swarm. Then and only then do things get personal, and the process starts by
which we genuinely grieve and desire to remember. As Senancour said of this
early 19th century graveyard, the great bonepark at the capital's
eastern gate - it would one day compose "a city of memories".
And yes, the gang's all here, Romantics, Surrealists, Classics,
Avant-Gardists and Eccentrics... The relicts of Heloise and Abelard, Moliere, La
Fontaine and Beaumarchais were moved here, and are kept company by Constant,
Balzac, Nerval, Delacroix, Gericault, Ingres, de Musset, Chopin, Rossini,
Bellini, Michelet, de L'lsle Adam, Corot, Daudet, Modigliani, Apollinaire,
Isadora Duncan, Sarah Bernhardt, Proust, Gertrude Stein, Eluard, Max Ernst,
Colette, Julio Cortazar etc. I was most delighted to happen upon the plain black
slab housing the extraordinary "posthumous celebrity" Raymond Roussel
(1877-1933). This wealthy analysand, proto-caravanner, opium addict and poetic
pioneer of arcane language-games, who found some sort of solution in a
problematic Sicilian suicide, rests in his family plot, ripe for a rediscovery
which, this side of the Channel at least, never quite happens. A far more
fruitful subject for research, anyway, than that rather better known homosexual,
poor old Oscar Wilde, a mere twenty yards further up the same avenue. Epstein's
winged messenger who hovers over Oscar has had his prick broken off: one wonders
whether this vandalism was due to talismanic greed, pudeur or targeted
disapproval? Maybe a memento story, impure and simple, was what was wanted. At
any rate, a rash of lipsticked kisses has flowered everywhere else across the
yellowing stone, strange patterns of pederastic pilgrimage.
Another equally bizarre object of veneration - the sexual politics here
distinctly hetero, though of course its nineteenth century political context has
become blurred - is the effigy of Victor Noir. Noir, real name Yvan Salmon, was
the 22-year old journalist shot dead in 1870 by Prince Pierre Napoleon
Bonaparte. (There ensued huge republican demonstrations, but the fatally
argumentative princeling was subsequently acquitted: the time for the Imperial
Dynasty to be displaced had not quite arrived...) Noir lies, near life-size - if
not black as his doom or pseudonym - cast in bronze, with a distinctive
mouldering, greenish quality about him. Somebody punctiliously brings Noir red
roses or red carnations, and there are shiny patches on his likeness. These
much-kissed areas, where the bronze has been buffed smooth by obeisance are
situated thus: forehead, lips, flybuttons and toecaps. Apparently young Noir in
his long-gone heyday was a notorious ladies' man. So the superstition still
holds over a century later that, lads and lasses alike, whoever kisses the
relevant bits of Victor will have luck fucking - be it for pleasure or
procreation, whichever is desired. A greater, lonelier talent, Isidore Ducasse -
whose own penname Lautreamont had brought him no literary luck - also died in
Paris in his early twenties and soon after Noir, that same momentous year.
Unlike Noir however, Ducasse has no known grave, nor a commemorative monument
here, but he mentions Victor Noir in his Poesies. It was when translating
this enigmatic work that I first (as it were) came across Noir. Others have
evidently done so for years and quite regularly: purveying spit and polish of
the stranger sort. 
Easy come, easy go. If such rituals are thought sad, weird or perhaps merely
silly, then it certainly makes sense to give Jim Morrison's last billet a very
wide berth. Detritus of all kinds, human and other, surrounds the wretched rock
phoney's final habitat. Graffiti, rotting flowers, beercans, indifferent
guitarists and used syringes litter the last gig... Why did the tolerant French
let in this ungifted poseur? Morrison can't compare with the real singers
hereabouts - those homegrown products, Piaf, Montand and co - but someone must
have felt that premature death plus a few pretentious scribbles rated a small
corner of notoriety, if nothing else.
Talking of unsung writer-musicians, underrated heroes not Morrisons, I
learned only recently that Mezzrow reposes here too. The author of the classic
autobiography Really The Blues (1946) died in Paris, having become an
honorary Frenchman -just like his celebrated US expat friend and colleague, the
Creole genius Sidney Bechet. Mezzrow's recordings with Bechet from the 1930s and
'40s are blues landmarks. Their music brought joyous consolation, wildly
inspirational poetry to the fourteen year old European schoolboy I was when I
first heard it; Mezzrow himself, I feel to this day, deserves to be better
Had he done nothing else but supply Louis Armstrong for many years with
marijuana thus earning the soubriquet 'Mezz' - he'd have merited a modest niche
in music history, let alone my own awestruck adolescent affection. Now an
'honoured guest' here, Mezzrow was half a century ago a legendary guru for
Parisian traditional and mainstream jazzers, championed by their colourful yet
revisionist critic Hugues Panassie. Because of his dubiously Parnassian
association with (to adapt the modernists' putdown) mouldy figures like HP,
latterday authorities tend to malign Mezzrow's clarinet playing as limited,
sour-toned, shrill and so on. This is too patronising by half. True, Mezzrow was
uneven, but he participated in some highly emotional, hauntingly memorable
sessions, and he left a fine recorded legacy.
The archetypal un-American outsider, Mezzrow also of course loathed racism
and by his own account actually wanted to be black. His determinedly
unconventional way of life, self-chosen exile and deep feeling for the blues all
led him finally to suggest, if not incarnate, the 'White Negro' of Mailer's
famous essay. So where's the headstone for this maverick muso and sparky misfit,
Milton Mesirow (1899-1972)? Pere Lachaise seems a fine place for those spookily
insistent, twisting accents again to echo; for that special reedy, agitated
style of his, with its odd, acrid turns of phrase once more to rise and resound.
What then of their stoned creator, our continuingly controversial jazzman?
Refrains long "gone in the air"; remains hard to locate on this overcrowded
patch of French earth... However belatedly, let's hear it for Mezz! A quatrain
from Tony Harrison's 1987 funerary 'film/poem', Cheating The Void,
provides for him a primly mellifluous epitaph:
And that, what's that?... A bird?
Follow the leafy paths to track the sound
and maybe find it's not a thrush you hear
but Mezz Mezzrow's clarinet from under ground.
Mezzrow was fortunate: as a young man living through the exciting extremes of
the 1920s, the first great classic age of jazz, he managed without compromise to
survive. And survive he did, to a relatively ripe old age, excesses, successes,
disasters and all. He'll continue to be discovered and savoured, heard and read.
By contrast, that dull hustler Jim Morrison, striving to shock his way to an
elusive stardom in what was by then the rock era's decadence, won't count for
much or for much longer. One of those sad troubadours more talked-about than
listened-to, unlucky Jim never really made it, and is probably more trouble now
than he was ever worth. He represents a capital H hassle for the
rubbish-collectors, cleaners and gardeners, while few of the locals, the
relatives and the soberer, more intelligent visitors would have warmed to
Morrison or his callow American acolytes the first time round. As for actually
revering this superannuated avatar of Bullshit Immortal, forget it - these
strange days the doors need to be firmly slammed!
The gates of memory had anyhow creaked open for me earlier that summer of
1999, just after my father's death. A sense of relief mingled with release was
my only emotion. My father in Greece had been a wartime collaborator and he
became when 'home free' later on in England, a domestic tyrant-in-exile. I was
to hear nothing good about Greece, and the war and ensuing civil war were
unmentionable subjects: so for better or worse I lost a country, a language and
many early recollections.
My father himself had died long ago as far as I was concerned. I'd not seen
him for thirty years and didn't attend his obsequies: this was a man who hadn't
after all bothered to go a mile down the road to my mother's funeral in 1963.
The old conman duly disinherited me of course, but his real legacy to me has
been priceless: in life I always do the opposite of whatever it is I think he
would have wished. I've survived quite happily as a result. As for my father, he
lived to the unholy age of 96, exploitative to the end, further accumulating and
selfishly spending wads of money never rightly his to begin with, hi my view,
therefore, I have escaped the dead-weight of a tainted inheritance: good
riddance to it and to him.
Looking through some old papers and notebooks, as one does after deaths and
on approaching anniversaries, I located a journal I kept from 1964 to 1966,
years during which my relationship with my father was especially fraught.
Struggling to achieve independence and become the writer I wanted to be, I
endured from him mainly a cold sarcasm which I sensed was envy, destructive
criticism masquerading as 'advice'. More isolated than ever while trying to find
my voice, my own literary personality, I experienced a certain need for mentors
and examples. These necessary if then unacknowledged exemplars were of course
the opposite of authority figures in loco patris. They might, though, be
any kind of creative forefather or guide whom death had not diminished, who
would live on for me, and from whom I could draw timely comfort and
Neglected artists, autodidacts, black sheep, obstinate eccentrics, baffling
misfits, battlers against the odds - theirs was the contemporary company to keep
me warm! And to my taste best of all by the summer of '64, was that convivial
genius Malcolm Lowry. Then still lamentably underrated, Under The Volcano
and all - magical Male, alchemist of the word if ever there was one, alcoholic
poet and experimental proser - became my timeless hero of literature and good
I'd known his work since student days, when it was not even in print in
England, but midway through my third novel I would make my overdue pilgrimage,
go to see his grave, pay my respects to the unforgotten, unforgettable dead. And
so back to a 24 year old self- re-entering my entry for 28 May 1964 - a time I
lived in a tipsily steep and ramshackle attic flat overlooking the sea. Its
address Lowry himself might have relished: Cambridge Road, Hove 2...
* * *
At 6 pm, after sunbathing on the roof reading Hemingway (it was still a
beautiful day) A. suggested a drive out to Ripe, Sussex. I'd talked incessantly
of seeing Lowry's English haven and last harbour and had even plotted out where
the small village was. So we drove there, appropriately eating grapes & having
to ask the way once. I knew the best place to go would be the pub (for
information). We had a snack & a couple of drinks & the sun sank & I was
beginning to despair as the barman was harassed (plenty of people in one small
pub - coaches to nearby Glyndebourne?) & I couldn't find a way to talk to him.
The drive had been wonderful - 2 little rivers, 2 dilapidated level crossings,
meadows, trees, hills, cowparsley everywhere & cattle & hardly a house. Was it
to be anti-climax?
At last I asked the barman where "the Norman church" was (description in
Prairie Schooner) & he said Ripe Church was nearby, but there was another he
thought cd be older. How long had he been there? Was he there in 1957? No?
Seemed like a dead end. Then I saw a middle-aged man next to me at the bar,
wearing creased dark suit, who'd just bought a bottle of whisky. Turned to him
as the barman moved away, and confessed that a great writer had died here and I
wanted to find out where he lived & was buried. "Oh" he said calmly, "he was at
the White Cottage. I live there now."
I think we were both a little surprised: I was sublimely thrilled & amused by
the coincidence! Of all people to approach, I found myself next to the owner of
Lowry's cottage. We talked perhaps 10 mins about the man & his work & my
enthusiasm for his work as writer. He sd Under the Volcano had been a difficult
book for him to understand, but he'd since read a great deal of Lowry MS. shown
him by Mrs L. & that the 85 year old lady next door remembered him well & had
only last week been interviewed by Canadian television. She'd discovered some
Lowry MS. too! "I'll show you the room where he died", he said, after we'd discussed the man & the myths & the way English writers had to die before
A. seemed quite surprised (she'd gone for a walk) to find me about to see the
very house. We walked down a small path, appropriately behind the pub, smelling
withered lilac along the wall. There was a big open field, grassy & golden with
buttercups, and a pine & a laburnum also golden, & the small white cottage with
blue windows and door. He led us inside - tiny stairs, bending heads. On first
floor, Lowry's minute room - ceiling perhaps 6ft 3 - half the size of my attic
in Cbridge Rd. The window overlooks this clear wide field dotted with gold, &
beyond it the Sussex downs gently slope into the horizon. The sun was sinking &
everything quiet. "A wonderful room for a writer", said our host. "A beautiful
place to die", I said. We all three stood silent a moment before going
I thanked him (he said he drank too much!) & promised to return with an issue
of Prairie Schooner. He's a journalist, he sd (or ex-?) called WJ.Burrough.
(Bill, the barman called him, bit of an irony too...) 
Longing to talk to the old lady, but didn't want to because of the TV people -
it cd wait. A & I walked along to the churchyard. Incredible village, w. by the
church a spreading chestnut tree & bench beneath. No people. Very quiet.
Churchyard in a frightful state. Very long wet grass & weeds hid most of the
tombstones. Yews. Slugs on the crudely shorn paths. All the stones were old or
ornate or covered with moss. Went all around the churchyard without success.
Finally went inside church on my own. Unremarkable interior, but I felt
considerable emotion: it was a kind of pilgrimage for me, which I had to make.
Stood & watched the sun pour in by the altar & wished & prayed to write a gd
book & that ML was at peace & could sense there were some who hadn't forgotten
him. Then I bought 2 photos of the rather ordinary little church (I doubt
Norman) & wallowed about in the damp grass again trying to find the stone. I
noticed a separate corner of the churchyard, with a broken grey stone wall
bordering it. I walked through a gap in the wall and there, about the fifth
grave along lay all that remained of Lowry. Headstone looked weathered and only
said: Malcolm Lowry 1909-1957, the mound looked untidy, and was beside a newish
stone which bore a fulsome inscription & had a jug of fresh flowers &c on top.
Lowry's in contrast seemed terribly forlorn & neglected. Untidy, anonymous or
nearly, no flowers. So I picked a few sprigs of cowparsley, some daisies, a
handful of buttercups. Better. I felt I'd paid my homage & respects.
A. came up at that moment, as if reading my sad & lonely thoughts (was this
what it all came down to? Why did no others remember, protest against such waste
- the irony of a man writing anyhow one great book & dying before leaving us
more...) She'd picked some flowers, not thinking I'd have found the grave, then
saw mine, smiled & laid hers there also. Walked away together in silence.
Buttercups stuck to my boots. Drove quickly back to Lewes for coffee, sun
sinking all the time, finally to drop like a great red boulder behind the hills.
Marvellous unexpected trip that turned out so right: will remember that quiet
room, that graveyard, that village... and will go back.
[That 9 June I did]: 2nd visit to Ripe, this time on my own.
Arrived about 7 pm., warm humid evening. Went into pub, as before. Completely
empty except for barman. After 5 minds the first man to enter was Burrough who
lives in Lowry's house. Again, nice coincidence. I said: "Come to see you again"
& gave him copy of my poetry bklet. Had brought issue of Prairie Schooner too,
but he'd seen it. Newspaperman for 40 yrs he said. Worked on Daily Express
(financial side) & now had his own paper (didn't find out which!) No
intellectual, but a friendly man: drank large whiskies & bought me another pint
& we talked more about Lowry. Sd he'd take me along to meet Miss Winnie Mason
his nextdoor neighbour who, with her sister, had been friendly with the Lowrys. We met her
looking for him just outside The White Cottage & he introduced me. She
immediately invited me in, though cooking supper, & made me feel at home.
An alert 85 year old lady, very independent, beaky nose & round black-rimmed
spectacles, grey hair tucked under grey hat. Her intellect & speech remarkable
for her age. When communicating my interest & enthusiasm for Lowry she sat me
down, gave me wine, & talked fluently about him. Now of course, can't remember
the order, but here's what: Malcolm & Margerie's self-sufficiency - their happiness - his writing late
-she'd type incessantly for him, he wd ask her opinion - his playing on the
guitar, often when drunk - they didn't want to know anyone else - only about 1
other neighbour opposite to whom they'd talk. "Outlandish clothes" (ace. Miss
Mason, self-confessed Victorian!), Canadian lumberjackets, etc. Lowry a real
gentleman. His questing eyes. Miss M sd they were remarkable, always
looking for something, some experience he hadn't yet had. (Death, I
Very warm, friendly, very shy man. She showed me wonderful photo of
smiling ML, head cocked on one side, plus Margerie looking fondly at him, plus
dog. He knew, ace. Miss Mason, that he hadn't long. Margerie tried to stop him
drinking. He had attacks & went to London sometimes for treatment. He had 2nd
sight, Miss M said, & worked on the poems in the end, because he knew he'd
not have enough time to finish another novel.
Margerie heartbroken when he died: she had a breakdown in the USA when she
went back & is now devoted to editing his work. Was shown a v. affectionate
letter from Mrs Lowry to her, talking about the new edition of letters, which
are some of the best ever written, apparently - according to the publishers.
Very many of them too, selection necessary.
Lowry the doomed kindly genius. Everyone loved him. Miss M. agreed with me
about false myths (cf. Dylan Thomas, etc) but Lowry a true writer, very
conscientious & hardworking & revised incessantly. She thought there was
something hereditary about his drinking.
Told me the story of the last hours. Margerie came to her early in the
morning. "Winnie, he's gone". She thought she meant "Gone away", but "Dead" was
meant. He was on the floor - plate with food on it had smashed. Miss M. said it
was heart rather than choking. And he definitely was not in bed, but lying on
the floor. Used to have midnight feasts & work late. Mrs L. more or less
collapsed & there was Inquest & "Accidental Death' verdict. "Allowed' to be
buried in churchyard! Vicar sd it was all right. "Malcolm would never have
committed suicide, never. There was no question of that." (sez Miss M.)
She said she didn't know who arranged the funeral: ML's brother (hardnosed
Liverpool businessman) didn't show up. Miss M. met him & didn't like him, I
The Lowrys spent nearly 2 yrs there: looking at the peace & quiet of the
place you can imagine an idyllic situation for writer & wife he loved who was
devoted to him... The view, the birdsong, the peace... Ripe, the last haven. Was
Lowry's voyage also one of escape (from his background?) as well as quest (for
whatever it was he was always glimpsing?) A powerful man physically. (Esp. for a
visionary.) Margerie a keen gardener. They'd sunbathe in the garden there, sort
of private Eden. (cf. Do you like this garden that is yours? etc from Volcano.)
The pilgrimage I made delighted & saddened me. Like Lowry's work, found
humour & pathos & poetry in what that old lady said. Was also flattered she told
me about those last 24 hrs which she said she didn't tell any of the reporters
for the recording. She saw Lowry's work meant much to me (though she herself
cdn't get on with a lot of it: "Those long sentences!") She knew he was a
genius, quite simply, without reservations.
So, mass of impressions. Too overwhelmed to note things down. Went inside
church again, walked back to car. Noise of distant tractor, church clock
chiming, smell of cut grass in churchyard. Pond, mossed with scum, nearby. The
laburnum still flowering. Peace. Something like heaven, and hell too. Hell being
the realisation there's a price to pay for everything good. After the
comes some kind of acceptance. All the effort is worthwhile, nothing is really
lost or wasted, because everything falls into a kind of pattern, and ML wanted
to find out what that pattern was. Postscript: Lowry's small, precise,
'classical' handwriting. Close-packed, ace. Miss Mason. Like the writing, she
thought, of some well-educated readers, esp. of the classics.
* * *
Well, he'd been to Cambridge, at that. As I had. My handwriting in those days
was larger and untidier than it is now. I'd no idea what lay in store, what
dedication actually involved, what life and death might be about. I was a naive
young man, having barely digested many years of useless information which I was
all too eager, in one form or another, to excrete. I would need to unlearn most
of what I 'knew', to live harder and rougher and leave academe well behind.
Another remarkable overlooked artist - author of several fine books before he
too met a premature death in the '50s - was the American, John Home Burns. 
In my final Sixties journal, I see I've been reading his Lucifer With A Book.
I note there that it's the only novel of his I'd not previously read - an
"excellent expose of the academic system". I'd also copied out a quotation from
it that seemed to me both "memorable and correct". In many ways it still does.
"That was what education was: a visit to a cemetery made holy through tabus".
We should escape as best we can, however, those fatal exemplars of living
death or death-in-life - the pretentious hypocrite, the monumental bore, the
whited sepulchre. They're wastes of time, and time is always too short.
Graveyards nonetheless remain good places for reflection.  Life to be sure is
elsewhere, but one needs now and then to recall or remark these increasing,
overlapping hosts. They filled the past and still permeate the present, sifted
finely if never finally, through earth, dust and atoms in eternal progression.
Thus they meet the future, enduring anonymity, abiding by an endless absence.
A long lifetime ago, Llewellyn Powys wrote a moving short essay entitled
The Grave Of William Barnes. "Though I recognize it as a form of primitive
ancestor-worship", this eulogy begins, "I always desire to visit the graves of
great men who have brought enlightenment to the human mind." Such feelings
aren't simply a matter of touristic tribute, sentimental fandom or romantic
melancholy, although attention should always be drawn to any unfairly neglected
talent. Indeed, if death is the only universal certainty, why be afraid to
wander in its wake? We, the living, very likely visit cemeteries for reassurance
as much as for remembrance. Such personal pilgrimages often enhance a continuing
awareness that there exist hard lessons still to learn and debts to be repaid.
The other, unknown journey is this way intuited if not yet confronted: willingly
and realistically one can speak of the unspoken, in greeting that death which
every individual must earn. It seems there are always appropriate occasions -
certain special moments in our lives for paying due homage to the dead. Through
them we may learn more of life and so do justice to our mortal selves.
 H. Russell Wakefield (1888-1964). One of the best
British writers of the supernatural short story. Collections include: They
Return At Evening (1928); Old Man's Beard (1929); The Clock
Strikes Twelve (1946), and Strayers From Sheol (1961).
 Cemetery officials, perturbed by these
disrespectful and superstitious goings-on, have now sealed off the grave.
v. Mortuary Management, vol.92, no.3, Feb. 2005.
 W.J.Burrough. Looking back,
possibly I misheard or misspelt the name. And that perhaps he was related to the
British artist Edward Burra, a friend of Lowry in the 1930s. But in that
case the painter's name would surely have entered our conversation.
 John Home Burns (1916-1953). Author of The Gallery
(1947); Lucifer With A Book (1949), and A Cry Of Children
(1952). Writing about him in 1964, Brigid Brophy called Home Burns "by far the
most talented and the most attractively talented American novelist to
emerge since the war."
 Soon after this was written some almost
apocalyptic gales swept France, during which millions of trees were felled. Pere
Lachaise, too, lost many. I've not had the heart to revisit the place since.
Adding to this sad footnote in May, 2004,1 was reminded it was the 200*
anniversary of the cemetery's opening: life goes on, and so does death....
Earlier in 2004 too, Malcolm Lowry's latest and best biographer Gordon Bowker
suggested (in the Times Literary Supplement) that "newly released police
and coroner's reports throw fresh light on the death of one of England's least
acknowledged literary geniuses". In other words, the latest available evidence
now fuels speculation that Lowry's demise was neither suicide nor accident, but
in fact uxoricide! Bowker's theory is horribly convincing, it must be said. Yet
whether the 'solution' to the mystery be true or false, dissolution - the
greater Mystery — is certain. In the end, the title-truism of a (Cheyney or
Chase?) pulp murder novel sums it up — You're A Long Time Dead.