Algae on Dad's grave


The publisher for On Sacred Mountains happens to be based in the village next to where I used to live. In those days home was the Old Rectory in Rempstone, a house redolent with history. Oliver Cromwell went to school there, Florence Nightingale later became a regular visitor, and my bedroom was also the bedroom of two other 20th century writers, Dorothy Hartley and Cecil Roberts.

I drove out to the churchyard on the way home. Shortly after my father's death this was the scene where his last wife Mary, dressed in furs, would come tripping out along with Lil who came to clean the house every day. Lil would bring the bucket and scrubbing brush to clean the gravestone while Mary held an umbrella over her head.

It was still raining. Mary has since died and is buried elsewhere. Dad's name and the details of his passing, etched in gold letters onto a pink marble stone, were disappearing under a coat of algae. I knelt down on the grass, Dad some feet below me, and took my handkerchief to the marble to clean it as best I could.

The timing was curious. In my ongoing novel Cromozone we have just seen the last of the father. This book has been on the go for two decades now. Some time after finishing a much earlier draft I noticed how much my father's death had fuelled the book, specifically the experience of looking down into his grave as it awaited his coffin. That psychological reference point has now been removed and cleared - though the writing of the book is also an exorcism in some ways of some psychological residue of my father. The father in my book is an utter monster - not an accurate portrayal of my own father who also had a gentle side, but the portrayal was letting my own subconscious free. I offered my father both forgiveness and thanks as I stood by the grave. His passing and immediate afterlife weren't easy and didn't deserve to be, but I sense some peace at last as he pushes up grass. Not a bad way to end, lying under grass in an English country churchyard.

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