Tuesday, 5 December 2017

A grave matter

With time to kill I wandered around the depressing scene that is the churchyard of Holy Cross Church, Daventry. 'Well what do you expect?' I hear you say, 'It is December.'
True, but the snag is, it is always depressing. Is it the discarded coke cans that litter the ground? Is it old polythene bags snagged on the bushes? Yes, these are disfiguring and a sad indictment of our throwaway society, but it is more than that. It is the general neglect and decay of the graves, their headstones and memorials so neglected, shattered and forlorn. Rather absurdly Shelley's poem 'Ozymandias' came to mind:
                                      'My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
                                       Look on my works ye mighty and despair'

Yes, as I say, absurd. These were for the most part ordinary citizens - plebeians, living for the most part undistinguished lives, yet at their burial each was, for a short while, the central thought in the mind of sad mourners. Close relatives would vow, if only to themselves, to keep the burial site clean and not allow neglect to overtake the area. And yet...
So important that they were surrounded by cast-iron railings - but who
were they? Daventry, 5 December, 2017
...all about me was decay. Relatives died, forgot, or were simply too busy with their own lives to bother.
What lies under this mound of ivy? It is probably quite a grand piece of masonry in memory of someone who, for a brief moment in time, was a local Ozymandias. Now it would take a considerable effort to discover who he or she was.
Ivy completely hides a rather grand memorial. Daventry, 5 December, 2017
Rather oddly, several of the graves now sported an elder tree. Elder or Bourtree, Sambucus nigra, perhaps has more folklore associated with it than any other plant. In a sense it guarded burial sites and in Scandinavia the tree was under the protection of a dryad called Hylde-Moer, the elder mother. Woe betide anyone who cut it down to make some furniture; Hylde-Moer would be sure to hunt you down and haunt you. It will make a small tree but is usually found as little more than a shrub:

                             Bour-tree, bour tree, crookit rung,
                             Never straight and never strong,
                             Ever bush and never tree
                             Since our Lord was nailed t'ye'.

Legend claims that Christ's cross was made from elder. Myths and legends aside, the churchyard boasts a healthy population of blackbirds and the elder seeds are probably distributed via bird poo.
An elder occupies a grave site. Daventry Holy Cross churchyard.
5 December, 2017
Elder is usually found on soil enriched by organic matter, often neglected former agricultural land. It will grow prolifically around rabbit warrens where the ground is manured by the droppings but for the rabbits the plant is uneatable.
Another elder guarded a wreck of a grave site.
Daventry, 5 December, 2017
Here and there daffodil bulbs were just pushing their shoots though the ground. Someone with a philosophical bent would make some sort of pithy comment about the renewal of life. Not I.
Narcissi push through at another grave. 5 December, 2017
I left the churchyard in need of cheering up! Less than fifty yards away, on the edge of Abbey Square, a bush of Lavatera was a mass of bloom. Not so long ago I would have casually referred to it as Lavatera olbia but in fact the genera Malva, Olbia, Lavatera and Althaea are in such a taxonomic mess that only a brave person attempts to put a name to a particular taxon. I'm keeping shtum.

Smothered in bloom a Lavatera brightens up Abbey Square, Daventry.
5 December, 2017
Anyway, putting these ruminations aside, the flowers were lovely and I had to remind myself that it was December. They made a fitting vision with which to end a blog.
Each petal bears honey guides but there will be few visitors now.
5 December, 2017

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