Life of an Artist

The Peace of the Dead

Do you have somewhere you go which is peaceful and calming? Churchyards for me are endlessly fascinating and peaceful places, I love visiting them. Whenever we go somewhere if left to my own devices I will usually end up wandering into the local churchyard.

St James Church and showing old building and graves
St James Church and showing old building and graves

Friends and family are used to this ‘quirk’ of mine and I was absolutely delighted when on a recent trip everyone agreed to a brief stop for me to explore one. What the locals thought of a large classic orange and blue bus pulling up and waiting while a woman in black dress with Dr Marten boots on wandered around the churchyard is anyone’s guess!

Classic buses are great fun but can draw a bit of attention
Classic buses are great fun but can draw a bit of attention

Many of the older gravestones were worn with age to the point you really couldn’t read who they belonged to. Interestingly though these older graves faced roughly west (I didn’t have a compass so had to gauge by the position of the sun) instead of east. The newer burials, however, faced east. Given the Christian tradition of graves facing east ready for resurrection, a tradition with less prominence in recent years when aesthetics in graveyards has become more important, I would have assumed that it would have been the other way round. Of course, it’s possible they were buried facing east and their gravestones simply placed the other way round to make them easier to read from the pathway.

I didn’t stay long, just long enough to soak up the peaceful atmosphere and take a few photographs before heading back to the bus with a smile of my face from my solo wander.

A beautifully carved cross gravestone at St James Church, East Tisted
A beautifully carved cross gravestone at St James Church, East Tisted

‘Do you not get scared?’ people often ask when they hear about this ‘habit’ of seeking out graveyards. Ummm no, I’ve only ever been frightened in a churchyard once. For reasons I won’t go into (obviously to do with photography) I was in a churchyard late at night with a friend, the streetlights nearby casting an orange glow and giving us just enough light to see the path. About 20 yards or so into our journey a car passed, its lights briefly casting into the area in front of us. Something moved, my friend screamed and grabbed hold of me for protection. Exactly what sort of protection she thought I’d be able to give provide with her wailing and hanging off my back I’ve no idea. The offending ‘spooky’ movement? A metallic balloon left by a grieving loved one at a child’s grave nearby. The balloon didn’t scare me but someone screaming and jumping on me did.

So I guess the moral of the story is that churchyards can be amazingly peaceful places to visit provided you have the right people with you. Or maybe just go on your own, after all the dead are less likely to jump on you (but the locals might look at you strangely if you turn up in a classic bus).

2 thoughts on “The Peace of the Dead

  1. Just brilliant, I guess your friend was going to pull the old classic stunt of casting you towards the spook to provide enough of a human sacrifice to allow her to safely escape. Personally the living frighten me more than the dead …

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