I’m surrounded by the dead, and thinking about the National Lottery.
I remind myself to buy a ticket for tonight’s draw, whilst stepping over a broken Victorian gravestone, which bulges, cock-eyed, out of the subsiding ground beneath, like a bad tooth protruding out from receding gum.
There are three cemeteries in Hanwell, two of which I’ve never visited, until today, and another one that I lived adjacent to for several years. In fact, so close to my kitchen window did someone else’s dearly departed lie, that, had the headstone inscriptions faced the opposite way around, I would have been able to read the names whilst I washed the dishes. Those that weren’t faded and moss covered, that is.
They never unsettled me, those old bones beneath, even when, in the early hours, I’d go outside to smoke a cigarette, and puff away, a few feet away from them. During all my time in that flat, I saw not one single fleeting, shadowy grey shape, heard no faint scraping sounds, like the lid of tomb being moved, might make. And I never caught so much of a glimpse of a naked diabolist, chanting in the moonlight, whilst sacrificing a squirrel for the dark lord, over a desecrated grave.
Just a quiet and peaceful vibe was all I ever felt. Which was a little disappointing, to be honest. As a life-long horror book and film fan , I wouldn’t have minded the odd spooky close encounter. I did see a UFO there once, but that’s science fiction, not horror. Bah.
I put it down to having had deceased neighbours, as being the reason why I’d never felt the urge to visit either of the other two, much larger, local burial grounds. Until today, that is, when I decided to take a saunter around both of them.
These necropoleis, situated a stone’s throw from each other, are both extramural burial sites, built in the 1850s, to provide an overflow for the unmanageable, rising body counts, in Westminster, and Kensington, respectively.
The City of Westminster Cemetery, includes 84 First and second World War graves, and also the remains of a comedy actor named Freddie Frinton, who I remember from a 60’s sit-com, Meet The Wife, when he played opposite Thora Hird. The 30s , big band era, jazz crooner, Al Bowlly, whom my mum had been a fan of, is also interred here.
Cross over the road and you’ll find, The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Cemetery, which houses a large gothic chapel and has, reputedly, become a sanctuary for wild birds. I peer up, scanning the row of tall cedars for signs of movement. But the only avian life around here are a couple of mumpish looking crows, mooching around the many sacred, sometimes toppled, monuments. Two crows. Not even enough for a murder.
This sprawling boneyard does house a few notable remains though, apparently. A civil engineer, a conservative politician and a conchologist, all A-listers in their day, rest in peace here, as does one John Connolly, pioneering psychiatrist and superintendent of the delightful sounding, Hanwell Pauper and Lunatic Asylum.
Which brings me back to the lottery. Surely only a complete, crazy-ass, howling at the moon, nut-job could seriously believe that they will be the one in many millions to become instantly, pauper-bustingly, wealthy, care of six random numbers. I mean, really, the odds on winning the jackpot are so long that, (I read somewhere), a lottery entrant has a greater chance of passing away before the balls are drawn, than they do of winning the big money. Great. Oh well, in both cases your number would be up, I muse, circumnavigating a bird-muck coated family mausoleum, to get up close to a broken angel, who looks down, demurely, as I take her photo. There are a lot of angels around. I like the angels.
Heading out through the gates, I decide that I will, despite near the impossible odds. purchase a lottery ticket for tonight, as I would love to win the jackpot. Until then, I’ll just have to do a Robbie Williams..