About Me

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Bristol , United Kingdom
I am co-director of the Leaping Word Poetry Consultancy, which provides advice for poets on writing, editing and publishing, as well as qualified counselling support for those exploring personal issues in their work - https://theleapingword.com. My fifth poetry collection, Learning Finity, is now available from Indigo Dreams or directly from me.

Friday, 5 November 2021

All Hallows and the stories we tell ourselves

There's always a few jobs to do after a funeral. On Tuesday I went to the cemetery and crematorium to move my mother's funeral flowers to my grandmother's grave. 

Can't say I'm fond of formal flower arrangements myself, but the cross was right for my mother, and I liked the colours and the personal significance of the Michaelmas daisies. 

My grandmother's grave had some Herb Robert growing on it, which I'm fond of and would have left growing, but I know my aunts aren't and wouldn't have, so I did a spot of weeding and put my hand on something spiky. It turned out to be a tiny holly bush that had probably self-seeded from a Christmas wreath, so I took it home and planted it up. It felt like a gift from my grandmother, thirty years after her death, and I hope it will eventually grow big enough to produce berries - if it's female - and attract blackbirds and thrushes.

I also had to catch up on other jobs that had gone undone over the previous month, like an oil change for my car. On the way back from the garage, I walked over Horfield Common, which was looking beautiful in November sun. 


I always look to the skyline for the familiar landmarks, and there they are: to the left of the pair of trees, Freezing Hill (which I still haven't visited); to the right, Kelston Roundhill (which I have).

I spent a little time wandering through the churchyard of Holy Trinity with St Edmund (Horfield Parish Church), and I realised that it must have been years since I'd walked right around it, as there was a beautiful monument I hadn't acquainted myself with before, even though it's been there long enough to have acquired a smattering of lichen and moss. 

Jenny Nicholson was murdered on 7th July 2005 in the London bombings. She was 24. The inscriptions are a quotation from Sonnet 116, and another from Charlotte Bronte: 'I am no bird and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will'. 

In between these jobs, I drove my daughter back to her home on the south coast. As it happened, St Wulfran's Church at nearby Ovingdean had popped up in my social media feed that morning, so we diverted for a quick picnic in the sunshine. 

The village was the birthplace of Charles Eamer Kempe, the Victorian designer and friend of William Morris, who was closely involved in its 'restoration' in the 1860s. It was at this time that he designed the painted ceiling.

The reredos was also designed in the late 19th century.

Most of my photos of Kempe's windows, which were donated to the Church before his death in 1907, didn't come out too well; here's a few that were OK. 

We wandered around outside for a bit looking for the Kempe family vault but failed to spot it. I found a very early primrose growing on an unmarked grave, however ... 

... and an instruction to badgers with opposable thumbs.

In an extension of the churchyard there was a view of the sea ...

... and another memorial to a life that ended abruptly amid much publicity. 

I've been thinking a lot lately about the stories we tell ourselves to give shape to our lives and those of the people closest to us, but how hard must it be to find that shape if someone you love dies when their lives were just starting? 


  1. What a lovely new set of pictures and thoughts. Lovely monument too - I was thinking of sonnet 116 a few days ago...I read it at my Dad's funeral in memory of the loving care he lavished on my Mum in her final years. Her anniversary is today.
    No, lavished is the wrong word - it was more solid, dependable and quiet than that sounds.
    I hope the holly takes root - it is a special thing, to grow plants from our childhood memories.

    1. That sort of love needs to have the setting of a good relationship. I hope you have a lovely day today, in your mother's memory.