I never abandoned anyone, I just happened to move across the english channel to another country almost 50 years ago. I visited mum and dad at least once a year, usually at Christmas and sometimes in between.
Re-visiting my home I realised how abandoned it was becoming. Nothing to do with my parents, but the whole area of London which had suffered considerably through bombing attacks in the second world war. I grew up playing on the results of destruction: genuine adveture playgrounds. We kids of the East end would climb over rubble, hide in the nooks and crannies remaining of destroyed houses and with the smell of brickdust and aging objects in our nose. If it happened to rain, even more so: a damp dusty atmosphere. The government did not actually abandon us, but we were not their priority.
Today it has all been renewed. The rat infested cellars of the old bombed factory in the main road have been replaced by a new building. There are still some old landmarks, but few and far between. New schools have been built, there are new shops, and Bethnal Green, where my origins are, now have the street signs in two languages., english and Bengali. Yes the poplation is shifting, a sign of the times.
And here is another sign of abandonment, unfortunately. This is our family grave. It was my grandfather’s side of the family and my cemetery tourism began at an early part in my life. For some strange reason I took this photo on a visit to Woodgrange Cemetery, being about 12 years old at the time, with the only camera we owned, a Brownie box camera. I still have it in my posession today. It no longer works of course and is also not worth a fortune – I checked on that. It seems there are still enough Brownie box cameras in existence.
Back to the grave: my mum would take me to see the grave at least once a month, even when grandad was still amongst us. Her mother was buried there and a few other relations that I only got to know when I began my genealogy research of the family.
I have memories of the graveyard, although they go back to the 1950’s. It was an old graveyard, many of the graves being abandoned and no longer cared for. I remember wax flowers on some of the graves, protected by oval glass constructions. I knew the path to the family grave, which meant walking over other graves on the way. It was a real adventure finding the grave, but I knew which directio to go and which graves to walk across. There was a large flat stone embedded in the ground on the way and the inscription remains with me this day. It had a name and was a young man that had been “fished” out of the River Thames.
I have the original purchasing documents for this grave, paid for by a distant relative who I never knew. My cousin had these in his possession and kindly sent them to me.
One day I read in Internet that the owners of this cemetery property, a private organisation, had sold most of the land for redeveloping. Yes, it became something like the Poltergeist film, they built an appartment house on half of the land. Apart from a few reports in the news about objects in the property being moved by ghostly hands and things that went bump in the night (probably figments of the imagination) there was also a group formed in disgust at the development of the land. It seems that regardless of the graves, the bulldozer went its way and for a while there was a mixture of earth, bones and destroyed coffins to be seen on the property.
This all happened when I was in Switzerland. In the menwhile the remaining half of the cemetery had been transformed into a muslim burial ground. On one of my visits to London in 2009 I decided to discover the truth. My friend and I visited the cemetery. Luckily there was a guy at the entrance office for any questions and I had a few.
The general impression of the remaing christian part of the cemetery was wilderness, although it seemed to suit the remaing stones. There used to be a chapel at the entrance, but the guy looking after everything said that had disappeared a few months ago due to vandalism. It had been burnt down.
Of course my family grave was no longer there, it was probably bulldozed away with the rest of the unwanted bones and coffins. There were a few new muslim graves and a special part had been separated with an iron gate for the newer muslim graves. I was given a contact number to phone if I was intersted in discovering what happened to my ancestors, but this could only be done against payment. I decided my unknown ancestor had paid enough for the privilidge of a family grave with room for six ancestors, my grandad being the last, and so I left it. Even abandonment seems to cost money today.
And grandad: yes I was at his funeral I was 16 years old at the time and I remember it well. It was the first time I had seen an open grave, ready for the final coffin. They must have dug real deep for No. 1 ancestor. No. 6, grandad just had enough space. The chapel then still existed for a small ceremony. Today the cemetery is just a place where the weeds and broken memories of old stones are left. I suppose I should be thankful for small mercies, at least I had food for my camera.
Daily Prompt: Abandoned