Counterintuitive as it may seem, I take solace in my local graveyard as the pandemic grips Scotlandby Peter Ross / April 2, 2020 / Leave a comment
Every day, when I take my hour of state-sanctioned exercise, I walk out of my back gate, squeeze through a gap in the railings, a hollow in the hedge, and am soon saying hello to my neighbours—none of whom, having lived and died long ago, are in any position to return the greeting. I am social distancing among the dead.
Glasgow is known as the dear green place on account of its many parks. However, these are so busy at the moment that it is very difficult to keep the regulation two metres apart. A tumbledown cemetery, though? Much better. It doesn’t matter that many thousands have got here first; there is no chance of them giving coronavirus to me, or me to them. It is likely, in fact, that a good few of the men, women and children who comprise the citizenry of the graveyard succumbed to Spanish flu, which is thought to have arrived in Britain in the summer of 1918 via the ports of the Clyde. They have been through this all before, and so I feel safe—soothed even—in their company.
The cemetery I have come to regard as a sanctuary is on a hill behind my house. It opened in 1878 and has, like all of us at the moment, seen better days. From the highest point, where some of the grandest stones still stand, though many have been toppled, one has a view of the city centre a few miles north. Just visible is the huge pink sign overlooking George Square, and the words: People Make Glasgow. This is a marketing slogan that happens to be true. So, too, does the reverse: Glasgow makes people. It makes them funny, often, and brassy, and, most of all, resilient. That cheery resilience is on full display in the graveyard.
Joggers, dog-walkers, amblers, we nod and wave from safe removes, glad to feel the sun and wind on our faces. A young woman, bike laid in leaf-litter, sketches a stone angel. An older lady, sitting on a fallen trunk, catches up with Line Of Duty. For years the cemetery felt almost entirely abandoned, the haunt of users and boozers, vandals with spray-paint and hammers, but now it is experiencing…