old mortlake burial ground
Half-eaten rubbish pulled out of a bin. Tall thin old gravestones, leaning at different angles to the vertical. A red plastic watering can on its side. On the notice-board at the Avenue Gardens entrance, “For out-of-hours emergencies, telephone…” followed by a Richmond Council number. What kind of emergencies, you wonder: a sudden need to bury someone ? Some of the crosses have been pushed over; just the easy ones, the ones that were balanced on a flat stone surface. It’s as if whatever pushed them over was furious but without much leverage in the world.
A few days ago I noticed a woman slumped on the bench, slowly eating something, some kind of wrap or filled pitta. I couldn’t place her. She wasn’t dressed like the women you see in Barnes and East Sheen during the day. She was older, not thin enough, not entitled enough. In the end I wondered if she was a teacher, trying to escape the children in her lunch hour. There’s Barnes Hospital the other side of the graveyard wall, of course, advertising itself as providing “the very best services for people with mental health problems”. Perhaps she was an outpatient, but she looked harried enough to be a nurse.
I’ve seen computer equipment being delivered to Barnes hospital, day and night, logistics vans, medical supply vans, inching down South Worple Way, a road barely wider than they are. Do you need a lot of computers in Mental Health ? Walking home from P’s house I’ve seen foxes going in the gates late at night. Cars rocking themselves out of their parking places near the recycling bins. Soft wet snow falling straight down. It’s a busy little stretch, under the lamplight. A fox will stop and look directly at you, alert but unafraid, then turn and push through the railings into the cemetery.
During the day it reminds you of the allotments a little further towards Barnes on the opposite side of the railway–something in the layout as well as the kind of organisation implied.