All will be well

Charles 4 Comments



I am filming with Bernard Underdown, Gravedigger of the Year, at Deerton Natural Burial Ground. We are standing beside one of Bernard’s freshly-dug graves talking with ever-so over-egged animation about graveyard myths and superstitions. We exhaust the topic, look over to the camera, and the cameraman says, “Lovely. Perfect.  Again, please.” In answer to our mildly miffed expressions he explains, “Car. That car. Sorry.” The noise of a passing car has intruded on the microphone. Bernard and I dig deep into our reserves of flagging spontaneity and reprise. 

On the other side of the burial ground I see five people arrive, then stand and survey the ground and chat contemplatively. It is starting to rain and they put their umbrellas up. 

One of the group detaches herself and comes over to us. It is Wendy Godden-Wood, the owner. Bernard and I come to the end of our re-take. We’re on a continuous loop now, we ready ourselves to start again. The cameraman says “Great. That’ll do.”

Wendy explains that the four people have come to buy plots. They are mooching, looking for the spot they like best, the spot where they’d like to spend eternity. 

People say we’re a death-denying nation. Don’t know about that. 


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11 years ago

I’d like to hope your uncertainty is well placed, Charles, but I’d be cautious about making assumptions. There can be many reasons for human behaviour, and I wouldn’t like to guess what motivates a complete stranger, but I have noticed that one way a movement may be absorbed and disempowered is by the adoption of its symbols. Looking at a woodland burial ground could imply anything, from graceful acceptance of death to one-upmanship for dinner party conversations. If we were truly comfortable about death, the producer would have asked to film them talking about what they wanted here. Or perhaps… Read more »

Charles Cowling
11 years ago

Well, you’re absolutely right, of course, Jonathan. It’s a dodgy thing, to project on to other people ideas which reflect one’s own mood and are entirely unverifiable. In a more jaundiced mood I might have thought, “Oh yeah, council cemetery and black granite headstone not good enough for you, eh?” I’d like to think I wouldn’t have, but your point holds.

They were not interviewed. Bernard was the main event. Lovely, lovely man. And, as you say, his name… you couldn’t make it up.

Poppy Mardall
11 years ago

Good choice of painting!

gloria mundi
11 years ago

Hey, caution’s OK, but let’s be a bit generous, a bit positive. Four people have come to buy burial plots at a “Natural” Burial Ground, where a really good (I presume) gravedigger works. That’s good, then. And if polished granite headstones in a council cemetery like one near here, next to a noisy council recycling depot, isn’t good enough for them – good on ’em!

And the film was about Bernard. The director’s decision not to film the potential customers can hardly be extended to provide conclusions about how death-averse we are or not, can it?