Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Pembrokeshire Angel

And to cater for those who look forward to seeing more of my Angels. Here is the only one in St David's graveyard. Even this has attracted the Lichen which crawls across her face. Do remember to click on the images for a close up look, especially the top image.

Cover Up?

Still in St David's graveyard, a final look at the lichen as it almost completely submerges a headstone.

More cover ups!

It is astonishing how much the lichen can conceal - whole words and symbols - as these examples show.

Lichen or Not?

Of course, some of what I called lichen might be something different. I seem to remember finding a fallen oak tree branch in a particularly damp area of Somerset that was covered in this coral-like foliage, albeit bright green in colour. Is there a botanist out there who can solve the mystery?

Lichen consumes a Headstone

There is a small graveyard in St David's, Pembrokeshire where, it seems, that Lichen is making a bid to take over the world. I have not seen such growth anywhere else in Britain. Have you ever seen similar sights? I would be interested to know.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Paris Dog Cemetery Update

Owen of the marvellous 'Magic Lantern Show, blog has taken the time to visit the dog cemetery in Paris that has created so much interest. See an example of his fantastic work (above) - Copyright Owen Phillips 2009).

His two posts are available on the following link:

Paris Dog Cemetery Chapters 1 and 2

Aside from the above, I would recommend you all visit Owen's blog. He has an eye for composition, the unusual, the surreal and much more. I enjoying viewing his great photographs and the accompanying words. Go there now and enjoy!

Where's Laurie?

For those of you who have wondered where I am, I thought I would just mention that I suffered a lateral ligament sprain of the knee - a common sporting injury. Sadly, I wasn't playing sport - just planting my onions on my allotment! And . . . if that wasn't bad enough, I limped about trying to be a brave little soldier and suffered a small tear in my calf muscle. The word 'ouch' shouted very loudly doesn't go anywhere near the resulting pain! I hope to be posting again, shortly.
Best wishes

Monday, 13 April 2009

The Paris Dog Cemetery - The Cimetière des Chiens

According to Wikipedia, The Cimetière des Chiens is believed to be the first zoological necropolis in the world. It opened in 1899 at 4 pont de Clichy on Île des Ravageurs in Asnières-sur-Seine, Île-de-France, France. Literally translated as the 'Cemetery of Dog', this elaborate pet cemetery is the burial site for many dogs but also for a wide variety of pets ranging from horses to monkeys to lions and even fish. Located in a northwest suburb of Paris, the pet cemetery caters to a very elite clientele. Filled with grand and ornate sculptures, at the entry is the monument to Barry, a Saint Bernard mountain rescue dog who died in 1814. The plaque says that during his lifetime, "Barry" was responsible for saving the lives of 40 people lost or trapped in the mountain snow.

Some of the cemetery's residents are famous in their own right such as Rin Tin Tin, the star of a number of Hollywood films, while others are the beloved pets of the wealthy who could afford this elaborate burial place such as film director Sacha Guitry. Buried here too, is the pet lion of stage actress, feminist, and co-founder of the cemetery, Marguerite Durand and the pet of Camille Saint-Saëns, composer of Carnival of the Animals.

The cemetery today is operated by the city of Asnières and in 1987, the government of France classified the cemetery as a historical monument. However, the cemetery has fallen on hard times and no longer draws very many tourists. Its owners have stated that they may have to close it.

Barbara Gordon produced a short film on this cemetery. It is very moving.

Martian Burial Site?

Here is a photograph of a Dogs Cemetery at Molesworth in Huntingdon. Some of the dogs' names are visible. They include: Jinnie, Fitz, Viper, Joan and Mackie. In the case of the latter, Mackie's large headstone [front, left] bears the following description:
"In Memory of Mackie [Martian Wee MacGregor)
Died in India September 7, 1912
Aged 7 years
Clever and Affectionate, this little Scottie was a great companion and never failing delight to his Mistress who bitterly regrets him.
His place can never be filled"

Why does his headstone bear the word 'Martian?' What does this mean?

Snail Cluster Raises Questions

I tend to treat snails as equals and don't have the killer instinct that other gardeners sometimes have. I know someone nearby who throws any snails she finds over the wall and out of her garden. This cracks their shells and condemns them to a long, lingering death. I don't like it at all! Others may take a different view.

Sometimes, during the winter months, I see a cluster of snails crammed into a crevice in a wall. I presume they do as some form of hibernation. There seems to be a hard film covering the exit of the shell. This weekend, however, I came across a large snail crawling across a step in the garden. It carried two other snails on its shell.
Later that day, I saw it returning back to a crack in the wall and it only had one upon its back. Does anyone know what was happening here? Does the first to wake from hibernation carry the others until they arise. All thoughts and theories welcomed.

Morris Dancing - It's a very English thing!

Today was the 30th anniversary of the Mells Village Day. This Somerset event is better know as Mells Daffodil Day. This year's star guests were the Bathampton Morris Men who danced and danced for all they were worth! Here is a short film of this quaint English custom.

Thursday, 9 April 2009


I have just seen the latest post on Matthew Rose's stunning blog: A Book About Death http://abookaboutdeath.blogspot.com/. It details the project for 1,000 artists to contribute 500 postcards each to create an unbound book about Death. The exhibition will take place at the Emily Harvey Foundation Gallery in New York City this September. The latest post is reproduced above. I realise the image by Beth Robinson is disturbing, but it is also pretty fantastic work of art. For more on the exibition and some other thought-provoking pieces of work, visit the website. Please let me know what you think?

Also, you absolutely must visit Beth Robinson's website: http://www.strangedolls.net/ I can guarantee you will have never seen such, well - strange dolls in all your life. Remarkable!

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Mickey Mouse Gas Mask

Today, the Somerset village where I live held its annual Village Day. The subject was Writhlington and the Second World War. I noticed this child's gas mask. It was known as the Mickey Mouse mask, but looks nothing like the cartoon character. The bright colours and name were used to lessen the frightening purpose of the mask - to protect against poison gas attacks by the Germans.

Our American allies produced a Mickey Mouse mask for their children and it really did look like Mickey! If anything, this one is even more sinister. Click on the title of this post for a link to photos and a history of the US version.

Communing with Gnomes

Now the sun is starting to shine, Minnie spends hours in the company of Godfrey, our elderly gnome. I have not, as yet, found out what she and Godfrey talk about, but I am sure the subject is fascinating. I know a little cat language - there are books on the subject - but I don't know what language gnomes speak. Any ideas, anyone?

Saturday, 4 April 2009

A Roman Soldier's Grave and a Teapot

This is a postcard sent to Miss Bennett at 25 Kingsley Avenue, West Ealing, London. The sender records: "This is one of the old Roman Soldiers just found here, There are 9 of them altogether all buried with their various arms and faces to the East". The postage stamp has been removed and the partial postmark that remains gives no clue to date or place of posting. The scribble on the top right of the card reads: "I have got a lovely little Tea Pot" The purchase of the teapot was evidently just cause for defacing the postcard!

Dressed in Mourning White

This woman, dressed in white, is standing on a long avenue between the graves of a very large cemetery. It is probably somewhere in Europe, possibly France. The shape of the couple of wooden crosses in the far background may be French, but I do not recognise the style of headstone, but one of you may. Please let me know. It must be very hot and I think the black collar worn round the neck of the woman may represent that she is in mourning.

Tending the Grave

This photograph is quite unusual as it shows a widow rearranging a floral display on a grave that has yet to have a headstone raised on it. Note the extraordinary detail (click on the photo to enlarge) of her mourning dress and hat. The earth of the grave has been heaped into a mound and grassed. The wooden cross to the left is quite sharp and I can read some of the detail - Amelia (?)easdale Died March 22 190(?). Sadly, it is not possible to identify the churchyard where it was taken, unless of course I can trace the burial details of Amelia . . .

Fox Terriers in Funeral Tableau

It has to be said, but sometimes the Victorian and Edwardian attitude to Death was pretty distasteful - by today's standards I guess. Johnny Watson toured the country at the turn of the last century with his troupe of Fox terriers. What strikes me as distinctly odd is that the deceased terrier is lying on the ground next to the funeral bier and that next to him is the grieving widow - another terrier dressing in black mourning clothes! Some may find this funny, but it makes me uneasy. What do others think?

The reverse of the postcard records the following publicity statement:
"Watson's Fox Terriers
(Everybody's Favourites)
Who Through 'Dogged' Determination and Perseverence
Have Become A 'Howling' Success Everywhere.

Presented by
Johnny Watson
(Born Newcastle-on-Tyne, February 7th, 1844.)

Friday, 3 April 2009

States of Preservation in Sicily

The Catacombs in Palermo, Italy contain lines of thousands of well preserved corpses. Dating back to 1599 when priests mummified a monk for all to see and others followed. Some of the corpses have long ago lost their flesh and are skeletons. Others have mummified flesh, hair and even eyes. All are dressed in clothes from the period in which they lived. The practice stopped in the 1920s.

A fascinating website on the subject is maintained by retired US Navy Chief Petty Officer Kimberly
King. Clicking on the title of this post should automatically link to her website. It is well worth a visit.

Monumental Mason's trade card

Monumental Masons and Funeral Directors often produced trade cards to advertise their services. This card for J F Keely and Sons, a monumental sculptor in Southport records that they employ a competent staff of carvers, masons, letter cutters and polishers. For such a formal occasion, I am suprised at the colourful portrait of a young woman accompanying the words. She looks quite unlike a widow and is smiling . . . What particularly interests me is the small note to her left which states 'Made in the United States of America' - the card and or portrait?

In Memoriam Cards

In memoriam cards are sometimes printed at family request as a momento to mark the passing and the funeral of a loved one. Some are very ornate, especially from the Victorian and Edwardian period. They can often be found in junk shops and at antique fairs, priced at just a few pence. Most collectors ignore them, but the odd surprise can be found. I picked up one in Hampshire and it commemorated a young man killed in a railway accident. I have yet to research the story. Another marked the passing of an entire family who were killed in an air raid during the London Blitz in 1941. I did find an account of the raid, but have still to track down the newspaper report of the time.

The death of young children is especially sad as they have not had the chance to live their lives. I can remember my late father telling me how, in 1917, he was among a group of children struck by a car (and there cannot have been many about in that time, one of whom was killed. He also mentioned having a sister who died as a baby. Years later, I was passing the site of the car accident and noticed a small cemetery opposite. I stopped and went in and immediately came across a cast iron cross that marked the grave of his sister. By way of coincidence, when I looked up, I saw the grave of a young boy who had been killed in an automobile accident in 1917.

The in memoriam card illustrated above marks the death of a young girl - Claudia Mabel Mahy - who died in St Sampsons in Guernsey in 1920. I am curious about the details for mourners attending the funeral which records the phrase 'Men and Women'. I can only presume that it means that both sexes may take part?

In Memoriam - a series of glimpses into attitudes to death and how it is marked

As an occasional student of funerary architecture, I often visit cemeteries and graveyards. It is surprising what interesting stories arise by just reading the words on the headstones. Not so many years ago, I found a headstone that marked the grave of an Edwardian gentleman and his wife. After her name was inscribed the words 'The escaped Nun'. Now that's a story to think about.

Some of the larger London Cemeteries have open days where guided tours take place. In one case, the catacombs were opened and it was fascinating to see how the Victorians commemorated Death. Often while visiting junk shops and bric-a-brac fairs, I would find postcards and photographs of tombs and funerals filed under the heading of Social History. They cost just a few pence and I would put them in a postcard album. Recently, I found two of the albums which contain several hundred cards. I thought you might appreciate my sharing a few of the more unusual images with you.