The thought of 10.000 steps at sunrise hurts until the last shoelace is tied. Then, on with two pairs of mittens, two pairs of leggings, two quilted jackets and a bribe for Dennis to stay inside closed doors and the two hour trek begins. The sun peeped over the trees at 7.27a.m. I stood still and looked into the pale red disk hoping it would reset my circadian clock and activate my pineal gland – some fucking chance. Then the brisk walk up to the Cross stopping off at the running track – five laps – then its downhill all the way home.
At 9.00 I slid into bed with Dennis and the old git, set the alarm for an hour, then, after 45 mins, winched myself out of bed.
At 10.00 I had David the TUINA man coming down from London. Fully dressed, that’s me not David, although he does tend to wear clothes, I lay down on the massage table. David then covered me with a crisp white sheet. This tall young man turned his attention to my body. Rolling and tapping, slapping and pressing. One hour later my neck, thighs and arms were as limber as a Russian ice skater without the weight of the world on her 15-year-old shoulders, although I do have an imprint on my cheek from the breathing hole in the table.
David left at 11.30 to go and roll a yogi around in Hastings.
Which is where we were heading but first I needed dates. So the’osbind took the wheel and we drove to the spice shop. A box of dates, 2 bitter gourds, a handful of ladies fingers and a box of exotic mushrooms. The woman in the queue complimented me on my leather coat, which I’d bought from the Weald of Kent charity shop. There then commenced a conversation about no clothes, old clothes, recycled clothes and vintage wear.
Prior to that we parked near the art studio and I ran into the Italian shop.
‘Volare – Nel blu di pinto di blu’ was playing loudly. Il Grosso Titolare del Trattamento, was singing along in his best Napalese.
I bought a huge floppy mushroom, two courgettes with the flowers in tact, two big blood red oranges and a bitter red raddicchio. I didn’t have any coins so she knocked off a couple of quid and charged me a fiver.
We were thirty miles in land from Ha-Ha-Ha-Hastings, so we drove over the mini roundabout – alright not literally, although I do sometimes drive over those stupid little round humps that are put there just to annoy – and turned right, past the old bus garage. There was the sign for the Victorian Cemetery, a convenient space for one hour’s free parking and off we went. It was chilly, not so chilly for gloves but cold enough for him to put his hand in my arm and for me to shove my hands in my pockets.
The grave stones are mostly grey stone. Women’s names ranged from Martha to Clara to Clarissa with a ton of Elizabeths. The mens named ranged from William to William to a couple of Henry’s, there were a good deal of Reverends. The ages of the deceased reminded us why we have a climate emergency; we’re all living much longer, living much larger and living beyond our means. Back in 1865 you were lucky to make it to 36, a handful of souls departed in their 70’s, but the majority of those Kent Victorians popped their clogs in what we now call our midlife.
There is something sobering about walking amongst the dead. Weathered memorials, crumbled and worn, slabs of granite standing atop family groups. We were told that before the internet there was a fair amount of rumpy-pumpy going on in between the Celtic crosses and fallen Angels.
On the way down the hill past snowdrops and cedar trees we were stopped by a delightful woman pitching us the benefits of joining ‘The friends of Woodberry Park Cemetery.’ For a mere eight pounds a year we would help maintain the cowslips and bluebells, and various wild animals that wander through the cemetery of a night.
It is said that talking to strangers is good for your mental health, so when we got to the drinking fountain we were stopped by Kathryn and Billy, her dog. She asked us whether we were prepared for tomorrow’s red warning. “Storm Eunace is waiting in the wings,” she said.
In the space of five minutes we found out that she had left London to get away from a violent father, that her daughter was doing an MA in Portsmouth, that she lived with her partner – who didn’t speak much – and that she would be forty nine tomorrow. We dutifully sung her a jaunty happy birthday and hugged her. She left with Bill dodging between the crocuses. We saw her on the way back talking to a young couple with a 5 month old puppy, Poppy, who was sleek and grey and growing into a right nice Staffy.
We took photos of the sun on the headstones and I stroked a silver birch covered in burrs.
We didn’t use up the allotted hour, but forty minutes tiptoeing through the tombstones was long enough to remind us that the calm before the storm was just that, that the air was crisp and clear, that we were about the oldest people in the cemetery that day and that none of us get out of this alive.
We’ve booked a trip to Hastings for next week!