Monday, 12 July 2010

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

I spent yesterday afternoon eating sweet little black cherries picked from trees in Tower Hamlets Cemetery. More than half a million people lie in the over grown 36 acre grounds, many in mass graves reflecting the poverty of the area. Lots of stories of sailors and rope makers, much of the grandeur is lost to bad decisions made by various London councils. The lady who showed us around was lovely though she told us how Tower Hamlets council had decided to level the cemetery and make it into a park until locals protested. The chapel where services were once held has been demolished leaving no access to the catacombs below. Many who lay here were lost to Britain’s two world wars, victims of The Blitz and the Bethnal Green tube disaster, soldiers and sailors who fell abroad were brought back to rest in the East End where their lives had begun. The sense of East End pride was clear in the ladies patriotism – she laughed as she discussed recent proposal to reopen the ground for use by local Muslims, apparently to avoid the problem of being buried on top of another body which is against religious tradition the councillor were suggesting squeezing new graves in between the old ones. When we came to one part of the cemetery she visibly stiffened and accelerated ‘German’s – we don’t bother about them!’

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