Friday, November 19, 2010

Forever England

We would like to set aside this auspicious moment to thank Dorothy for her exciting and very appropriately ethereal contribution to our new pages. With her brilliant story representing the iconic bottle of champagne, we ceremoniously tap it against the hull of our ship and officially launch our blog into the stratosphere. Welcome all, to Spook City, and may peace go with all who sail in her.

"FOREVER ENGLAND" - Dorothy Davies 

As you came soft footing down the road, what did you see?  Damaged gates with broken hinges, bound by weeds against low walls? You would not have seen the once proud lettering which spelled out BRITISH CEMETERY.
Now gone, worn away by wind, rain and vandals.  You are not a vandal, are you?
As you came striding down the long sloping weed-encrusted drive, you found the gates either side of the railway line open for you, did you not?  The lines are rusting in the ground, leading to nowhere.  You did ignore the warning sign, did you not? It has been a long time since there were trains.
As you crossed the lines, did you walk easy on the consecrated ground?  The dead are only sleeping, after all.  Beware those snatched from life before their time, taken by accident, by nature, by design, for they are not resting easy and will not be disturbed without revenge.
But you know that, don’t you? And still you come.           
As you come tip-toeing round the large house with its sloping roof, take care you do not disturb the memories of the caretakers long gone from this cherished ground. See the chapels? Once proud, now fallen into disrepair. See the tilting lying gravestones?  Pious messages scarce readable after the work of time.  Come: see the war graves, neat in line, each the same as its neighbour, each carrying the message that war is insane, that countries are insane to give up their youth to the ever-open hands of Death.
But you know that, don’t you? Why else are you here? Will you stay tonight?
Let me tell you.  A sly fox slunk through the gates one night, rooted among the graves, pawed at the ground, barked his disappointment at a distant moon which heard nothing.
At night, most nights, dogs come to lift their legs against headstones, scrape and claw at the earth, seeking bones, howling their frustration at the same uncaring unhearing moon.
Rats venture forth, twitching whiskers and tails, but the dead are tight sealed in brick and mortar tombs.  It is good to see that for rats, there is nothing.
If you stay.  And it would be good to stay. I can tell you how beautiful this place is in Spring. Wild flowers grow on neglected graves, nodding at the words on the headstones, lifting their faces to the sun.  Grass pushes through exposed crevices, softening, cushioning.
Let me tell you how beautiful this place is in summer, when the stones are white under the sun, when insects burrow and buzz, when birds come to peck at seeds, when the house settles under the weight of heat.
Let me tell you how beautiful this place is in winter, frost sparkles on each grave at dawn, winds crash and tear at the wall surrounding us, when cold bites into the very bones deep in their brick-lined tombs.  Sometimes there is snow. Gravestones wear white caps, slabs are buried deep in whiteness and grass lays down to await the spring.
See the war memorial over there? Imagine that with shoulders of snow.  Once a priest stood there, poppy wreath in hand, out-shouting a London jet with his prayers. It is a long time since there were jets.
Or priests.

I have omitted autumn.
Autumn means trees and surely by now you have seen there are no trees. Once there were pines here, two hundred and fifty of them, dropping needles on the grass and stones, offering shade, protection, shelter. But then, once there were ten acres here, taken under Government grant for the English and all other foreigners, for the burying of their dead.
Commercial greed, couched in the requirements of an airport, stole the ground and murdered the tall trees.
Did you hear about that?
Did it make the papers, that terrible murder that was done in the name of commerce?
I tell you.
They came with axes and chain saws, in lorries that damaged the tall proud gates of the Catholic section.  They came, those men with money in their hearts and attacked the trees.  The trees fell on graves, on other trees, on the attackers themselves.  The trees’ death-cry was in the crashing and smashing of branches and twigs, in sawdust which fell as tears from open wounds.  The attackers saw only money, not dead trees.
Ah, it is long done but not forgotten.
I still do not mention autumn?
Then let me tell you what it was like when the vandals came.
They came in autumn, when the grasses turn rusty and dry, when plants settle down for a long sleep, when leaves drifted in on cool sharp winds, reminding me of the time when there were trees here.
It was then, in the season of gold and cold that they came.  They marched six abreast, the line trailing back to the gates at the top of the drive when the leaders reached the sleeping rusting lines.  Rust flaked and quavered under their feet, birds left the house eaves, shrieking alarm and fear to a non-hearing world.  Rats ran for holes, dogs hid behind stones, the dead grew tense with anticipation and apprehension.
“Look at this, a ship’s cook! Poisoned himself with his own cooking, eh?”
Drunken laugher tore at the air as they walked narrow paths, reading headstones, making ribald and insulting comments.
You want examples? Do you not know how it hurts to tell?
I tell you.

“Look at this - killed by lightning! Hot stuff, eh?!
“Why didn’t we come here before? It’s great!”
This I tolerated, but not easily, you understand.  Definitely, it was not easy. I tolerated this, I who guard this English land.
You do not agree?
The trees were not English, the trees were here long before the English came, but the land, which was foreign, was fertilised with English blood, flesh and bones. Those who came to mourn watered the ground with English tears, the trees were transformed and I along with them. The pines were killed by the foreigners, those in whose land we are.  More than anything, this made me what I am.
But this is not completing the story, is it?
Don’t you want to hear, you who came soft footing into my territory?
They found the war graves.
The youth of this land, who have not known war, spat upon the graves of the brave, wrote obscenities on clean white stone, urinated against the Cross of Remembrance.
It was then I called up the spirits of the restless dead, called them to me to oust the intruders.
And they came.
The ship’s cook had not poisoned himself; he had drowned.  He came dripping in seaweed and salt water.  The long dead child, bearing the marks of the horse which ran it down. Car crash victims with mangled limbs and heads; people killed by lightning, burned and charred.  And all whose rest had been disturbed once too often, they came too, a large mass of hissing spitting angry spirits.  Beyond them I walked, tall as the tall pines, rustling leaves, snapping twigs, roaring with the voice of wind through branches of a hundred years.
Now you know who I am, the spirit of the murdered trees.
They ran, just as you are running now, afraid of what might be, afraid of what was. No soft footing now, loud thumping footsteps, anxious to be away.

Be careful, o rash visitor, for the sound of your running feet may well disturb those who rest even now uneasily in this corner of the world which is forever England...

This is a real place.  I know this cemetery well, as my parents were caretakers there for twelve years.  The ‘murder’ of the pines happened as described.
I leave it to you to decide whether the rest of the story is real or not.

BIO: Dorothy Davies, writer, editor, medium, lives on the Isle of Wight (Isle of Spirits) where she writes her strange stories and channels books direct from spirit authors.


  1. Very haunting, Dorothy. It's well written and really gives you the creepy sense of being there. Well done.

  2. Ethereal and haunting Dorothy. An absolute tragedy.

  3. Thanks, Anna, thanks, Lily. Good to know the story is getting an appreciative audience. I am busy writing some more ... !

  4. Atmossssspheric, yessss?? Love the narrative, Dorothy...

  5. many thanks for all the good words. Favourite story, good memories, combined to make something people are enjoying. Can't be bad.

  6. You've conveyed a tremendous sense of atmosphere here Dorothy. A great start to Spook City's blog. Congratulations Dorothy. Congratulations Spook City.
    - Ben Hubble