Saturday, 18 March 2017

A Lack of Humour

In Poole Cemetery, not far away from where this picture seems to have been taken, are my dad's and grandparents' graves. I don't go there very often; my grandad died a long time ago, and my nan was six weeks off her 100th birthday, and I don't feel the loss of them that keenly. As for my dad, when I think about his death my predominant feeling, even after five years, is anger at the injustice and squalor of it rather than any personal lack it leaves me with. My mum experiences the sense of loss much more acutely, and is often at the cemetery to clean the gravestones and reconnect with her parents and my dad, when her health allows her.

She was there at the start of this week, and found the area around the graves roped off with hazard tape 'like there had been a murder'. It seems the Council contractors had been tree-felling and the logs from a large pine were stacked behind the row of graves. She discovered nan and grandad's grave was covered with branches and twigs and there were wood-chippings everywhere. The gravestones themselves were spattered with orange pine resin. It looked, difficult though it is to credit, as though the logs had been cut up while resting on the graves themselves. The flower-holder on my grandparents' grave had been broken. It wasn't as though they were old graves that no-one visits: the dates are 2012 and 2014. 

One of the cemetery staff was nearby and noticed my mum's distress. He found the state of the area as shocking as she did. He tried to clear up the mess, ineffectually. 'I'm sorry, it's all embedded in the stone chippings. You'll have to clear the graves completely and wash it out. And the resin needs more than just water to clean it off.' He would speak to the Parks Department about it. Mum had enough resolve to call the Council herself when she got home, and then me. 'I can't manage this, if we need to do anything more you and your sister will have to deal with it.'

As I say, I'm not a frequent visitor to the cemetery: I go with my mum occasionally when I'm down in Dorset, perhaps once a year. But if the contractors could be so unprofessional and careless in this case they could be so again, so I was prepared to make a lot of fuss indeed.

In the end it wasn't necessary: two days later mum had a call from Poole Council apologising for what had happened and assuring her that the contractors would make the damage good, and I thank God for someone having the sensitivity to see the problem. We 'professionals' endlessly run the risk of getting blasé about the work we do day by day, and have to remember that for those on the receiving end the scale of value is very different.

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