Monday, 3 November 2008

oh yes, here's that second welcome surprise...

one of my last entries was a curious and poignant story of an urban wildscape, repository of literary bones and treasure trove of victorian social mores and architectural vernacular - the english cemetary in florence. it's a tale dear to my heart and should be for any urbanist, since an analysis of the city which ignores the disposal and status of the dead does so at its peril.

cemetaries are central to an understanding of the values and preoccupations of successive generations. in previous times and perhaps still in many countries apart from our own, the dead have always left an indelible trace in the living landscape as well as the metaphysical one. for me a visit to any new place includes a trip to the local cemetary. here the city reveals far more about itself, its past glories and aspirations, its darkest deeds, its ups and downs more fluently than a perusal of newspaper archives or grandiose civic totems.

but lately they have moved ever outwards into the hinterland of our social landscape, become peripheral, invisible almost. there is both pleasure and regret for an old archaeologist like myself in this current state of affairs. sadness that we live in a society busy denying its own mortality and that the everyday insights and beauty that can be afforded by a daily walk through the neighbourhood cemetary have been marginalised into a morbid or fanciful affectation. happiness that they offer seclusion and almost rural escapism for city dwellers like myself and a place to spend a sunny afternoon with a book and a picnic in blissful tranquility...

anyway back to my real point - the florentine cemetary in question faces desperate uncertainty despite the dedication of a small band of devotees, gardeners and scholars, led by the remarkable latterday bluestocking julia bolton holloway, whose blog and efforts i referred to about the dangers facing this little guerilla gardening project. imagine my delight to find a reply and update in my comments box by the lady herself! here is what she said -

Thanks from another bluestocking!But I'd rather you be in the library than in the cemetery! Am dreading the loculi to be installed in January. At least they are in the ground. And I've won the battle to keep them away from the centre aisle and all its wild irises, Florence's lilies.

the internet, it seems, once again reigns supreme and brings people a little closer together than would otherwise be possible. and once again i would ask you, dear reader, to visit her blogsite and perhaps add your name to its petition to secure the treasures of the little cemetery and the ongoing work to restore and reclaim it for the benefit of many.

and that reminds me - i really must nip to ardwick cemetery and do something about the terrible state its in...

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