I ventured out around 4.30 for a walk in the cemetery. The grass had been cut and I followed paths that I'd never wandered along before. I always find myself thinking about the people whose names are engraved on the gravestones, from the simple crosses to the huge Victorian tombs. I happened upon the large headstone of the Christmas family, who didn't seem to have had much fortune at all, with two brothers dying within two days of each other. I imagined an accident of some sort, but through Google, I found out what happened to them:
From the Evening Post, 11 December 1907 (a newspaper from New Zealand):
"It is pathetically unusual for two brothers, both members of the same business firm, to pass away on two successive days. Yet this has just happened in the case of two partners in the well-known Anglo-colonial firm of produce merchants, Messrs. Lovell and Christmas. On Sunday last Mr. Alfred George Christmas, of Grossen Hall, West Norwood, passed peacefully away at Ethel Villa, Herne, the cause of death being pneumonia; he was only 40 years of age. On the following day his elder brother, Josiah William Christmas, also passed to his rest, after a long illness. His death took place at his residence, Filwood, Tulse Hill, Surrey. The Funeral of the two deceased brothers took place yesterday at the Norwood Cemetery, one at 12.15 and the other at 2.30."
I'm not sure if I'd describe the deaths as "pathetically unusual", but perhaps this turn of phrase meant something different back in 1907.
Back to the present, though, and after despairing of a suitable blip in the sunshine, I saw an unusual shape in the road ahead. Coming closer, I realized I was watching a female sparrowhawk clutching a recently deceased pigeon. She flew away with her dinner when a couple of people approached from the other direction. We chatted about the sighting and the birds in the cemetery in general. Then they headed off to find the elusive green woodpecker and I walked to the shops for the messages.