Love Bites: Meet me at the cemetery gates
This month's columnist reflects on the macabre romanticism of cemeteries
“I smoked a Gauloises at Jim Morrison’s grave.”
I was having a drink with my ex who I hadn’t seen for two years and we were talking about Père Lachaise, the Parisian cemetery, home to the graves of Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust and Jim Morrison. It was the first place I visited the last time I was in Paris, the last time I went anywhere abroad. I sounded like a pretentious cliché talking about French cigarettes and dead rock stars but it’s easy to seem like a caricature when you talk about loving cemeteries. Once upon a time the cemeteries of Sheffield were favourite dating spots for me and my ex. I took photos of him on the steps of the mausoleum. We shared our first sober kiss in the cathedral crypt the day Bowie died. I’ve always found romance in the macabre.
My local cemetery is one of the only places I visited regularly during lockdown, usually to walk my dog. I think she likes them too. People say that dogs can sense things that humans can’t and I wonder if she feels a calming energy coming from the old stones the same way that I do. In the flowery names and faded epitaphs of Victorian headstones I find tranquility.
In Cemetry Gates by The Smiths (spelling mistake Morrissey’s own), Morrissey sings of a “dreaded sunny day” where he meets a friend at the cemetery gates and walks around the graveyard quoting and misquoting lines of poetry. I was obsessed with this song as a teenager. So, last summer I sat in a graveyard in the dark drinking beer with some friends and listening to sad songs by Bright Eyes and Keaton Henson like emo teenagers and it felt like it all made sense. Maybe that’s dark or unnecessarily ghoulish but, these days, good things seem to happen to me in cemeteries.