‘Sticky teenage sentimentalism made me morbid and so I spent a lot of my younger years in graveyards. You can get away with when you are fifteen, when grief hasn’t really touched you (if you have been lucky) and the actual sorrow of other people is far less real than the flashy heartache on television. I spent hours watching funeral processions, and found the way humans love so much more fiercely in death fascinating. A dog will miss those who it outlives but adore them just the same, no more and no less. This isn’t true of people. We idolise the ones we have lost. Gravestones are visited more dutifully than the home from which the body came.
The singer Ian Curtis hurt people; his wife, his friends, himself. He upheld views that made him unpopular, particularly if he had he lived to see them through, and yet his grave is a tribute to the lasting power of his presence. His stone is marked with candle-wax and letters turned to mulch. Cigarettes, tapes, plectrums and pennies; he lacks for nothing, and wants less. It makes me wonder. Had he lived longer, grown bitter in age as artists are prone to do, would his following be so loving and romantic, so dedicated as to trudge through half a mile of unkempt headstones to visit him? Dying young is terrible, but it has certain advantages. It is both churlish and useless to hate a dead man.
The grave to the right of Curtis captures my heart. Walter, surname illegible, passed away just a week from his infamous neighbour. His grave is half-buried under tokens that are not for him. I know nothing about him but that he is ‘safe in God’s care’, and even those are the words of his successors.
One day, when a gaggle of black-eyed girls huddle around Ian’s grave, I shall walk up to them, and I will ask, are you here for Walter?’