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Laurence Inman’s Blog

DEAD POETS SOCIETY

03-07-2008

 TS Eliot

Another illuminating glimpse into the world of Inman.  His weird hobby involves photographs and graveyards.

I have a rather unusual hobby, involving photography. It isn’t one I like to discuss with people too openly. Even close friends think it a touch....unusual.

I take photographs of writers’ graves. Particularly poets. I’ve now got quite an extensive collection.

The only one you definitely aren’t supposed to snap is The Boss himself down in Holy Trinity, Stratford.

T S Eliot is a good one. His ashes are behind a stone set in the west wall of St Michael’s, East Coker in Somerset. On it are carved these words: Of your charity pray for the repose of the soul of Thomas Stearns Eliot, poet.

The same is written on the plaque to his memory in St Stephen’s, Kensington, where he was a churchwarden for twenty-five years. I happened to be staying at a hotel round the corner on my 56th birthday. Immediately after visiting the church I went running for forty minutes in Hyde Park.

Betjeman has a very ornate gravestone in St Enodoc’s churchyard in Cornwall. It can only be reached on foot, because it’s in the middle of a golf course.

I kind of met John (as I usually call him) one night in the bar at Exeter university. He told me about the harmful effects that fly-paper can have on goldfish if they’re kept in the same room.

My most uplifting poet/grave experience has without question been Keats. He is buried in the Protestant cemetery in Rome. It had been my ambition to go there since 1969 and I finally made it in 2006, by which time I had (as you have to) lost enthusiasm for his poetry and then got it back again. I put my cheek to his stone.

His name doesn’t appear on it. It simply refers to ‘a young English poet.’ The cemetery is full of small cats. There’s a beautiful pyramid a little way off, built for Caius Cestius.

Now, Keats was small, a Londoner born and bred and illegitimate; so to call him a little Cockney bastard is okay, and not a reason for some simpering American tourist to remonstrate! That bumptious git Shelley is also buried here, but you don’t have to look at his grave if you don’t want to.

Thomas Hardy is buried in St Michael’s churchyard, Stinsford, Dorset, just about exactly halfway between the cottage where he was born and his big dismal house in Dorchester.

Actually, his ashes are in Westminster Abbey, but his heart is in Dorset. It was taken out and put in a box before the rest of him was disposed of in a shambolic ceremony in London. I took my photo of the grave with my son (then four) sitting on it and smiling broadly. I think old Tom would have been fine about that.

The removal of the heart caused quite a bit of trouble in his family. The locals were astonished and disgusted.

It also gave rise to a gruesome story which has persisted over the years.

It seems that after the surgeon had taken out the still-warm organ, spilling drops of blood everywhere, he put it on a plate nearby while he sewed up the gaping hole in Hardy’s chest.

Then a cat came in and ate it.

It wasn’t Hardy’s cat. He didn’t have one; he was a dog man. The doctor was appalled, but he thought quickly and shoved the cat into the small casket intended for the heart. It is not known whether he killed it first. I personally hope he didn’t. I loathe cats.

So, if, like me, you are irritated by most living people, give poets’-graves-spotting a try. It’s an absorbing and creative hobby. Most importantly, it’s not outrageously expensive.

CATCH LAURENCE PERFORMING LIVE THIS SUNDAY WHEN HE MC’S AT THE RETORT CABARET, AT THE KITCHEN GARDEN CAFÉ, YORK ROAD, KINGS HEATH.

GOT ANY WEIRD HOBBIES?

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