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Friday, January 25, 2008

∆ george and the decrepitude of the cemetery manager

I was visiting George’s house one September night during the Eighties. I’m not quite certain of the year, but it was Father’s Day and my father had died not too many years before.

To be honest, we were bored – otherwise the idea of visiting my father’s grave would probably never have arisen. I felt vaguely guilty about not having paid my respects - but now that I actually felt like making the trip, it was pretty late at night..

It was an obstacle that wasn’t going to hinder us. George was up for pretty much anything – it was one of the worthy things about him - and he was amenable to my suggestion. We embarked from Burwood to the Springvale Crematorium, high in spirits, as sober as the day is long.

Finding it closed and locked up tight wasn’t too surprising. But was it really that unusual a thing to visit a graveyard at night? We weren’t certain. We didn’t feel like we were doing anything too bizarre by slipping under the fence and setting out by torchlight over those vast pastures, circumscribed by an infinity of flat dry suburbia, the grave markers all flat to the ground,

But the longer we roamed, the more inappropriate it began to feel. I had a fair idea where my dad was buried, but the landmarks were difficult to recognise by night, and the place was huge. Thinking back, it seems remarkable that we succeeded.

We rested. It had been an effort getting there. I lay flat on my back, and that was how the nervous police first saw me, a freakish looking individual supine on a grave in the dead of the night, looking sullen and thoughtful, his oddly mannered friend lurking nearby with a torch .…

The first thing we saw were lights, bobbing in the distance. We had no idea what they could be. It was a graveyard. The possibilities were legion. Then we heard voices and the whining of dogs. We lay still and quiet, hoping they would pass us by.

But we were the reason for their presence. Only when they were right on top of us did we realise it was the cops, and they were almost as scared as we were. Who knows what pictures their imaginations had drawn in their minds? They screamed at us to lie flat on our faces. I heard one young voice saying he didn’t think he could control the dogs. ‘Don’t look up! Don’t look up! Lay as fucking still as you can!’

I don’t know if I’ve ever been quite so scared. The dogs were growling, choking themselves on their leashes just beyond my vision. It seemed like there were at least four of them but it transpired that there had only been two. Or even one. I think the cops were actually less scared of us than of what the dogs might do if they broke loose. Was it an act? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

The police had no interest in anything we had to say. We were marched out of the graveyard, back under the cyclone wire fence, to waiting divisional vans. One for each of us. And two cruisers were parked there as well. Whatever the do-good suburbanite had told them when he rang to report us, it had certainly raised the ire of the local constabulary.

Of course, I took primary blame, explaining that George was just doing me a favour by being there. We spent a few miserable hours in a jail cell. My charge was trespass with illegal intent, which, my lawyer informed me, carried a minimum two year jail sentence. George received something lesser.

My trial date came up before his. I found it hard to believe they were taking it so seriously, but my lawyer advised me to be prepared. I donned my court suit and my court shoes and resolved myself to appearing as normal and as sympathetic as possible.

Though my memory is dim, I recall a few salient parts of the hearing: the prosecutor referring to precedents in Western Australian law, and then calling up an astonishingly decrepit old man with a cane to the witness stand. This cemetery administrator was asked one question. When was the cemetery open? His answer made no sense, but the gist of it was understood by the courtroom.

Then I found myself in the witness box, sworn in and speaking directly with the magistrate,

- Were you, in fact, lying upon a grave?

- Yes, sir. My father’s grave.

He looked to the prosecutor.

- Did you check this?”

- Yes, ah … Your Honour, the defendant’s er … father is buried at the ah … Springvale Crematorium …”

He looked back at me.

- But what were you doing there in the middle of the night?”

- I’d intended to visit the grave with my mother during the day, but didn’t make it. Since it was father’s day, I …

The magistrate turned back to the prosecutor.

- Is this true? Was it father’s day?”

- Umm… yes, Your Honour, but ….”

The magistrate rolled his eyes, banged his gavel, called for the next case

It was a triumphal feeling, getting clear of that one.

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6 comments:

Bwca said...

It would be good to recall the name of that sensible Magistrate; and I am very pleased the incident ended without conviction.
Amazing that vans and dogs and multiple officers could be deployed at midnight on a Sunday to guard and protect and Tenez Le Droit of a commercial enterprise.

I dialled 000 myself on Monday after midnight. Had a very negative experience.
don't get me started on cops.

lily was here said...

Wonderful tale Sam, I love the adventures with George
x
hey, you've changed the banner, looks great. did you do that?

Matt said...

That's a great story, Sam. And what a cool beak!

I used to enjoy visiting cemeteries during the night back in the day, and it never even occurred to me that I might be arrested.
Admittedly, these were regional cemeteries where the gates weren't locked.
Had I been caught I would have been screwed, through. I certainly wouldn't have been able to claim to be visiting a relative.

Matt said...

Oh, and great work on the new header, too. It looks fantastic!

Sam Sejavka said...

Love to know why you dialled 000, but I guess it's none of my business. There's been a bit of drama hereabouts too, but I'll get to that in a couple of days.

Sadly, around 1990, George got himself in a very sticky situation, which I'm not really at liberty to divulge. He goes by another name now, and he keeps a low profile. I guess I'm making an effort to celebrate the good times.

More good reviews on the header. Cheers!

eek said...

What a cool magistrate! I especially like the eye roll. Perfect!