|The Phillips Graves on the front row of the cemetery|
Yesterday was Heritage Open Weekend at Deane Road Jewish Cemetery and was our first real test. The cemetery has been refurbished, the guides were on hand and all systems were go, ready to welcome the first visitors since the project was finished.
A tall man with grey hair and a beard and boundless enthusiasm turned up at 11am, without looking at the evaluation sheets I think he was Douglas Jackson from Wiltshire.
He was holding a sheet of paper containing the names of 10 of his relatives whose graves he was hoping to discover. The first two were Phillips, Elizabeth and Isaac. And lo and behold their graves were on the front row, facing him, as he started to tell me what he was looking for.
The next names, Caroline Jackson and her husband, were on the third row from the front.
And all four graves have only been re-erected within the last 6 months after laying on the ground for decades.
You can see a small film clip here
It was like a slightly surreal Anneka Rice moment, where she would rush in, find the clue and then run back to the helicopter to fly to the next one.
"Hello I want to find some graves, oh there they are, and over there too.... thanks very much, marvellous, off to the next clue"
Not at all like the usual hours it takes to meander up and down and dig at moss with the tips of your shoes and poke your fingers behind ivy tendrils. Shaking your head and saying "I think it must be a row further back, perhaps it is underneath the one that fell over...?"
(To be fair, he did have to look at bit harder for the next graves but to say we found the first 4 within a moment was simply amazing).
He told me that if we doubted the importance of our open day, and whether we were right to spend so many hours waiting to greet our visitors then we should tell ourselves, that as far as he was concerned, for his visit alone it was worth it. Awww!
Later when we asked him how he had found out about the cemetery, he said he had known about it for decades but had thought it to be still overgrown and impassable. He had only heard about the restoration and the open days when talking to "Someone from the council, from Liverpool, on holiday in Moscow. A middle-aged man".
If you are that man, do please get in touch, I want to shake your hand!