Music'al Notes

    The Jewish Cemetery

    Issue 90

    The Jewish cemetery in Shettleston, Glasgow is a miserable place. Not because of what it is but because of its location. For some reason it is always raining in this cemetery. Glasgow is known for its bad weather but Shettleston has its own microclimate. This results in flooding and erosion of the graves. There have been reports of body parts, exposed by the elements, being eaten by rodents and foxes. This sogginess causes tombstones to fall over and as the local Jewish population declines, less money is available to maintain these graves. My whole family, with the exclusion of my sister, is buried there, so my family visits—if one-sided—are easy. I recently visited Glasgow and true to form, it poured cats and dogs.

    One summer we took a trip to Europe. An unveiling for my uncle’s tombstone in Shettleston was coming up and we decided to do a European tour before ending up in Glasgow. Our first stop was Paris. The weather in Europe that summer was spectacular. Hot days, clear skies, and no rain. Paris actually was too hot and, in those days, hotels didn’t have air conditioning. One sultry night, unable to sleep, I stared out the open window of our hotel in Rue Verneuil. We had fans running but all they did was move the hot air around. Suddenly, a light appeared in the window of an apartment facing my room. A woman, totally naked, rose from her bed and moved to another room. She was so graceful and self-assured that I couldn’t help but stare at her. A vision of loveliness, she returned a few moments later, eased herself under the sheets and turned off the light. Ahh…Paris!

    London was next and the heat wave continued. Hyde Park was so dry that the grass turned brown. This was so unusual as London usually has too much rain.

    We took the train to Glasgow, which is 400 miles away. It is a picturesque ride that cuts through the center of the country. It takes about 5 hours and if you are ever out that way, it is well worth doing. I was convinced that the weather would change as we approached Scotland, but it didn’t. It was hot and dry and on arrival in Central Station, Glasgow; the sun was shining and the temperature was about 75 degrees. The unveiling (or as we call it, Stone Setting) was arranged for the next day. My children who had oft heard me tell of the rainy cemetery started to rib me about the weather.

    “Just wait.” I told them. They snorted and called me a liar.

    The next day sparkled with a clear blue sky and a yellow sun. The light in Scotland, because the country is quite far north, is particularly clean—unlike the yellow summer sky in New York where I live. We arrived at the cemetery and the temperature was rising. My kids were snickering and pointing at the sky. Friends assembled, the service started and almost imperceptibly, a breeze sprung up, the wind suddenly quickened, and a cloud that seemed to come from nowhere emptied on top of us. We were immediately soaked and as rain is always ice cold in Scotland, we soon started to shiver. The service was quickly moved indoors and when it was over I looked at my kids who were full of a new appreciation of their father. As we returned to our car, the skies cleared and the sun reappeared.

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