Tiptoe Through the Tombstones
On the 29 October, as part of the Chester Literature Festival, I was lucky enough to attend the launch of a book written by two friends of mine. This was rather a surprise outing actually, as not only had I not spoken to either of them (a former work colleague and a fellow Chester Writers member) for a while, I didn’t realise they even knew each other until I stumbled across their launch listed in the Literature Festival programme.
It was all the nicer then, to catch up with Di Hanning-Lee, who was hosting the launch. Unfortunately, Rina was stranded on a cruise ship where she’d been giving talks and was unable to catch a flight back in time for the launch as planned, due to bad weather. Even though she was dreadfully missed, the solution to this problem was almost more quirky and entertaining than if she’d been there to talk alongside co-researcher Di – a television screen was set up and pre-recorded videos of Rina speaking about the book were shown. Gamely braving the very evident turbulent weather that had the ship rocking visibly up and down, Rina read out extracts from the book and elaborated on anecdotes from their churchyard travels, to great audience amusement.
Reading in person, Di was as always a delightful speaker, again reading extracts from the book but also elaborating on their experiences in researching for what was to become Tiptoe Through the Tombstones.
It all started with an interest in unusual gravestone inscriptions. This quickly turned into a quest to find and record all the most fascinating, funny, sad and strange epitaphs across Cheshire. But this isn’t merely another ‘list of quirky epitaphs’ book. Rina’s writing style is charming and funny and this is as much a story of the friendship between these two cemetery investigators as it is a record of inscriptions. The characters of both the authors come across very strongly in this book, and their musings on the meaning of each epitaph and the possible histories of the people commemorated there are in turn entertaining and moving.
In short, this collection makes me want to use it like a travel guide and visit each churchyard in turn, following their tale and seeing the headstones for myself – although whether I’d have as much fun as the writers of this lovely book did is doubtful!