Last year two things happened. I visited Wimereux where Clarice was posted and where she wrote her diary. I went there in the hope of finding some trace of her. Not necessarily a physical trace, but something that would connect my being there with her. I began by visiting places she spoke of her in her diary; villages, churches, monuments, but found nothing that made me feel that i had found her. I know this sounds a little odd – i wasn’t actually trying to find her but i knew when i found the something i was looking for that i would know i had found it.
My last port of call before heading back home was the War Graves Cemetry.
‘In the afternoon was sent to procession. It was All Saints Day and French make rather a tado on that day. This years I thought was very nice but pouring with rain. They first held a service in theFrenchR.CChurch. Then paraded to the cemetery where all the British soldiers who die here are buried.
The priest came first, then 3 choir boys and then about 12 boys in twos. Following were 12 girls each carrying a bunch of flowers. Then the French soldiers and then our British – or rather the British were first.
When they reached the cemetery each child put their bunch on our soldiers graves and our soldiers gave the last post. Of course there was an address in French but the whole scene was very pathetic and we thought it showed nice feeling on the part of the French. Our matron was anxious to send all the nursing staff she could to show our appreciation. I for one was sent and consider I was fortunate.’ Nov 1st 1915
As i walked amongst the graves, reading the inscriptions on the stones i was struck by the thought that Clarice probably nursed some of these men! The connection i was looking for. I had found her. The initial ideas for Resting Place began in this cemetry, with the men buried here and the grave stones marking their presence in this place.
The graves stones in this cemetry are unusual because they are all laying down. (I believe something to do with the cemetry being on sloping ground) They somehow resembled pillows, in neat rows and reminded me of one of the photos of the hospitals with the beds all lined up. These men all died in the hospitals in Wimereux, their final living place of rest was a bed, a pillow. This is what this project will explore. Pillowcases, textiles and bedding.
I will write about the other thing that happened last year in my next post.