I walked around St Mary Magdalen Gardens on the Holloway Road today, past the sociable huddles of street drinkers. I wasn’t exactly in the mood for collecting headstones – or ordering one, but in the south-east corner of the park, I noticed the Old Coroners Court. In one way, the juxtaposition was entirely understandable. The church could provide solace for the grieving, could frame their search for answers – or at least answer a different question if they didn’t like any of the answers available. In another way, it struck me as rather odd having science and religion administered in the same place.
‘No, Timmy. She didn’t “fall asleep”, she was murdered.’
‘But the police said she fell down the stairs?’
I didn’t exactly cheer myself up when, returning home, I worked my way through old newspaper reports. I don’t know what I was expecting. Sir Bernard Spilsbury, the most famous pathologist of his day, had been mentioned in a planning document.
But this wasn’t Sherlock Holmes, it was Sherlock Sad. A random spark from a hearth setting light to a sleeping woman, a green-fingered newly-wed fallen from a window, an errant cherry stone lodged in a liver. By the time I got to the waterman who had died from hydrophobia (old name for rabies), I understood why the coroners court needed to move.
The spoke was generally a good one. I didn’t beat myself up. I enjoyed the sunshine and my nod to DH Lawrence under the clocktower in Caledonian Market. I had bagged a working farm, too, with a pile of real muck at the gate. Steam, not smoke, spoke of better times ahead.