Our house overlooks a cemetery. We have been told that this could be a problem when we wish to sell it, as French people can be very superstitious. This could explain why cemeteries are well hidden from view, often behind high walls. Let me give you an example. When I was researching the life of my great-uncle George Tinsley Loveley, I was looking for the civil cemetery in a village on the Somme where he was killed. Every village has a cemetery. I looked on the village website, I looked on maps of the village, I typed it into search engines – nothing. In the end, I went onto Google Earth® and ‘walked’ around the entire district. One country road had a hedge on one side with a tiny layby at one end. I showed it to my husband and said, ‘I think the cemetery is behind that hedge.’ When we visited the area, we drove along that lane and sure enough, there was the cemetery I had been looking for, well hidden behind some greenery. French people visit their family graves much more than the average Brit – they have to. If graves slip into disrepair, they are reclaimed by the municipality. Any bones are moved to a communal ossuary and the grave space is used for a new burial. Many modern grave concessions only last for 30 years, so there is no ‘rest in peace’ for the average person. However, if you die during a war for your country, the grave is marked with a little tricolour metal disc which means that no one will ever dig up your bones! Graves are usually visited at least once a year to be cleaned and polished. People often make the journey during the October half-term and leave flowers for All Saints’ Day on 1stNovember. Whole families arrive with buckets and brooms to do the annual clean up. However, there are some people who visit the family grave every day and one friend goes both in the morning and again in the afternoon!
See also an article i had published in the Telegraph Expat section.