On the way out of Highgate Cemetery, running to catch up with my friends who were a little way ahead of me, I accidentally came across Bert Jansch’s grave. It is roughly opposite Douglas Adams’s plaque, with its repository for biros, very near the main entrance. Marx’s monstrous 1950s edifice, with its massive ugly bust, is a short walk away.
I’ve listened to Bert’s music more than anyone else’s. For me, as for many, he was an intimate part of life. I have had his songs on repeat play in my head for decades. I remember sitting down on the steps of St Mary’s cathedral in Edinburgh one morning in 1996 or 7 — I had a guitar with me — because I suddenly thought I had figured out how to play Blackwaterside. He was like a family member — though of course he didn’t know who we were — as my mum had been working out his arrangements since the early 1960s, and today pretty much whenever we meet up we compare notes on the latest discoveries.
Coming across his grave was so unexpected, and the grave so modest, it brought tears to my eyes. I didn’t know that his wife had died so soon after him; her grave is alongside his (see r.d.i’s picture on flickr; he or she has had exactly the same experience as me, it seems).