In Nether Alderley churchyard I met a woman who was sweeping her own grave. She hadn't been in it yet, but she'd reserved the spot and put down a little square stone as a marker. The stone was incised with the family name. There were other stones round it- most of them covering properly dead people. The stones were in the shadow of the tower and nest-building birds had been dropping twigs on them. Most of the properly dead people had been her friends. " They were a sociable lot," she said. "They liked parties. My husband and I joke about them coming out in the middle of the night to have cocktails."