Highgate Cemetery by Night…

Well…not quite the adventure it sounds, as we didn’t precisely go for a wander. We sat comfortably, if not entirely warmly, in the cemetery chapel (which was completely full) to listen to Dr. Brent Elliot discuss the History of Cemetery Memorials. I suppose I have a significant  photographic interest in the subject, but perhaps more so in those who make graveyards their life profession or obsession. I had only been to one cemetery briefly mentioned (que viva Glasgow!), but it exemplified many of the subjects discussed:

Close your eyes and take a moment to imagine the expert on cemetery memorials, and, there before you, you have Dr. Eliot. Tall, precise, pale, bearded, dry. Owner of a broad forehead and wide set eyes. Soberly suited. He opened by emphasizing that this talk would cover cemeteries, not graveyards, crematoria, and etc…Happily, I am now cool enough to know the important differences.

I also now know that East Anglia was notorious in its conservatism in retaining the use of body stones. The stylistic existence of muscular gothic. The fact that many of those creepily black head stones are in fact white marble, simple victims of a staggering air pollution. And I now know just how many sculptures have been stolen from cemeteries (now that would take a level of superstition-free courage I do not see within myself…)

And of course the minor scandal of Italy exporting grave sculpture wholesale, and English masons taking the credit. The angels with their come hither expressions and decolletage. The brilliance of Anselm Oddlings of Hull. The gravestone in the form of a baby grand piano. Next month is on The English Way of Death, which could be even more interesting. And of course, I now have a list of London cemeteries to visit during the daylight hours…

Seeking balance in life (and er, death), yesterday I read Gramsci all morning and then took a friend’s place in the season-ticket holder section of Arsenal v Sunderland. Fucking hell but I love football, even more than eccentrically morbid talks in burial chapels. The game was, however, much much colder. I came home, made tea, and got under the covers immediately, finding it impossible to emerge.

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