A Grim North

Musings from a northerner living in the deep south…

Cemetery Gates

Posted by Alan on February 1, 2010

A dreaded sunny day
So I meet you at the cemetery gates
Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day
So I meet you at the cemetery gates
Keats and Yeats are on your side
While Wilde is on mine

So we go inside and we gravely read the stones
All those people all those lives
Where are they now?
With the loves and hates
And passions just like mine
They were born
And then they lived and then they died
Seems so unfair
And I want to cry

* * *

I haven’t really done any proper new year’s resolutions for years now. Probably just a lack of willpower but I tend to flunk them before February has started like most other people. But I do try have a ‘theme’ (or vision if you want to be caustically corporate). Last year this was achievement. Targets included getting a good job (tick), finding a better flat (tick) and reading more (sort of achieved…).
This year, arguably, the theme is consolidation (yeah, I *do* know that doesn’t sound awesome). Essentially though doing more with what I have achieved and being a bit better at delivering anything I promise. So, this weekend when we got invited to wander around the cemetery at Nunhead I jumped at the chance. Time for the new camera to come out to play and also chance to learn a bit more about the city we live in.
It also helps that Ruth has a strange obsession with death from her archaeology days.

Cemetery Gates

We'll meet you at the cemetery gates

Nunhead is in South East London, about 5-6 miles from the centre and we took the 2.15 tour from the gates. It is sister cemetery to Highgate (where Karl Marx is buried) but being South London it doesn’t boast the same kind of clientèle Highgate aspired too. Not that there aren’t famous people buried there, it’s just they have faded from memory as time has passed.

Cemetery Chapel

Nunhead Cemetery Chapel

The cemetery was hit several times by bombs during WWII, which has led to gaps in the trees/monuments. Some 250,000 people are buried here so the gaps are very misleading!

Amongst the formerly famous were several local philanthropists and also a Labour MP responsible for introducing the first old age pensions back in the 1930s.

It’s quite forested place – during it’s heyday some 200 people were employed to maintain the grounds but as death became less profitable the numbers dwindled and eventually nature started to claim back the land. Today it’s maintained in part by the Friends of Nunhead Cemetery who also run the tours.

Silhouette

Silhouette

The cemetery boasts a view of St Pauls from the top of the hill. Sadly I don’t have a lens capable of really showing that view!

Sculpture

Sculpture carving

There are some fantastic examples of carving amongst the memorials. Sadly, during the 1970s many were vandalised and removed. Those that do remain are often missing limbs, noses or unrecognisable. This one was very lucky indeed.

So. If you have some time on a Sunday and are inclined either to play with photography or learn a bit of history go find it! We plan on Highgate sometime later this year (maybe when it is less cold!)

The trip was rounded off by a pint in the Market Porter and in the Royal Oak (Borough). Also worth a look in if you fancy a pint though weirdly the Royal Oak was still full of xmas decorations…

The Market Porter, Borough

The Market Porter, Borough

Enough drivel for now. To finish with the start…

Cemetery Gates – The Smiths (The Queen Is Dead, 1986)

A dreaded sunny day
So I meet you at the cemetery gates
Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day
So I meet you at the cemetery gates
Keats and Yeats are on your side
While Wilde is on mine

So we go inside and we gravely read the stones
All those people all those lives
Where are they now?
With the loves and hates
And passions just like mine
They were born
And then they lived and then they died
Seems so unfair
And I want to cry

You say: “ere thrice the sun done salutation to the dawn”
And you claim these words as your own
But I’ve read well, and I’ve heard them said
A hundred times, maybe less, maybe more

If you must write prose and poems
The words you use should be your own
Don’t plagiarise or take “on loans”
There’s always someone, somewhere
With a big nose, who knows
And who trips you up and laughs
When you fall
Who’ll trip you up and laugh
When you fall

You say: “ere long done do does did”
Words which could only be your own
And then you then produce the text
From whence was ripped some dizzy whore, 1804

A dreaded sunny day
So let’s go where we’re happy
And I meet you at the cemetery gates
Oh Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day
So let’s go where we’re wanted
And I meet you at the cemetery gates
Keats and Yeats are on your side
But you lose because Wilde is on mine

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