Sunday, 10 July 2011


Scene: Highgate cemetery, yesterday afternoon.
A young woman with spectacular magenta hair is taking a stroll with her aunt.
Young woman: 'Would you be shocked if I said I'd never heard of Karl Marx ...?'
Aunt: 'Splutter **!!@&$"
Young woman: 'I told my boyfriend I'd never heard of him and he was really shocked, too. And then I phoned my brother, and he couldn't stop laughing ...'
Aunt: 'I am also very shocked.'
Young woman: 'But now I can tell them that I've seen his grave ...' Pause. 'Who was George Eliot?'
Aunt decides it is time to walk up to the village for tea and cake ...
She is still speechless but, even if you haven't heard of the deceased, you can't help but be impressed by acres of ivy-clad angels. And a faithful pet lion.
I've been meaning to revisit the cemetery - it's years since I was last there- ever since I read Audrey Niffenegger's spectacularly silly book which is attracting hordes of new visitors. She wasn't there yesterday - she is still an occasional tour guide - but she has taken some very good photographs.
I also like this tour with Diana Athill although it was obviously made on a dreary, autumnal day; yesterday the cemetery was full of birdsong and wild geraniums.

10 comments:

Toffeeapple said...

I was under the impression that one could not visit the cemetery without making an appointment, I wonder why I thought that? I have never visited. Thank you for the link to Diana Athill's tour.

mary said...

You can only visit the west side by guided tour, Toffeeapple; maybe that's what you're thinking of. I thought they'd be fully booked on a Saturday but we just turned up and so, seemingly, did everybody else.

StuckInABook said...

"Spectacularly silly" is precisely the right description for Niffenegger's novel. I've never been to the cemetery, but I do love graveyards, so I should.

mary said...

It was drivel, wasn't it, Simon? Barely removed from all that teenage vampire fiction. But the cemetery is wonderful, well worth a visit for Victorian celeb-spotting.

Darlene said...

Highgate Cemetery is on my list of things to do this September...yes, because of THAT book. Don't laugh but I quite enjoyed it! It led to far too many daydreams about long lost Aunts and inheriting a flat in London.

mary said...

You'll love it, Darlene. And to be fair to the book, it did inspire me to visit ... but I couldn't suspend disbelief in the story!

mary said...

PS Darlene. You'll also love the cakes here:http://www.highteaofhighgate.com/

Darlene said...

Ooh! What a gorgeous looking place to have lunch! I had written down to try Ginger and White in Hampstead but I'm waffling now...

rachel said...

I loved that book - silly and amusing, but so informative about the wonders of Highgate cemetery. I'll visit one day....

mary said...

Can't help you to choose, Darlene, I've never been to Ginger and White. Maybe you'll have to visit both.
Rachel, it looks like Simon and I are in a minority!