I’m posting later than I usually do this week because I went to London at the weekend for something I had to do for my alter-ego as a clinical aromatherapist. While I was there my husband and I had time to go to Highgate Cemetary for a little walk around.
It is quite a famous place and I’ve wanted to visit for ages. There are over 53,000 graves.
It was the most perfect day for it. Very mild, not at all cold, and a heavy mist hanging around. And all the flaming colours of October everywhere.
I really like graveyards. Not so much in a goth-emo creepy way, I find them incredibly peaceful. Highgate is a beautiful, green place. Huge and rambling and full of shrubs and ancient trees, which are there through no human intervention whatsover (well, no LIVING human intervention of course). Life-ful.
When I walk around them I see all the trees and plants and birds (there are many here – bird houses everywhere and squirrels and foxes too) and think of the cycle of life and death and regeneration and metamorphosis into new manifestations of life.
This is why I would like to be buried, not cremated. I want my body to live on in the plants and nourish new life. Walking round here some of the graves are so old they are completely covered in creeping ivy or hazel and I think that’s wonderful; these bodies have truly gone back home.
Some people are uncomfortable speaking of death. When I look at death and dying, in a place like this, I just feel happiness; of course I don’t want to lose those I love, but to anyone who finds graveyards or ‘places of rest’ spooky or ‘dark’ or ‘morbid’ I urge to go somewhere like this and just walk around for a bit; really see and hear the birds and trees and the life all around them, read the inscriptions, see how much love and peace is there. It truly is life-affirming and very moving.
There are tombs of all ages and we enjoyed seeing the different artistic styles – in the typography and carvings, and in the obvious social status and cost. This was one of the most unique and moving headstones for me:
You can’t really see it but click for a closer look. I almost missed it. It looks just like a couple of smooth pieces of drift wood. The tiny inscription looks almost like it was just written in indelible pen.
“Alison Burns 21.06.52 15.11.2009
“Somewhere to put your wings.”
‘Her life a beautiful memory, her loss a silent grief’
‘To Willie, not lost, but gone before I go to him’
‘A great man, the essence of our lives, the polestar of my existence, the love of my life’
There are two parts of the cemetary – the east which is where we were, and the west which is older and more decrepit and with more mausoleums and crypts, but you can only go with a guided tour and unfortunately we didn’t have time that day. It is a fabulous presentation of the Victorian attitude to death and burial in the most part, and there are many famous people buried here, many artists and writers and thinkers.
Pop-artist Patrick Caulfield’s grave stating the obvious.
Santa’s grave is here too!
Don’t worry kids, just joking, it’s Karl Marx of course, but uncanny resemblance, non? Who knew?!
Have a look on wikipedia about Highgate Cemetary and also the Highgate Vampire legends.