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Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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The Magnificent Seven: #7, Highgate Cemetery [20120407|13:15]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
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I lived in north London for a few years after I first moved to the UK, first in Camden and then in Highbury. I visited Highgate (Eastern) Cemetery fairly regularly during that period. Fishing around in my journal archives, I managed to find photos from my first visit in 2004 and some another visit in 2006. My last visit, in May 2009, was the first and only time I’ve been to the Western Cemetery. You have to go on a guided tour to visit this portion of the cemetery and the hours are quite restrictive.

I’m very, very fond of Highgate and I saved it for last because I’d been there before. Every visit reminds me anew why I love it. The entrance has been extensively remodeled since 2004. You now walk in through quite a nice pink little reception hut and pay £3 (it used to be £1 plus £0.50 for a camera) to a volunteer, who offers you a map. The volunteer sits behind a register in front of a tidy display of postcards, mostly featuring Karl Marx’s giant head, which is frankly the most glaringly incongruous grave marker in the cemetery.

When you first enter, you are suddenly struck by the fear that they’ve finally managed to clean up the entire cemetery the way that Kensal Green and West Norwood have been. The few new burials are right by the entrance, along the paved walkway. But then you turn off onto one of the unpaved, muddy paths and you head into the cool green ivy arbours, and you breathe a sigh of relief. Here are the overgrown Victorian graves with their lovely angel statues, handless arms outstretched to the heavens, heads bowed toward the earth. Here are the tree trunks wound in thick coils of ivy vines, providing a backdrop for a row of arched tombstones whose epitaphs have been erased by the elements, leaving only “In Loving Memory Of...”. There is the fox lying in the path, startled by the clicking of your camera shutter.

Maybe it’s obvious from my choice of photographs, but I don’t care much about finding the graves of the notable persons buried in these cemeteries. For me, the attraction of these places comes from the collective obliteration of individual identity. The sense that pain and sorrow have been absorbed and transformed into something that is rather beautiful - the admission, and acceptance, of death.


[User Picture]From: cosmiccircus
2012-04-07 17:58 (UTC)
I like the shots where there's a lot of growth and a statue best. It gives more of an exploration feel, and less of that of civilization is right outside the gates.

And how cool to see the fox! It's like the youtube video that's been going around of the lady who opened her backdoor to see her two cats, a bald eagle and a fox all sitting there.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2012-04-10 21:33 (UTC)
*nods* Those are my favourites too. Unsurprisingly, those were taken in the older parts of the cemetery. The clean statues tend to be on the modern graves.

The fox followed me around! I was the only person in the older portion of the cemetery and I kept seeing its fluffy tail disappearing into the undergrowth. :)
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From: edical
2012-04-07 21:20 (UTC)

(And it also vaguely reminds me of a not-that-old Dr Who episode with statues! hahah!)
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2012-04-10 21:31 (UTC)
Oh, those episodes with the angels scared the daylights out of me. My little niece could watch them, but I was behind the sofa!
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From: edical
2012-04-10 21:54 (UTC)
heheh :)
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