jctv: 01.01.2012HOME




A week in London, day IV: Abney Park Cemetery

New Year’s Eve was a lot of fun. Too much to drink. On new year’s day, a small party consisting of Annabel, Reino, Alice and myself drove to Abney Park cemetery  in Stoke Newington on Reino's suggestion, singing along to Snoopdog as we went. The cemetery has been allowed to grow wild over the past five years or so. It has become a hauntingly romantic and classically picturesque maze of grief, most of which must be real, and occasionally appears perfunctory. But appearances deceive. Grief shaped to rhyming couplets might be heartfelt and genuine.

Trees have swooned crushing the gravestones underneath them, decapitated angels sit quietly doing their thing and minding their own business determinedly. At the centre of the grounds looms a large, tall, spired, hollow chapel. Dark and uncared for, it stands boarded and bricked up, very slowly folding in on itself. Sheltering within its crevices were young men, perhaps intent on each other and obviously impatient to have us move on.

It was raining hard but we had good shoes and enough umbrellas and walked around reading names and pledges, hopes and wishes. It was very beautiful in the wintry rain, everything glowing with the peculiar lustre of cold rain. The wet is what you see and the cold is what you feel, although at the same time you recognize the one in the other. I would love to see the place again in early summer, it must be ravishing then, a pleasure to be part of… stones that have lost their precise position, embedded in flowers and leaves covering whole lives whose stories might still be somewhere. A few of the graves were rather curious in that way; one headstone for instance had a car carved upon it, another had a loose hand seemingly tapping its fingers on the edge of the headstone. There were small urn-like shapes with disarmingly simple words engraved upon them like “Bert” and “Dad”. One stone had lost many of its letters and had become a stuttering image of disembodied sounds never meant to be articulated.

On the way back we drove over a traffic island in the middle of the road and had to change the tire. We then stopped at Christchurch Spitalfields and admired its strange architecture, the tower sandwiched between two walls, the chunky classicism of its Tuscan order and its surprising size, it is always so much bigger than its simple elements make one expect. It was too late to go inside so we walked through the Spitalfields Market where everyone was packing up. While the others were shopping for a dress, I walked around a little and came to a quiet bit where two young men were walking my way. One of them, tall with spiky blond hair had half his face covered in deep wine-red blood and was reeling. The other had one arm around the victim’s shoulder and was guiding his way while talking to him confidently. “Don’t worry mate,” he said, “I’ll get him for this, I’ll sort him out, don’t you worry.” They disappeared into the night and that was that. We drove back listening to Frank Zappa’s Chunga’s Revenge, we were blissfully tired.

Aged 52 years. That is how old I am as I write this. It makes you think   The chapel choir wall  
The chapel   letters have fallen out like teeth, a stuttering gravestone  
That hand worries me   "Bert"  
Fallen tree   Angel doing her thing  
Didn't quite get this, along the path there is a procession or queue of gravestones as if standing by the road waiting for the fortyfour to heaven's gate, which is in St Paul's   The same, but a slightly less orderly queue  
A nice and sober tomb   Angels standing guard  
On the way back from Stoke Newington   I was just taking this photograph when the two young men I was talking about walked past me  


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