Highgate Cemetery

I’ve always been fascinated by cemeteries, particularly old cemeteries with ornate graves (I loved visiting Melaten Cemetery in Cologne) and so Highgate Cemetery has always been on my ‘to visit’ list of London places to go. My mum also wanted to go (it must be in the genes) and so when she came down to London  the other week to visit for our birthdays (they’re only two days apart) we decided to head over to Highgate Cemetery. Whereas the East Cemetery is open to visitors generally, the West Cemetery is only open to visitors on organised tours, these can be booked during the week but at the weekend you just have to turn up and wait for the next available tour (they’re every half an hour).

In order to get there if you’re coming from Archway tube is up a hill and then through Waterlow Park, which is actually a lovely park, especially on a beautiful spring day.

But it was Highgate we were really interested in. We got the last two tickets for the first tour and we quickly set off with our guide. Highgate opened in 1839 and is one of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ cemeteries. I visited Tower Hamlets Cemetery one of the other six a few years ago during Open House London, but Highgate Cemetery is probably the best known and houses some rather famous inhabitants.

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The flowers were out in force and the sun was shining, although it being April we were subjected to the odd intense shower of hail which soon passed before the sun emerged again – seriously, what is going on with the weather this year?!

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We were taken round and showed some of the graves and interesting features of the cemetery. For example, the photo below on the right shows a rather visual way of indicating the grave of a military man – an inverted cannon as part of the railings.

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The grandest and most impressive part of the West Cemetery starts at the Egyptian Avenue, an avenue of tombs flanked by obelisks which leads up to the Circle of Lebanon.

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After being taken around the Terrace Catacombs and peering into the beautiful Mausoleum of Julius Beer (no longer open but possible to see inside via a virtual tour) we continued our tour of the graves and were taken to see Nero the lion and were told tales of the grave’s owner George Wombwell.

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The graves vary in age (there are still plenty of plots available and even a new mausoleum under construction near the entrance) and also in style. My favourite were the most ornate. I love an angel.

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After finishing our tour of the West Cemetery we moved across the road to the East Cemetery, the admission price for which is included in the West Cemetery tour price. It’s markedly newer and more well kept.

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Like the West Cemetery, the graves all vary in style and we spotted quite a few unusual ones, including this book style grave – very novel!

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Douglas Adams’ grave was plain save for a pot of pens which had been placed there to house the collection of ballpoint pens that people left in tribute to a writer who had bemoaned their habit of disappearing.

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Of course the most famous of the graves is that of Karl Marx. Standing on a corner it’s the most imposing of the graves in the East Cemetery and a number of people were there to pay homage to Marx.

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Jeremy Beadle’s grave (below left) was more understated than I expected. The grave on the right though didn’t beat around the bush with euphemisms, I liked its straightforward approach to the subject of death.

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Highgate Cemetery is well worth a visit for anyone and I’m so pleased I finally got to visit.

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RCA Secret 2016 – the good, the bad and the ugly

Two weeks ago I was setting myself up for a long Saturday spent camping out on a pavement for my annual night of urban camping, not for me the trekking into the wilderness to get away from it all, no, I choose to camp with my nose only feet away from a road and passing cars all in order to spend my money. I’ve written about RCA Secret several times before (for my past posts go here) as I’ve now been attending for five years, so I won’t go into the whys and wherefores here, but with a format change this year, things were shaken up for even the die hard regulars. Perry who runs the RCA Secret Blog did an excellent post on this, so here are my thoughts on RCA Secret 2016, for what they’re worth.

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The good

  • The sale was back in Kensington – much more convenient (from a personal perspective) and just a much nicer environment for camping out, I’m not sure what it was but it just felt like we were more welcome (or less unwelcome perhaps).
  • No drip-feeding of cards – I actually only found out they had abandoned this idea when in the queue, but it was a bad idea from the start and I’m glad that the RCA decided not to go ahead with it.
  • Fewer damaged cards – I’m not sure whether this was luck of the post or whether the College have changed the way they send out and receive cards but there were notably fewer crushed corners than I’ve noticed in the past year or two.
  • No increase in card prices – after a few years of constant increases, it was nice to see that the prices remained the same.

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The bad

  • The raffle – prices had increased to £2 a ticket and I’m not sure about others but that’s too much for me to want to spend on just a chance of getting in the first 50. Given that chances are that I won’t win (especially as the RCA haven’t yet put in place a way of ensuring the raffle isn’t abused), it adds another £10 to each card. As it was, I spent my normal amount (£20) and bought fewer tickets.
  • Terrible communication – like I said above, I had no idea until I was in the queue that they had abandoned the drip-feeding of cards (something that they’d put out in their press releases) and I felt that the website didn’t offer enough information about how it would all work until far too late.
  • No facilities for campers – I had to make a dash to a nearby Starbucks (not close by the way) when it opened at 7am and trust that my fellow campers would let me back in the and that the RCA wouldn’t suddenly decide to start letting people in early.

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The ugly

  • Too little time before the sale to view the cards – my personal process is normally to view all the cards online, produce a list and then go and view the cards in person and cross things off and add other numbers to my list, I go back online, refine my selection of cards and view all of the cards closely online again before doing a final priority list on the day before the sale. This year I didn’t get to see the cards in person until the day before the sale when I rocked up with my tent. Putting the cards up online at lunchtime on the Friday and not even having late night opening that night meant that there really was not enough time to even consider the cards properly. I’ve been looking at everyone else’s cards on Twitter and there are so many that I don’t even remember seeing because there wasn’t really enough time to take all of the cards in.
  • Not getting to take my cards away with me – apart from the logistics of having to trek across London the Saturday after the sale, on a day when I had other stuff to be doing, coming away from the sale having camped overnight and paid £220 for my cards I felt rather deflated that I came away and had nothing to show for it that I could physically hold and show others. However, having said that it was a pain to have to go back the week after, there was no way I was going to trust my cards to the post.

So what did I get this year?

A Swiss Guard by Candra Cassini to go with my Yeoman Warder from last year. Other than the fantastic detail and card that is taken over then, I love that each card comes with a mini history lesson on the back.

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This image of a girl from Paul Hodgson which appears to be based on one his other works.

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This card that actually featured in a lot of the RCA Secret publicity by photographer Lisa Carletta.

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And finally, this seascape by Lesley Gray.

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Will I be back? Of course I will.

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Bristol street art

Living in East London I have a thing for street art and love wandering down Brick Lane and around Shoreditch checking out new pieces. So when we visited Bristol recently for a weekend break I was keen to check out the street art there. With street artists like Banksy originating in Bristol I knew it had quite a reputation for it. There are websites that detail the location of pieces of art, but after checking out their general location in Bristol we chose instead to wander around and take in pieces as we stumbled on them.

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We started at our base, the SACO Bristol – Broad Quay and headed up the A38 towards the Bearpit and then up into Stokes Croft. Along the way we detoured along side streets as we spotted things and pieces of interest.

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Stik’s work is a common sight in East London and so I was pleased to see these large scale Stik men.

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How gorgeous this this building? It’s the Full Moon Backpacker Hostel and Attic Bar. I want my future dream house to look like this, I’m a sucker for a galaxy print.

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Stokes Croft is very much the place to be in Bristol if you want to see amazing street art, there are pieces everywhere, even on vans!

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We also spotted work by Phlegm, a Sheffield street artists whose work I’ve spotted in both London and Sheffield. I’ll be writing more about Stoke Croft China in my post on our trip to Bristol, but it was a real find.

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You can’t really appreciate the scale of some of these works unless you’re really there, the breakdancing Jesus by Cosmo Sarson especially, it took up a whole wall but I couldn’t get a decent shot of the whole thing.

We even spotted some works in progress, but no sight of the elusive Banksy…

Are there any other places you know that are great for street art?

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Lincoln: a photo post

Lincoln Cathedral Quarter and Steep Hill

It’s been a little while since I blogged, there’s been no real reason why, I’ve been busy and a lot of my weekends have been full, but more than anything I think I just needed a break from being so tuned in to the internet. The internet is a funny place, especially the blogosphere. It’s full of pretty and stationery and flowers and blog posts about how it’s ok to not know what you want to do with your life or how to relax and step away from things. The thing is though, I’m not sure that any of that is really something I connect with fully (and that’s ok) so sometimes a little headspace away from the Twitter bubble is nice. Plus, without being so tuned in to what’s new and shiny, we’ve been revisiting places in London that we like but don’t go to enough and have just generally been living a life outside of a 1:1 Instagram frame. It’s what I needed. Plus, the bonus of blogging as a hobby is that I can pick it up and put it down when I like.

I haven’t been sat around doing nothing though, we’ve been exploring the country a bit on weekends and I also had a friend’s 30th birthday this past weekend. First up was a trip up to Lincoln. My boyfriend’s sister, brother-in-law and nieces live nearby and for Christmas paid for a night at The Tower Hotel in Lincoln for us so we could spend the weekend together, along with my boyfriend’s parents.

We arrived around lunchtime on the Saturday and had a wander about, bought a large vintage glass jar, saw owls and ate takeaway cake from Bunty’s (highly recommended) before meeting up with my boyfriend’s family for dinner and drinks in the evening. We were going to be spending the day with them in the village they live in on the Sunday and so to make the most of our time in the city, we woke early before breakfast on Sunday and went for a wander around the cathedral quarter of the city while it was quiet.

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Walking down towards the city centre from the castle and cathedral is Steep Hill. It’s not an exaggeration. I went to university in Sheffield, which is set on seven hills (yes, like Rome) and so I thought I knew hills. Steep Hill is indeed steep. As a bonus though, it’s lined with small shops and cafes so if you’re the Duke of York and only halfway up and therefore neither up nor down, you can at least take a breather and have a cup of tea and cake.

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While we were in Lincoln I spotted the first gold postbox I’ve seen in real life, dedicated to Sophie Wells who was part of the gold medal winning team at dressage in the Paralympics.

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We hadn’t been in Lincoln Cathedral the day before as we were slightly put off by the admission fee and the fact that my boyfriend said it was much less impressive inside than outside. On Sundays though it’s open for services and free to enter in the afternoon. Although we were there in the morning we poked our head inside and realised that we could enter half of the Cathedral, just not the bit where services take place. My boyfriend at that point had to admit that he had no actual recollection of Lincoln Cathedral and that it was much more impressive that he had thought. If we ever go back we’ll definitely go inside properly.

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It wasn’t a long stay nor an exhaustive one, but it’s one more city I can say I’ve been to and means I’m one more city closer to having been to every city in England.

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