Saturday, September 20, 2008

Graveyards and Graffiti

After three days of roaming on my own, it was great to have company for my explorations yesterday (Friday). I met my Flickrmate Maggie at the Angel bright and early, and we went by bus to Stoke Newington, a place neither of us had been. Our first stop was Abney Park Cemetery -- it's one of the Magnificent Seven (park-like, Victorian cemeteries around London that were modeled on the ones in Boston including Mount Auburn) and is the second of the seven that I've visited (Rosenbeans and I went to Highgate four years ago). Abney Park is the most derelict of the seven -- wildly overgrown, with tilted and toppling headstones, headless and armless angels, and a disused chapel. We had a bright, sunny day for our exploration, and so it wasn't as gloomy and atmospheric as I imagine it would be in the fog and mist. This cemetery is where dissenters (non-C of E people) were buried after Bunhill Fields filled up. The Victorians were really into death, and their monuments and ornamentation were quite over the top. Stay tuned for photos.

From there, we walked down Stoke Newington Church Street to Clissold Park. The area is quite charming. It's an old, working class area that's getting a new lease on life, but hasn't become too gentrified or posh (yet). We wandered around the old St Mary's Old Church (the parish was in the Doomsday Book), cut across Clissold Park and caught a bus down to Old Street.

After lunch in Hoxton Square -- a real lunch, unlike my usual rolls or sandwich for 2 quid -- we rambled through the streets of Shoreditch in search of street art, ghost signs and interesting architectural bits. Maggie and I have similar interests in all that stuff, plus the social, economic and political history of the area. Like much of London, this is an area that's really in transition, and probably always has been. The streets we walked in were mostly lined with industrial and commercial buildings, and in many places the old buildings are being torn down and new, glitzy office blocks are going up. But, if you stay off the High Street, and wander down the passages and alleys, you get glimpses of life here 100 years ago. Now, many of the warehouses have been converted to art studios, design firms, and clubs. Street art is everywhere. We searched out old favorites, and both discovered that things we'd seen a while back have now been painted over, and we found new things in their place. Although it's a bit sad to see the older things gone, the changes and transitions of everything from buildings to street art are what makes this such a great area to explore.

I caught the tube back to Belsize Park, got cleaned up, and then Spooner and I went back to his school for an evening lecture by journalist Bob Woodruff. I thought we were going to be hearing about Watergate, Deep Throat, and meetings in a parking garage, but that would have been Bob WoodWARD. This Bob is an ABC news correspondent who was blown up in Iraq and sustained a traumatic brain injury. He's set up a foundation to aid soldiers with TBI.

After that, we had dinner with Spooner's mates Greg and Esther in a restaurant in Belsize Park.

Pedometer reading: 20,600 steps, 8.45 miles

  • £7 for lunch
  • £15 for gifties for rosenbeans and myself
  • £15 for drinks, dinner and my share of the cab ride

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  1. Not to sound macabre or anything, but I am looking forward to your cemetery photos!

  2. Hey M.J, you forgot to mention the snails,conkers, stinging nettles and dock leaves!

  3. Looking forward to all the photos-and cool!-gifties!:)

  4. You must be SLEEPING like the dead with all the steps you do each day; wow you are covering quite a bit of ground. It's great reading about your days; can't wait for the photos either!

  5. ScribeGirl10:29 AM

    Can't wait to see cemetery pix, also.

  6. Great blog - looks like we covered a lot of the same ground. Maybe next time you're in London you should come South to Nunhead, and spy on our beloved Home Secretary...