Thursday, October 08, 2015

The Magnificent Seventh

It was a bit misty yesterday when I walked up to Queen's Park for the 10 a.m. mat class at the Pilates studio, but it had stopped by the time I finished class. I checked the weather report when I nipped back to the flat to change my clothes, and the forecast said rain would be ending by 11:45. I also checked Citymapper, which said that the earlier signal failure that was disrupting service on the Circle and Hammersmith & City lines was cleared. Both were wrong.

I waited nearly 15 minutes on the platform at Westbourne Park and took the first eastbound train that came along, unfortunately a Circle line train that got me only as far as Liverpool Street. But the walk from there to the Whitechapel Gallery wasn't really that much further than had I gotten the H & C to Aldgate East, and I ate my peanut butter and jelly sandwich along the way.

At the gallery, I looked at some of the Emily Jacir exhibition, entitled "Europa" -- I saw parts of the large section on the assassination in Rome of Palestinian writer Wael Zuaiter by Mossad agents in 1972, and  "stazione" (something she did for the 2009? Biennale in which she added Arabic lettering to the names of many of the vaporetto stops in Venice as a way of highlighting the connections between Venice and the Arab world -- the work wasn't completed because it was deemed too controversial or dangerous or something). I also saw part 1 (three more parts will come over the next year or so) of Arabic art from the collection of the Barjeel Art Foundation -- modern works (1900-1968) by artists from Egypt, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine. In the small children's gallery was a bittersweet exhibition called "The Name of Fear." A Brazilian artist had asked London school kids to tell her what they feared, and she made a series of capes of fabric and other materials, with lettering spelling out the fears such as "strangers," "the end of the world," "nightmares" and "biscuit crumbs."

When I left the gallery, the mist had returned, but I was still optimistic that it would pass. But it was my optimism that passed, for it was coming down steadily by the time I reached Brockley station and my walk to the gates of Nunhead Cemetery was a soggy one. There I met up with David and Janie, who for the second year have very generously accompanied me as I tick off another of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries. Nunhead sits on a hill, with a view of the tall buildings at the Elephant & Castle visible in the distance, framed by the trees and the cemetery gates. There's a lovely ruin of a funeral chapel (not quite as creepy as the one at Abney Park) and winding, tree-lined paths around the (mostly) Victorian gravesites. The gloomy day certainly made for an atmospheric stroll among the headstones. We found a couple of the noted memorials -- one to the nine boy scouts who were drowned in boating accident on their way to a camping trip in 1912, and the other a massive tomb in a Greek or Turkish style (David will know, as he recognized the shape) of someone named John Allan. So now, I've done all seven of the great Victorian cemeteries. It's taken me only ten years to do it!

Damp and in need of refreshment, we then headed for the Ivy House, a nearby pub that was saved from developers when locals had it declared a community asset and developed a share-based funding scheme in order to purchase it. I'd heard an episode of the Londonist Out Loud podcast about the pub, which was a popular music venue in the 70s and 80s. Ian Dury, Elvis Costello and Joe Strummer all played there. Just as we were walking to the pub, a line of about 30 school kids and their minders marched up the pavement and right in the pub door. We followed. The kiddies were headed to the back room with a little stage where they took part in an after school program of arts and theatre. We got 1/2 pints and crisps and settled into a booth in the other back room, a room with booths, tables, dark wood paneling and a fireplace (not lit, alas). Soon, some girls about 10 years old came into that room for their dance class. It was great to see the pub being used to fill the needs of the community in this way. I'll have to listen to the podcast again, but I seem to remember that different adult groups meet there during the day. The pub really functions as the community's living room, something we'd never see happen in America, unfortunately.

By the time we left, the rain had stopped for good and it looks like I'll have good weather (cool but dry) for the rest of my visit. Thanks again to David and Janie. Next year, we'll go to Highgate.

£15 for Pilates class
80 p for two biscuits on my way to Westbourne Park station
18,961 steps, 7.91 miles

1 comment:

  1. It was a pleasure to see you again, M.J., in the sepulchral gloom of Nunhead. Here's some stuff about Lycian tombs:
    And thanks for the intro to the Ivy House - what a delightful place.