Temporary Brit

My three months of adventures in London!

Cemeterial Success October 26, 2011

Today I finished visiting all of London’s “Magnificent Seven” cemeteries.  I don’t know if that’s something to be proud of or not; who goes sightseeing in a GRAVEYARD, never mind seven of them????  Still, I had to do it, and I think I can sping my visits into a fairly interesting chapter in my book, once I get around to writing it!

 

This past Sunday, I went to Tower Hamlets Cemetery.  It was pretty nondescript.  It wasn’t artistic or pretty, and it just wasn’t as interesting as some of the others.  That’s all I have to say about that! 😛

 

Yesterday, I went to Kensal Green Cemetery and West Brompton Cemetery.  Kensal Green just didn’t sit right with me, for some reason; I just felt icky when I was there.  There are plenty of old monuments and things, but it’s not woodsy at all.   Plus, a good percentage of the place is more modern than historic.  Remember…it’s only the OLD cemeteries I like. 🙂  Kensal Green did feature this grave, however:

No disrespect to the dead, but I SO wish the husband’s name had been Donald! 😛

 

West Brompton was next, as I said.  It’s the most well-laid out of all the Magnificent Seven; it’s shaped like a perfect rectangle, with straight paths running the length and width of it.  Like Kensal Green, it’s not THAT wooded, but it feels a bit older and wilder (it’s actually not older). West Brompton is also the cemetery that feels the most like a park; there were plenty of people out walking themselves and their dogs.  This isn’t surprising; it’s actually a pretty place:

 

I visited the last two cemeteries today.  They were a bit more of a challenge; neither one is accessible by Tube.  That meant taking actual trains that are NOT part of the Underground network.  The good news?  Most rail services that fall within the TFL zones are covered by my Oyster Card.  🙂 All of the stations that I had to use today were within the first four zones, which are covered by my monthly pass, which means no extra money out of my pocket!  Nunhead Cemetery (south of London) was my first stop.  It’s definitely the most overgrown of the seven, and is now a nature reserve.  The only graves and monuments visible were the ones that lined the paths.  It felt like I was taking a walk in the woods more than a graveyard, which I didn’t hate.  The woods are my favorite natural environment. 🙂  There was also a ruined chapel in the middle, but unlike the one from Abney Park, it was well kept and therefore did NOT give me the creeps:

The paths were pleaseant and winding, and I basically had the place to myself.  That was due in large part to the fact that it was POURING rain.  I even heard thunder at one point.  So basically…I was wandering around alone in a graveyard during a storm.  The only thing that could have made it more awesome was if it had also been a full moon on Halloween. 😀

 

My last and final stop was West Norwood.  The rain had stopped, and the sun had come out, making it a fraction less cold.  This one felt the most modern to me, which is funny because it’s the second oldest.   I think that’s because it seemed to have more modern, lawn-style graves rather than the old-fashioned monuments that I like.  Plus, it’s very well-kept.  There were hardly any overgrown spaces and gravestones that had been swallowed up by nature.

 

I got several reminders during my visits that these places aren’t just there for nice walks and history.  They’re still working cemeteries; Kensal Green, West Brompton, and West Norwood were all playing host to some sort of funeral or memorial service while I was there.  The one at West Brompton was a particularly big deal.   The departed was….ummm…delivered to the site in a carriage drawn by matching black horses.  Now THAT is a classy way to go out! 😀

 

Today marks the beginning of my final week in London.  It still looks like I won’t be getting into St. Paul’s; they’re talking about opening it up again by Friday, by the dome will still be closed.  Since that’s a big part of the reason why I wanted to do the tourist thing in there, I think I’ll probably have to skip it.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be able to sneak in one last service, though; their boys’ choir is the best I’ve heard at ANY evensong service anywhere. 🙂

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Anniversary September 11, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — temporarybrit @ 11:17 PM
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When I started planning my trip, I knew I’d be in London for the 10 year anniversary of September 11th.  I was pretty curious to see how the UK would acknowledge the day (if they acknowledged it at all), and what the overall attitude towards the attacks were after all this time.  I also felt like I should do something to mark the occasion, so (seeing that is IS Sunday) I went to church.

I found out about today’s morning service at St. Paul’s Cathedral totally by accident.  I was browsing their website before I left, just to see what was coming up, and stumbled on a blurb about today’s memorial.  Since (as I said) I felt like I should do something to honor the day, I ordered my ticket right then.  The service actually did double duty: not only was it meant to remember September 11th, but it also honored the 20th anniversary of the Firefighter’s Memorial Trust (the firefighters had their own wreath-laying ceremony after the service).  When I got to the cathedral, they had the whole area barricaded.  Everyone who was attending the service had to line up behind one of the barricades in Paternoster Square (if you’re standing in front of the cathedral steps, it’s off to the left).  Security was unbelievable;  there were police everywhere, and not only did everyone have to show a ticket, but they also had to show photo ID before getting in.  Oddly enough, no bag checks.  There were also two very big and scary special forces officers (of whatever the British equivalent is) carrying two very big and scary guns.  It was bit jarring to see them;  I’m not used to seeing police officers carry guns around here.

 

They let us in about an hour before the service started.  There was an honor guard lining the steps of the cathedral, all carrying flags.  I felt sort of cool walking through them. 🙂  After everyone was seated, the processions started.  Church officials, dignitaries from other faiths, and the American ambassador to the UK all had to take their places.  There was a color guard, too: the UK flag was brought in first, followed by the American and the U.S. Marine Corps flags together, and the Firefighters’ Memorial standard last.  The service was a typical Anglican service in terms of structure, but the theme was obviously the events of ten years ago.  I didn’t know this, but 66 or 67 British citizens died on September 11th.  Also, we sang both the British and American nation anthems toward the end.  I’m pretty sure THAT doesn’t usually happen in church!  There was also a speech given by a woman who worked one building away from ground zero.  I had never before heard or read any personal accounts of what it was actually like to be there, and I have to say: it was a little chilling.

 

I was surprised at what a big deal the service was.  It was filmed (I don’t by who or for what purpose), and some of the attendees were seriously dressed up. I’m talking coats with tails on the men, fancy hats on the women, the whole nine yards.  There were plenty of people dressed like me, too (nice pants and a nice shirt….and “office” type outfit), and plenty of uniforms, of course. Being part of it felt sort of…historic, in a way.

 

 

I got a ticket for the evening service at Westminster Abbey from the church I’ve been attending here.  This one was a bit more low-key.  There was no security, no scary men and their guns, no color guard, and no national anthems.  For the first time ever at an Anglican service, though, I actually knew one of the hymns! It was “Amazing Grace,” in case you were wondering.  My favorite part was seeing leaders from all different faiths chatting together after the service was over. That, to me, is what remembrance days like this should be about.

 

I was really surprised to see what a big deal September 11th was over here.  There have been documentaries and reports on tv for the last two days, and the services I attended weren’t the only two in the city.  There was a major ceremony at the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square, for instance.  Unfortunately, protestors decided that that was an appropriate time and place to set fire to an American flag, so maybe it was a good thing that I wasn’t there.  That kind of disrespect would have made me angry.

 

So…ten years.  It’s not that hard for me to believe, but that’s because I’m totally different than I was then, so the passage of time in my own life helps it make sense.  I’m glad I could help London remember the events of a decade ago,  but I’ve had enough looking back into the past for awhile.  How about we look ahead to the future, hmmmm? 🙂