I got up fairly early this morning, went for a run (to Muswell Hill, Crouch End and back) and then took myself off to two cemeteries. The first, Islington and St Pancras, sits rather curiously in East Finchley. Another indication of how perilously overcrowded the 19th Century central London graveyards were. The St Pancras and Islington cemetery is absolutely enormous. It's set in a green sea of gently rolling hills which are covered in dark trees. It doesn't have the wow factor of places like Highgate, but you'd never know you were in London. It's probably the most peaceful and restful cemetery I've visited on my travels.
It's very moving to see people carefully attending to their loved-one's graves. I walked past a man with a watering can who was planting flowers on a fresh mound of earth. The poor bloke looked utterly distraught.
Another woman was carefully arranging a display of carnations in a little pot. To see her there on her own almost broke my heart. It was plainly her husband's grave that she was tending.
My search for interesting inscriptions almost made me go cross eyed but I did discover one or two gems within the countless "called homes" and saccharine love poems. One of the ones that stood out was an inscription that simply read "a man after his own heart," which surely could almost be taken for an insult?
There was also an incredibly angry headstone which talked about the negligence of doctors. I personally would have refused to cut it if my business was gravestone chiselling. Surely a statement so bitter and aggressive etched into forever makes the prospect of moving on a great deal less likely?
The other thing I found shocking was the sheer amount of bad grammar carved into headstones. This begs the question; who proof-reads gravestones?
In the afternoon, I went to the Jewish Cemetery in Kensall Green. The Jews tend to side with caution when it comes to their gravestone, so nothing particularly jumped out, other than one, belonging to a well-respected, OBE-winning, political caricaturist, whose epitaph simply read, "the truth and nothing but the truth." After a few seconds I realised I was looking at the grave of Philip Sallon's father. In the light of recent events, this felt like a very bizarre co-incidence.
Nathan and I have just been to see Betty Blue Eyes, which is a new musical by Stiles and Drewe. It's a good show; great fun. It's old-fashioned and there are one or two too many songs, but the ensemble singing and Bill Brohn's orchestrations are absolutely remarkable.
350 years ago and Pepys, as usual, was wheeling and dealing, doing favours for his favourite waterman and cozying up to Lord Sandwich. He went to have his hair cut at a barber in the City and marvelled at how much his barnet suited him at the length he was currently wearing it. There's self assurance for you!