Monday, 14 November 2011

The Magnificent Seven

Today is one of those days that I wish I could have spent indoors. London has been engulfed by a gloomy, dank mizzle which seems intent on permeating every last fibre of my body. It doesn't help that I'm not feeling too good. General aches and pains, no doubt caused by the weather, but also slightly tender skin, coupled with the odd shooting pain coursing along the line of a nerve. I'm definitely doing too much.

I visited Abney Park in Stoke Newington this morning with my friend Penny. We're looking into the idea of premiering the requiem in a cemetery, and this is probably the most atmospheric graveyard  in London. 

It's one of The Magnificent Seven; a suite of mega-cemeteries built in early Victorian times as a response to the dangerous over-crowding in City churchyards. The most famous of The Magnificent Seven is probably Highgate. Others include Brompton and Kensal Green. They were built on the outskirts of the then city and are all filled with extraordinary tombs, catacombs, icons and monuments. The Victorians were nothing if not totally over-the-top when it came to responding to death.

Anyway, these days Abney  is classed as a "closed" cemetery, which means no one can buy a plot there, even though burials still happen from time to time with those who purchased family plots some years ago. It's actually classed as a nature reserve, and is the home of many unusual species of birds, bats and fluffier creatures. 

The people who run the place are refreshingly laid-back, and keen to get involved in our project. I think it would be the perfect back-drop for a Requiem, particularly as it looks like it might be possible to perform the piece at dusk by lantern light. Almost too exciting for words, I feel! 

(There's a girl on the tube opposite with a bruise and bump on her head which is the size of an egg. She doesn't seem to be too bothered it, but it looks like an alien is about to crawl out of it...)

I went from Stoke Newington to Catford via the new, bright orange East London Line... Or is it the North London line? It's the new line which links Highbury in the North to New Cross and Croydon in the South, and its trains are remarkably wide, like barns on wheels... And totally empty! 

I was rehearsing at Julie's house; an impromptu alto sectional, but as I staggered my way through the bleak south east London streets, I wondered why anyone would actually choose to live there. I called in at the post office and was confused to find that there were no envelopes for sale. There were no postcards either, or shelves collapsing under the weight of piles of stationery,  like in our little post office up here in Highgate. The Catford post office is merely an enormous empty room, with a series of rather frightened-looking individuals skulking behind bullet-proof glass counters. All the envelopes and things were hidden behind the glass with the staff. I assume the sad truth is that anything displayed in front of the glass would be in danger of being nicked in an area like Catford.

350 years ago, Pepys ate his lunch in The Sun on Fish Street. He was thrilled with the food, commenting on "a pie of such pleasant variety of good things, as in all my life I never tasted." He loved his food. And his superlatives. And his strange uses of negatives to imply positives. 

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