Friday, 30 March 2012

Don't say pardon, say Surrey

Cold still ticking along nicely, I was up with the lark in order to go to Brookwood in Surrey. This particular away day had been planned for about a month. Its purpose was for Penny, Jan and I to get together and thrash out some ideas for the films we’re making about the London Requiem later in the year. Jan happens to live in Brookwood, near Woking, which is also home to the UK’s largest cemetery, so we thought we might kill a few birds with one stone. Brookwood Cemetery is known as a little piece of London in Surrey on account of its being the resting place of thousands of Londoners, who were buried here when cemeteries in the capital became too full. The place is a mass of little roads and hedges which create pockets of graves for different religions, army regiments and London parishes. There was even a special train, the eerily named Necropolis Express, which brought coffins and mourners direct from Waterloo station as late as 1941, when its terminus was destroyed by a bomb. A special package deal included all funeral costs, along with tea and cake in the cemetery's cafe after the burial.

I took Penny and Jan to look at the former Necropolis Express station, which is now in the garden of a monastery, where four long-bearded, kindly-faced monks look after the 11th Century remains of Edward the Martyr. There were five monks, but the fifth is currently in a rest home. I had a lovely chat with one chap, who seemed genuinely interested to hear about the Requiem. I asked him if he’d been bothered by the forest fire which ravaged a fair chunk of the cemetery’s outer wooded areas two days ago, but he said, apart from a bit of smoke, he hadn’t really noticed anything out of the ordinary.

We took a few minutes to make a pilgrimage to the enigmatically named Yasi’s grave, whose epitaph “and we laughed and laughed and laughed” has moved so many of the people who have read about the London Requiem.

This particular part of Surrey is very intriguing, and not altogether settling. As we left London, Penny explained that she’s always slightly freaked out by the trees in the area because “they hide so much.” I had no idea what she was talking about until I stepped off the train and was immediately confronted by said trees. Dark, menacing, whispering trees. It’s very curious. For mile after mile, whole winding streets of 1960s and 70s houses sit within enormous pine forests. The trees are so tall and so dense that there’s never a sense of what’s going on behind them, and the general sense is one of oppression and claustrophobia. There are no open spaces. It feels a little bit like Wisteria Lane in Desperate Housewives, and I’m sure very strange things go on within some of those houses perched within the trees...

Still, we did a good day’s work, and really started to build a sense of how the films might look. It's a hugely exciting project, really.
Tonight I went to see Nathan doing a cabaret. He sang one of my songs, which was a genuine honour because he sang it beautifully. He did a 7-song set which included a virtuoso display of yodelling, an extended period of scat and a song from Yentl. My boyfriend – totally versatile!

The end of the evening was marred by the news that my close friend Nat’s Dad had died. David Walter was a great father, a life long Liberal and a very decent bloke. We always got on very well. He was one of those very present friend's Dads and I stayed with him on a number of occasions. I took many photos of him and his family over the years and would like to end this blog with one of my favourites.
You were a good man, David Walter. You deserve a good rest.
The 30th March, 1662 was Easter Sunday, and Pepys went to church in his newly furbished black suit with his boy Wayneman in a newly trimmed uniform, which we’re told was very handsome. There was a good shoulder of veal for lunch, nicely dressed by Jane and handsomely served, which made Pepys very happy to have her back in the fold. Good weather? Check. Evidence of social climbing? Check. Lobster for supper? Check. Life was good. For Jesus too, who was making a comeback...

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