As in Life, So in Death

As I mentioned in a reply to a comment from Pat the other day, I had a nice wander around West Norwood Cemetery at the weekend. It’s a big place, forty acres, and has a nice rise to the chapel and crematorium at the top, with splendid views across London. There was hardly anyone about, not even many dog walkers, which surprised me given what a great space it is close to streets of houses.

Even in death, maybe especially in death, it’s easy to pick out the rich, the powerful, the self-important and the famous. I couldn’t always find a name on the various tombs and mausoleums, but it was pretty obvious which ones had been particularly costly. Some are the size of beach huts, some largish summer houses. It was an uncomfortable thought that some of our dead are housed better than the living; homelessness is rife in London. It’s a national scandal. Today a homeless man was found dead yards away from the Palace of Westminster, the seat of the UK government.

Grand resting place

Striking a pose in death


Cosy


Gothic


At least one pigeon had found itself a upmarket abode.

Pigeon loft

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A Walk in Kent

Last night I finally got the last of the mud off my boots. They were caked. Kent is a county that has a reputation for being dry, but the first two fields we walked across were lakes of mud. There was no escape. I’m a mucky walker at the best of times, coming home with mud splattered trousers whatever the weather, but Saturday was pretty spectacular. The ground sucked at my heels so that each step was accompanied by a distinctive squelching sound.

I’d caught an earlier train out of London than planned and it was wonderfully quiet and empty.

Empty train

The fields we passed by were covered with frost, and the sun shone benevolently. The walk, a Pluckley Circular, was organised by the Ramblers and shared between two groups which meant there were nearly thirty of us when the walk began. But I’m getting ahead of myself. If you’ve clicked on that wiki link you’ll have read Pluckley claims to be the most haunted place in the country. But how would you tell?

So I was at Pluckley station half an hour ahead of kick-off, though perhaps that should be step-off.

Station car park


The station has a legitimate claim to historical fame.

Sole survivor


An original


But it’s not actually in Pluckley. It’s a distance away from the village, over a mile. Here’s the pub that is beside the station, a pretty impressive pile, named for the Dering family who were landowners.

The pub at Dering

Dering Arms

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Coventry: City of Larkin, Godiva and Forty-five Types of Potato

Just in case you got the impression from my last post that everyone in Coventry is on a higher celestial plane than the rest of us, this one may correct that idea.

One of Coventry’s most famous sons is the poet Philip Larkin. Hull, which has just ended its year as UK City of Culture claims Larkin too as he worked there for many years and by all accounts loved the place. But Coventry is not going to let Hull steal all the glory. Indeed no. The poet is honoured with a building named after him.

Larkin pub

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Inspirational Coventry

I’ll write more about today and post more pictures I’m sure.

I went back to Coventry, my third visit in ten months. It was a dull day. My first two visits were in bright sunshine. But Coventry on a dull day still shines more brightly than many other venues. My visit confirmed what I learned last year; Coventry is a vibrant city, a friendly city, a city with heart, an inspiring city.

The day after the cathedral was bombed to bits in November 1940, when 500 people lost their lives and over 1,000 were seriously injured, and many more rendered homeless, the dean made a speech among the ruins calling for forgiveness. When the city was rebuilt it became a centre of peace and reconciliation, reaching out to erstwhile enemies, building bridges. Today it continues that work, and is proud of how it welcomes refugees, working to create a culture that crosses boundaries, nurtures respect and understanding and embraces humanity.

That’s all I’m going to say tonight. But I shall upload some pictures of the cathedral. Maybe they’ll speak more clearly.

Baptistry

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Day Trip to Essex

My first day trip of 2018. It was supposed to be last week, so it would have been 2017, but reconvened as the weather was awful. The day was blowy. Very blowy, but it confirmed my first impressions, made over a decade ago, that Leigh-on-Sea is a very attractive place.

First off, it’s a train from Fenchurch Street Station, so all players of the GB Monopoly board will get a quiet thrill of recognition at that one. The landscape gets wilder and more romantic as you leave London. There are ruins of what look like hall houses, or something too small to be castles and too rugged to be monasteries. Then there’s the coast. Waves sparkling in a silver sea. Admittedly the tone was to my mind lowered by two young women whose conversation indicated that clothes (as opposed to fashion) were their main interest in life. They discussed the various outfits they had worn to various parties over Christmas and New Year. As we neared Leigh-on-Sea where I alighted (to use a verb which is now almost archaic but somehow still current in public transport speak) they were almost orgasmic at the fantasy of Primark offering everything for sale for £3 per item. This was something one of them had dreamed about. I alighted to the words “Just think, I could change my wardrobe every day!”

I was wearing a NorthFace jacket bought in 1999, boots of uncertain vintage, and a roll neck jumper that is at least twenty years old. I think I looked fairly presentable until the wind whipped my hair into something channeling Ken Dodd, but there you are.

Leigh-on-Sea. Essex. Such mixed messages. Essex has a number of parliamentary constituencies, all of them represented by Conservative MPs. Essex voted overwhelmingly for Brexit. Leigh-on-Sea’s MP is David Amess, sound on fox hunting and invading Iraq, much less sound on human rights and Harvey Weinstein. For those of you this side of the pond that will almost certainly have triggered an audible hiss, or you may be staggering backwards clutching at your heart. But remember, Woodford – lovely Woodford – once the seat of Winston Churchill, has returned IDS to Westminster several times. Some things are beyond reason. Pantomime villains must have to work very hard in these places.

I read somewhere, long ago, that Helen Mirren grew up in Leigh. I think politically she’s moved on. And yet. Leigh exerts a pull. It’s a real place. For all the cutesy, quaint and self-conscious prettiness of Old Leigh, it has an authenticity that many other places lack. It is still working, still honest. If only it didn’t have Amess. If only it hadn’t voted Brexit.

Let me try to show you. As you walk from the station this is what you see. A real place, working. No Disneyesque ersatz fishing village.

En route from the station


If like me you are a sucker for sea and boats it gets better. Or worse. It depends on your perspective.

Red

Working


There are pubs. Lots of them. But for some reason I want to call them hostelries. It’s that sort of place.

Ye Olde Smack

Quaint

Lunch venue

Crooked Billet hostelry

It’s one of the most dog friendly places left in the UK.

Good behaviour

Dog friendly beach

Happy

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A Year in the Months, and a Happy 2018

I’m ending the year feeling much better than I anticipated this morning. The cold which I started on Christmas Eve was gazumped midweek by a much more aggressive version which has left me in no doubt that I am not stoic invalid material. As a headache gripped my brow in a rusty vice and left me feeling sick each time I bent down I yearned for my health to be restored so I could enjoy my cat, my home, my life.

Friday was a particularly low day. I went out to work telling myself I’d be fine. My nose ran almost constantly and grew redder and sorer by the minute. I began to feel self-conscious and embarrassed at the number of times I had to blow my nose and find yet another bin to dump a wodge of used hankies. Yuk. I went to bed early, then up betimes yesterday for another day at work. Less nose blowing, but still gripped by the vicelike headache and prone to sudden outbreaks of sustained coughing. However by the afternoon I was convinced I was on the mend. Home via the shop to stock up on more boxes of paper hankies where I realised at least half the local population is in the same boat as I am. I nabbed two of the last three boxes of my favourite brand.

I made myself stay up until half past seven and then climbed gratefully between the sheets where I slept for twelve hours with some interruptions for coughing, nose blowing and glasses of water. I thought I’d be fully rested and on the road to health this morning, but instead I should have gladly turned over and slept some more. MasterB desperately needed time and attention from me and was keen to play. Off I went to work feeling as though my body belonged to someone else somewhere else and my feet were not truly making contact with the ground.

Then magically, mid afternoon, something shifted. I’m still coughing, still blowing my nose rather frequently, but it’s almost eight o’clock and I don’t think I’ll be in bed for at least an hour. I’ve eaten a meal with pleasure rather than out of a sense that I need the sustenance, and I have a glass of wine at hand, my first for nearly a week. Admittedly I’ve not drunk any of it yet, but just looking at it makes me feel more festive. I’ve even lit the candles and decided the Christmas decs can stay up for another day or two. Continue reading

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

I think I've redeemed myself with WestieBoy. After taking him for a walk shortly after arriving on Tuesday I went awol in Belfast for the next two days, but today the snow meant our other plans were put on hold so it was a two walk day.

The worst of the weather was elsewhere, but we have a nice dusting that feels seasonal and right.

 

I was wrapped up in warm clothes from London and the one of the hats Cousin has knitted.The first walk was the best. We only met two vehicles. We saw sheep in the fields and birds in the trees and hedgerows but no other living creatures.

The sky turned from white to blue and then grey again. More snow fell, and the wind made it dance in the air around us. Slieve Gallion was all but invisible, and this tree stood alone in a blue white fieldpp.

WestieBoy found plenty to sniff at but tugged and even whined when I wanted to stop and take pictures.

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Forty-Eight Hours

In forty-eight hours I shall be at Cousin’s. I’ve missed autumn, and now it’s the build up to Christmas and the shortest days of the year. I’m anticipating dark afternoons wearing a hi-viz jacket when walking Westie Boy, heat from the wood burning stove, and a cold bathroom.

What I hadn’t been anticipating until a text came this afternoon were cats. But I now know three cats have joined the household. What Westie Boy makes of them I am eager to see. Why three, what they look like and how they were acquired, I have no idea. I’m hoping they are able to come indoors. Cold evenings are the perfect time to have a warm cat on your knee.

The plan is to see Uncle Bill on Thursday, so that’ll mean a trip to Belfast. I hope there’ll be a second trip too, but a week goes by very quickly. I’d like to go to the Fintan O’Toole lecture at Heaney Homeplace, but that’s on Thursday too, and I don’t think it’d work. Anyway, who would I go with?

Pylons

Golden


On a long leash


Slieve Gullion

A year ago it’d have been Ann D, but she since died. I think this visit is where I will have to accept that death has happened, because from here I find it impossible to imagine Cousin’s without Ann’s presence and conversation. Maybe that’s where the cats will come in. Cats for comfort and distraction.
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