I was excited about visiting West Norwood Cemetery. It was the spring, so the weather was likely to be warm and there would be no puddles to ruin my shoes. It was in South London which is my neck of the woods, and I always feel protective over my own neck of the woods (also it meant I could drive us there). And there was an amazing looking deli and cafe nearby that I wanted to visit – Beamish & McGlue on the Norwood Road. I was thinking cemetery, history, photographs then CAKE.
And that’s pretty much precisely what we did.
Pathetic fallacy plays a big part in how I remember a cemetery in the aftermath of our visit. I remember Kensal Green as a depressing place, full of unseen Victorian ghosts – but that was because it was January and it was virtually dark. By contrast, I remember Brompton as very bright and alive, and this is because it was July, it was sunny and warm, and it WAS bright and alive. West Norwood was like Brompton. It was ALIVE. Completely alive. There was blossom literally bursting off the trees and bright new greens of leaves and grass everywhere you looked.
It was a few months ago now, so I don’t remember every single second of that trip to Norwood. But I remember Sheldon and I taking photographs of each other on one of the main paths, next to a giant mausoleum.
I remember Colin (aforementioned by Sheldon in his West Norwood post) finding us and kindly showing us around, giving up his time to do so. We learned a lot from him. Nice as it is to walk around a cemetery on your own, it’s sometimes even nicer to have a tour guide (a few of the Mag. 7 do run tours, see Highgate West and Abney Park as examples), somebody who knows the cemetery inside out and is completely enthusiastic about it. It was also nice to watch Colin and Sheldon bond over their love of Victorian history. I remember wondering if Colin was actually Sheldon from the future…
I remember the view from the top of the cemetery, and that it was the first really warm day of the year (spring bloomed late this year). There were birds singing and a light wind and it was peaceful. Which I know I say about every cemetery visit that we go on but it just WAS, much more so than any attempt at Yoga I’ve ever made. For this reason I must recommend cemetery visiting as a goto activity for de-stressing. I felt very de-stressed at Norwood. There were palm trees at the entrance, which helped a lot. Made me think of the beach. Except…with mausoleums.
I remember that I had discovered Vine that morning and made 6 second videos all the way around the cemetery.
And then one of Sheldon drinking tea at Beamish & McGlue.
It was just a lovely, lovely day. Perhaps my favourite of all the Cemetery Club visits we’ve been on so far.
And then there was cake, of course. I think I’ve written before about how we like to make a post-cemetery trip to some local pub or cafe for a debrief and possibly also to drink vodka. I had seen Beamish from afar and like the blue-ness of it’s shopfront (I’m a fan of shopfronts in the same way that Sheldon is a fan of attractive looking tomb stones) and the bunting. It turned out to be a perfect place to go, as it’s an independent trader, meaning that we were supporting local business, and the selection of deli style food and also gluten-free snacks was something special – you could go a long way and not find a place like this. Go there. Go there immediately. They also have picture postcards of West Norwood and Tulse Hill, which made me laugh. I bought several and sent them to my friends with ‘wish you were here’ messages on the back.
If this blog post has a point, it’s that I highly recommend you take a trip into deepest darkest south London and go to West Norwood Cemetery. It’s free and it’s full of big, old mausoleums that make a trip there just like visiting a top London art gallery. So you should go there.
But wait until spring and go then. I promise it’s worth it for the blossom that looks like pink snow and life bursting from every corner of somewhere that by definition should be such a dead place.