The day I met Sheldon, I thought he was a bit of a weirdo. By the next day, I thought he was one of the coolest people ever to have crossed my path. We were temping at HMV in Bromley and during busy times he would serve each customer using a different accent from around the world. Australian, then Indian, then Scottish and it would go on and on. Each one sounded truly authentic. By the time our days as The Kids From Empire were up, we had become firm friends, although due to the transient nature of temping and of life, I wasn’t sure if I would ever see him again. It was a new year and a new start for both of us – I was off to Paramedic school and Sheldon was off, like a feather blowing in the wind, to see what opportunities life had to offer him now. As a talented artist, singer and history buff, the world was his oyster. I waved goodbye to him after our last day and thought, sadly, that we might have had our day.
Two days later we went to London Zoo. As you do.
And two weeks later, Sheldon asked me if I would like to go on a walk through the City of London with him. He would show me all the hidden churches and alleyways and facets of long forgotten history that he found so fascinating, and I decided that as the City was right next to Shoreditch, which was full of facets of hidden graffiti that I found interesting, we would combine our interests. Which is what we did. And I guess we both decided that our blend of the old and the new worked well together, because a year later, Cemetery Club was born.
I recently found the photographs I took that day. They had been long banished to a dusty external hard drive and ignored, mostly because the day was so gloomy and grey that it never really got light or stopped raining and all the photos are dreadful – blurry and sludgy and to my perfectionists eye, not worthy of note at all. Looking back on them, displeasing to look at as they are, I find a certain charm in them. They remind me of early photography, where everything was sludgy and grey because colour hadn’t been invented yet and shutter speeds were typically half an hour long.
They are somewhat Victorian in nature and could have been taken 20 years ago or 70, or 200 – except every so often a blaze of colour is injected and lo and behold, you have the combination of Sheldon and me perfectly juxtaposed and summed up in pictorial form. The past and the present, history and geography, ancestors and futurists.
And then there is Sheldon’s starry blue shirt – a beacon of colour on a grey London day that stands out against the sepia brickwork of the centuries old churches lodged between the cold grey steel of the city skyscrapers and an image that splashes across my mind every time I visit that part of the world in the middle of winter.