It was a stone's throw from Highgate station, so there was a steep climb up to the village for breakfast, but once there, it was food heaven. Coffee in little bowls, croissants to die for and fresh fruit salad at Le Pain Quotidien (or eggs and crispy prosciutto for those who like eggs) versus equally delicious coffee in cups at Gail's, and the most seductive spread of cakes I've ever seen. Choosing between them was impossible, so we alternated. In the space of 10 days I sampled plain and almond croissants, madeleines, muffins, and custard brioches. I ate pain au chocolat and blueberry tartlets (Kelly McCaughrain eat your heart out) not to mention lemon polenta cake, pancakes and scones. One morning in a fit of guilt I ordered a penitential bowl of porridge, but even that came swimming in cream and honey. It was all I could do not to lick the plates.
Now who would ever think that a cemetery could be delightful? Gloom had never been there and accompanied me without enthusiasm, but even he was bowled over. It helped that we were having one of those golden summer weeks when even the most overgrown and forgotten sections of the graveyard were speckled with sun, and the roar and rush of London was masked by whispering leaves and insects. Highgate is a non-denominational garden cemetery, and there is something about it that is so deeply peaceful that it can restore the most worn-out soul. Apart from there being no sound of lapping water (unless it's dripping rain) you could be in Innisfree.
As to the actual graves, they range from sentimental, brutal,
That particular day there were very few tourists apart from ourselves, and although no animals are allowed we met a black cat who obviously hadn't read the notice. Or possibly he was a reincarnated communist, and didn't hold with property being private. The other thing that happened was that I kept misreading things, so that 'dearly beloved' became 'nearly beloved'. (A bit like the subtitles for the hard-of-hearing on the BBC: last week's news said that Jeffrey Donaldson was given a 'warm Malcolm' at Queens. I think they meant 'welcome' but 'Malcolm' opens up so many more interesting possibilities.) Anyway, Highgate is the only cemetery I wouldn't mind being buried in. My preference has always been to go up in smoke (if not out with a bang) but who could object to the surroundings, and the company, at Highgate?
|Pianist Harry Thornton|
There weren't an
awful lot of people there - it was the tail end of a hot bank holiday Monday -
but there was a great
feeling of cheerful determination that sooner, rather than later, Northern Ireland's shameful abortion laws will be overturned. In the mean time, we still have a bunch of backward, bigoted dinosaurs to deal with, so those of us who hope to see a fairer, juster, day need to get out there and make our voices heard. To which end I am now off to join Alliance for Choice at the Processions 2018 march. You're never too old for a demo.