LOOSE IN LONDON: KRISTINE MUSES ABOUT HIGHGATE CEMETERY




Highgate Cemetery is another of those places that have been on my bucket list for years. I’ve always wanted to visit, but somehow never had the luxury of time in order to add it to past itineraries. So, after Kenwood House in the morning, Victoria and I headed over to Highgate via the bus. The bus itself was another thing I’d never done before – whilst navigating my way across London and England via the tube and railway seems easy peasey, the bus system mystified me before Victoria took me in hand and explained all the vagaries of the process. I admit I’m still a bit puzzled, as often during the coming weeks Victoria would say that the approaching bus wasn’t the one we were waiting for, but let’s get on anyways. Huh? Why are we getting on a bus that isn’t ours? It doesn’t matter, she’d say, climbing aboard. I, of course, followed. Blindly and like a trusting sheep. Granted, we always reached our destination, but I still don’t have the whole bus thing down in my head, so I doubt I’ll be using it again if I’m in London without Victoria (quelle horror!).

The weather was glorious – warm and mild, with bouts of watery sunshine. And I was still wearing my fur lined boots. That morning, Victoria had found me sitting on the side of my bed, applying cushioned bandages to my feet.

“What are you doing?” she’d asked.

“Covering my blisters. Then I’m going to put on socks and then my boots.”

“Not those fur lined boots again!”

“Have to. They’re the only shoes I’ve got with me that don’t cause me to scream in pain with every step.”

“Do you really need all those band aids?” I raised my as yet unbandaged foot so that she could get a better look. “Holy Crow! I had no idea your feet were that bad!”

“Thus the fur-lined boots. And the fact that I’ve got no shame in wearing them in the middle of a balmy English summer. We have so much to do, none of which I want to miss out on, so band-aids it is. As Wellington said, `A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.’”

“He did not. Wellington did not say that.”

“You don’t think so?” I said, ripping open another plaster. “I’ll bet he did. Many times. Think about it.”

“Okay, he might have said something along those lines, but who really said it?”

“John Wayne. And maybe Winston Churchill.”




So now here we were, on the bus traveling from Kenwood House in Hampstead towards Highgate Cemetery. As we rode, I thought about what Victoria had said at Kenwood – that I always expect there to be people at these sites who are dressed in period costume. Sometimes, no kidding, I do find myself a tad disappointed in the reality of a place. I do expect period people to be present. Georgiana should be strolling the grounds at Chatsworth, complete with straw bonnet and a saucy tilt to her chin. Brummell should be sauntering up St. James’s Street with a walking stick in hand and clever insults at the ready. A carriage or two, along with a fresh pile of horse manure, would not go amiss. It would add to the period ambiance. As would a regiment of foot practicing squares in Hyde Park. Or milkmaids standing round Green Park with their cows nearby. I want to eat ices at Gunter’s and present my card at Apsley House, preferably to FitzRoy Somerset himself. I’d like to be able to visit Almack’s in order to see, first hand, just how lousy the refreshments were. I want to look up in the sky and witness balloon ascents. And go to the Exeter Change. I want a waterman to row me across the Thames to Vauxhall Gardens. If I met Caro Lamb and Princess Lieven, would they be as awful as I imagine they were? Would the original Earl Grey tea really taste like the 21st Century blend? How long would I last without Bacardi rum? Did Queen Victoria really bray like a donkey when she laughed? Was Prince Leopold really drop dead gorgeous at the time of his wedding to Princess Charlotte? 

“Our stop is next,” Victoria said, bringing me out of my reverie. We were almost at Highgate Cemetery – I’d finally be able to strike it off my bucket list. And it would most certainly not disappoint as the place would be filled with period people. Granted, they'd be dead and buried and not on view as they strolled the paths, but technically they'd still be there. 


 Highgate Cemetery Coming Soon!








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