80: umbrellas and Marjorie Proops

There has been a standing joke among the learning team that every time I go out with the play kit I bring the rain. This week I have been out all week in schools and for four out of five days the rain was torrential at times, and on the one day it wasn’t I brought a plague of wasps instead. There’s definitely a pattern forming, and at this rate no one will sign up to work with me next summer! Still, we had a good week and met a whole lot of children at two primary schools in Tower Hamlets, as well as working with games designer Rex Crowle (Little Big Planet/Knights and Bikes) and a Tower Hamlets secondary school to deliver a webinar as part of the V&A’s Upstart Careers Festival. On Friday night – not surprisingly – I was unconscious on the sofa at 7.30pm.

With further rain forecast, my best friend A and I had planned one of our ‘culture and cocktails’ days out – this time to the second of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries. This week marked 30 years since we met on our first day at university in Preston: it still feels like yesterday since we arrived with our parents and our worldly possessions with no idea of where we’d be staying (Lancashire Polytechnic, as it was at the time, wasn’t that organised – a large number of students used to be bussed in from Southport’s Pontins holiday camp until accommodation was found). My first sighting of A was of her throwing a strop in the car park, and then we found ourselves in opposite rooms in the same flat. We’ve grown older (if not up), produced six kids between us, become mad cat ladies, ranted a LOT and supported each other through all sorts of good and bad things. Every so often we manage a day out – not as often as we’d like – and we do love a cemetery.

We visited Highgates East and West back in May, and so this time we went anticlockwise round to Kensal Green. This is the last resting place of people like Brunels (Isambard and Marc), Charles Babbage, Steve Took, the odd royal, a whole lot of political types and thousands of people like you and me. Some rejoiced in the most glorious names: Eudoxia Penemenos, for example, and Andalusia Grant, who we were pleased to find had lived up to her name with an interesting life. The cemetery is also a good illustration of the area’s multicultural make up: Irish, African-Caribbean, Vietnamese, Cypriot, Italian, Greek names and more, and even a stone entirely in Welsh. I was very taken with the stone of David Montgomery Pelham, ‘impresario’, whose epitaph read ‘I would not have missed it for anything’.

The tomb of Andrew Ducrow, equestrian and circus owner, caught our imagination with its sphinxes, bee skep and magnificent hat.

A tradition of our days out is that one of us will be approached by some strange person, and hanging about in graveyards only increases the chances of that. This time it was an elderly gent who’d been leaning into a skip, only to lurch towards us when we approached and start going on about umbrellas and Marjorie Proops (I have just checked and she’s buried elsewhere!) – and then he kept running after us! We thwarted him by striking out cross country, and spent some time wondering whether he was the resident ghost. Highgate has its vampire, perhaps Kensal Green has the old man who got wet and died of a chill, and is doomed to wander the paths for eternity in search of an umbrella….

The cocktails part happened at Parlour, on Regent Street (not that one). We had their weekly seasonal lunch which at £19 for three courses was very good. I had the smoked mackerel, chicory and apple salad to start followed by fillet of sea bream with peppers and almonds, while A had baked goats cheese followed by slow cooked Goosnargh duck with beetroot and blackberries. We both finished up with the artic roll, in coffee dolce and chocolate peanut butter flavour. I had the Kensal Green Tea and A had a Hot ‘Queen’s Park’ Mama and a Lady Cosmo. I think we’ll be back: so friendly and the food was great.

This morning I have been swimming: the water temperature was down to 14.6 and we expect to start the winter swimming season next weekend. I’ve dug out my woolly hat and onesie already!

That’s all, folks – see you here for week 81!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Lords and Ladies – Terry Pratchett

Gobbelino London and a Melee of Mages – Kim M. Watt

Inspector Hobbes and the Common People – Wilkie Martin

Carpe Jugulum – Terry Pratchett (Audible)

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