Last Friday afternoon I had some free time between two moving and fun evenings watching the Instant Composers Pool at the Vortex so I took a trip up to Highgate cemetery. This came to be as part of a long considered mission to see where Karl Marx is buried. Having failed the last time I was in London to make it even though I fully intended to get there it seemed like too good a chance to miss. My previous date with it having been given over to the Horniman Museum’s instrument collection in Forest Hill. I took the tube to Archway then walked up the hill past school kids and people getting on and off buses with granny trolleys. Managed to get pleasantly lost and walk pretty much all the way round the perimeter of the graveyard before finding the entrance. The cemetery is surrounded by incredible houses which must date from when Highgate was an outlying district of the city; the area around the graveyard has the real feel of a small hamlet enveloped by London. Once inside it is a strange little world all to itself; a small universe managed by volunteers making decisions by committee. Its easy to move about on the main paths which are paved but all the smaller ones resemble muddy country tracks moving between some wonderful old trees. Graves with roots wrapping round them. It’s a great place. Marx’s headstone is of course something of a social realist nightmare a huge concrete plinth with a sculpture of his head atop. It’s not the original headstone, which was apparently much more modest; the current one was raised by subscription by The Communist Party Of Great Britain in 1954. I spent a couple of pleasant moments there thinking.
Around me two Spanish couples and a group of middle aged German men I imagine to be a Trade Unionists holiday outing from the Ruhr Valley are taking pictures. I walk down the hill stopping off to draw birdsong at Patrick Caulfield’s self designed “DEAD” memorial, Douglas Adams and at a few other points on the many benches dotted about. The day before I’d picked up a really interesting looking double CD of British birdsong published by the British Library and CD by Ostad Elai from Honest Johns in Ladbroke Grove. More on to come no doubt.