The Fog!

John Carpenter eat your blood-curdling heart out. Richmond was one foggy mess yesterday, so I took it upon myself to trek to the Park and try to take some atmospheric photographs. Fun fact – about a month ago I spent four hours taking (if I do say so myself) some rather lovely shots of the Autumn colours before realising that I had failed to insert a memory card into my camera; a small life-lesson about living in the moment perhaps. Anyway, this time I was fully SD’d up and so made my way like a doomed Hammer Horror priest, through the ominous fog to meet my foe – the Richmond Park deer.

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The fog really was very disorientating. I know the Park pretty well and yet failed to find the two huge lakes I usually like to circumnavigate. Instead I found some completely new areas that I had never ventured upon before. Or had I? Who knew in this damned chaos?!

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The atmosphere was freezing and soggy, the landscape – alien (Captain’s log, stardate thirty-twelve-sixteen). Sounds were muffled and visibility was only a few feet. Stags silently loomed in from the mist with nothing but disdain in their eyes.

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After some time I realised that I was tipping towards being lost, and not wishing to become fog-fodder I made my way home to an even more mysterious and vengeful beast – the cat.

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Happy Hallowen 2016

c1fd1e9060fcf9d1e9cd80f5f66b60e9He’s been! He’s been! Sorry, I mean.. It’s here! It’s here! Halloween is really here. In what has become something of an annual tradition here at The Vintage Notebook, I have complied a Halloween playlist to get you all in the spirit of things (see what I did there?)

Whatever you do today, I hope you have a fangtastic day. Groan.

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A Walk Among the Graves

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If it is alright with all of you, I would like to skim over the obvious cliché of a person looking as I do spending their time wandering around cemeteries. I know ok? I know. However, if you will indulge me for a while I will hopefully explain why I find cemeteries such incredibly sweet and endearing places to visit.

A few nights ago, when the light was pretty and the leaves were glowing, I headed to East Sheen cemetery to take a look around. The cemetery was opened in 1906 and was originally called the Barnes Cemetery. In recent years East Sheen has become conjoined with Richmond cemetery, however it is the chapel of East Sheen which remains active and conducts services for both sites. It is home to several notable graves, including the Lancaster weeping angel sculpture above, which has been described as the most important funerary monument of the 20th century.

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I was entirely alone as I wandered through the grave stones. Only a clutch of wantonly hedonistic squirrels made any sound as they bundled across tree tops and shook orange leaves to the already littered ground.

hNo shame!

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As I ambled around reading the names of the buried and glimpsing fragments of their lives from the inscriptions, I felt as I always do in such places, that the overwhelming atmosphere was not one of sadness or melancholy, but love. If you are a person who needs tangible proof of love to believe it, there is no finer example than the way in which we treat our dead. It is the overwhelming factor in my motivation to study archaeological death and burial. Not dear reader, because it fits oh so neatly with my aesthetic, thank you. It is because of a stone that was put up by a wife for her husband who died at 45 years old which at the bottom reads, ‘Maggie Darnell, wife, died 99 years, reunited with her dear one’. How can you fail to feel connected to her and their story? The wife who spent fifty-four years a widow and still chose to be buried with her husband. How can you ever doubt the human capacity for kindness and sentimentality in such a place? When I research historical burial customs, it is with a decidedly critical eye. What are the motivations behind an inscription? Prestige? Duty? Some sort of political manoeuvring? But from a human and less analytical platform, many people don’t have such cynical ulterior motives when burying their nearest and dearest, they just have long held affection.

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I have long felt that it is how we react to our loved ones during the death process that displays the best parts of what it is to be human (although animals do have death and mourning practices too, elephants for example are fascinating). How we hold a person’s hand while they are sick and don’t recoil through fear, embarrassment or our own sorrow. The way we decide which clothes they would like to wear one last time. The places we go and the songs we sing to honour them. And the final act; the monument, whether it be a grand granite obelisk or a patch of grass. In the former instance, carved words selected, mulled over and paid for by those who love you so that all the world can see that you were cared for, that you belonged. To be cared for in death, is to be owned, to be loved and to be wanted forever. I don’t see cemeteries as creepy or depressing. I can’t deny that my gothic sensibilities appreciate the sculptures and aesthetic of such places. But I visit, not to fulfil some obvious and well-worn tropes about goths in graveyards. I visit because they remind me of the sweetness of individual humans. They remind me to try and be a better daughter and friend and to actually call that person back four days late because one day I won’t be able to. They tell me to really see those people who have broken into my life like Jack Nicolson with a wood axe and refuse to leave despite my aforementioned failure to respond to people in good time. In essence they remind me of how bloody well-loved I am.

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