Monday, February 12, 2007

I painted her

Last Saturday I attended the cremation of a friend I hadn't seen for a few years.

The service was held in Golders Green crematorium up in North West London.

I haven't been there for ages

Which is unusual because I've become something of a connoisseur of London cemeteries in recent years

Not because I'm especially morbid but because, what with one thing and another, it's getting to a point in London where cemeteries are one of the few public places hobbyist photographers can take pictures without being accused of being a suspect voyeur, paedophile, government snoop or terrorist.

I know other photographers have less trouble with these matters than I do but, if truth be told, the fact that I look like someone who could easily be either a pervert or a snoop doesn't help me one little bit.

Amusingly, the qualities that make old cemeteries so attractive to photographers looking for a quiet life - the foliage, the densely clustered headstones, the relative tranquility - also make them excellent places to participate in London’s vibrant gay cruising and cottaging

"For gay cruising in Clapham Common see Ron Davies" - God, how I love Wikipedia...

This coincidence of qualities favourable to both photography and alfresco Man Love culminated, in my case, in an excruciatingly embarrassing encounter a while back helping a nervous (and presumably insanely desperate) young man who approached me in
Kensal Green cemetery to ask if I knew where Freddie Mercury was buried. It took me almost ten minutes to figure out what was going on and run away.

Kensal Green Cemetery = primo cruising location

I mean I was flattered and all that but wasn't my tripod a bit of a give away? What did he think I was carrying that for?

No, on second thoughts, scratch that question.

In contrast, Golders Green Crematorium, where I was on Saturday, is well kept, doesn't feature much in the way of standing monuments and is therefore rubbish for cruising ... or photography

Golders Green Crematorium = rubbish for cruising

What does make Golders Green Crematorium interesting is the distinguished cast of notable people who have availed themselves of its services - Marc Bolan, Keith Moon, Bram Stoker, HG Wells, Rudyard Kipling, TS Eliot, Sigmund Freud and, best of all, a representative selection of the Carry On Team.

It's quite a strange experience walking around the grounds on a rainy day and wondering if you're taking home a small piece of Sid James or Joyce Grenfell on the sole of your boot.

I'm sorry Sid...

A thought which may seem a trifle disrespectful but isn't meant to be and, in my defence, before walking around the grounds I had just attended a funeral service which included one of the most un-funeral like moments I had ever experienced.

The friend being cremated had spent his entire adult life working in pubs, clubs and theatres in the West End.

He liked drinking.

He liked drinking a lot.

No shame in that.

No shame at all.

Which is why no-one so much as batted an eyelid when the service included his favourite drinking song which everyone was encouraged to sing along to mid way through the service...

I painted her, I painted her

Up the belly and down the crack,
every hole and every crack
I painted her down in Drury Lane
I painted her old tomatoes over and over again

This is an old Covent Garden market porters' song, dating back to London's ancient history (i.e. the 1970s) when Covent Garden, and the city around it, was something other than a characterless, homogenized, mime-infested tourist hellhole. I hadn't heard it sung for years. I've just Googled the lyrics and didn't get a result which is why I've slapped them up here.

The way in which the service passed seamlessly from a hundred people singing loudly along to 'I painted her' to the same hundred people mumbling quietly along to 'Guide me, O Thou Great Jehovah' a few seconds afterwards was marvelous. I just wish I'd videoed it.

Nice one John


On the Tube on the way home I was pondering upon the nature of Life, Death and homogenized tourist hell holes when I noticed a tiny scrap of graffiti on a poster on a station wall...

The author has a point...



de said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
de said...

wrt Hampstead Heath I was going to mention Jack Straw's castle but I lost the post.

Daniel said...

Very interesting.


Stef said...

ah yes, Jack Straw's Castle - which reminds me of a post I bumped into in the House Price Crash forum of all places.

Hang on a minute..

Here it is

Hampstead is well known for its restaurants and famously traditional pubs, such as the Holly Bush (which was gas lit until recently), the Spaniard's Inn, The Old Bull & Bush and the White Bear. Jack Straw's Castle on the edge of the Heath has now been converted into residential flats. To the north and east of Hampstead, and separating it from Highgate, is London's largest ancient parkland, Hampstead Heath, which includes the well-known and legally-protected view of the London skyline from Parliament Hill. The Heath has three public swimming ponds; one for men, one for women, and one for mixed bathing, which were originally reservoirs for drinking water and part of the River Fleet.

Hampstead Heath has been the busiest & most popular cruising ground in London, if not the world. It is located just up the hill from Hampstead Tube Station on the Edgware Branch of the Northern Line. The Main entrance onto the cruising area is the West Heath from behind the Pub, Jack Straws Castle. Very handy if you can't find it because you just have to ask for the Pub. The Police know what goes on there and are happy to steer clear. The locals also know it and don't venture on there after dark. They walk their dogs there during the day, so try not to upset any of them if you are there too. If they see you, most will just ignore you and go on about their business.

de said...

Indeed, all true.

Now the pub has been converted into nice flats for the newly minted. And they get a bit of a shock when they stand on the balcony to admire the view..

Stef said...

Maybe they should borrow a handycam and make a few bob

Maddie said...

Thank you for putting those lyrics up! I'm 17 and living in Kent, and I know the first verse like the back of my hand, but I've never heard any further, I was desperate to find out the rest! Thank you! :D

Maddie said...

Excuse that last comment, I got the wrong end of the stick and thought Old Jehovan was part of the same song!