Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Nina's Last Trip to London

Katie and myself shared the same experience of our last stay in London with our sister Lubix before she moves down to Dorset near to us next weekend; however, we have different photos, and because I'm older I go first. Also, Katie takes her sweet-ass time about composing blog posts, whereas mine are scatty as I like it, so you get to hear my version of events first ;)

It all begins in Highgate. Actually, it all begins the night before when we arrive late and have cake that makes your head spin and you hear people in the next room talking loudly when in fact they are just whispering - but we won't go into that too much. 

During one of our last visits we'd had it in mind to visit Highgate Cemetery, as not long before I'd read Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffeneger and The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, both set in said cemetery. When I read at the end of former book that La Niffeneger works as a guide at Highgate giving tours, I wanted to go in the hope of meeting her, and also to see all the parts of the cemetery she described so well. Alas, she was not our guide when we finally did get to go...

...wilderness and catacombs...

...but it was nonetheless an interesting experience. Cemeteries are beautiful places, so peaceful and full of birdsong and when you walk among bones and stone you can't (or I can't, at least) help feeling reverent. It's not everyone's cuppa tea, however. But a dusky sunset among ghosts and birds is a lovely thought to me.

We did a bit of charity shopping in Highgate village and popped into the local bookshop, which I promptly fell in love with. It had lovely displays and great stock for a small bookshop. That is most definitely the kind of book store I would love to work in. Not a glum overheated corporate chain store that forces us to sell chocolate without paying commission. I mention no names. Anyway, I bought from there a small copy of Flower Fairies of the Spring for my friend Naoko's birthday present, as it's in springtime, and also a set of note cards called Naoko's Forest, as, well, you know. It's got her name on it and I know she loves forests.

We stayed up late sewing - Katie doing her owls, I embroidering a ditty called 'White Fox' that I'll make into a cushion, and watching a film called Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus; and we got up late, but only after reading for a few hours - Katie reading Hollow Pike and I The Snow Child, which inspired my embroidery; and watched Hugo

We spent Sunday at Camden Market, and just when you thought you'd gone around all the stalls, another little lane appears with more stalls. We've been to Camden a few times before, and I'm always amazed by how many dresses I see that I love, and this time I even fell in love with a beautiful lacy-red number but was good and denied myself, as my mission was solely to find something for Dan's birthday. 

Soon, however, all the dresses start to look the same, and you're lost in a market-town wonderland and need to find the rabbit hole back to reality, in the form of the underground tube station. We did this, respective sanities in check, but I however pined for this red dress all that evening and the next morning so that I contemplated going back to Camden to seek it out and buy it, but I didn't have the time, which was probably a good thing. I did, however, buy a book from Black Gull's rare book shop in Camden which was a collection of children's poetry by Ted Hughes, one of my favourite poets. 

I fell like sakura in May - full of surreal imagery, moonlight, beauty and horror, I find it hard to imagine these poems are suitable for children. But then I thought perhaps they're not suitable for grown-ups, because grown-ups only pay attention to things that are sensible and things that make sense. Which is daft.

The part of the collection I love the most is called Moon Whales and Other Moon Poems, and the illustrations are wonderfully weird and sweet. The last few stanzas above are so lovely and strange. Imagine being a poet and sewing your eyes together with thread spun from molten moon-silver, just so that you could sing better! Sigh.

And then there was a poem called 'The Arctic Fox', and it seems that these hardy white foxes are pervading my consciousness a lot of late. Firstly from watching Frozen Planet, then through the song Arctic Fox via the ears by Ruby Throat, then through the book The Snow Child via the eyes. 

Above is a snippet of the embroidered poem I'm working on. The ditty reads like this:
A white fox roaming across the arctic snows
Dazzling Jack Frost melts upon his nose,
Only the polar bears and seals understand where he goes
When stalking among the arctic snows.
And below are a few photos that don't really fit anywhere in the telling of our time in London, except that they occurred there and I want to include them, because they just were.

So there will no doubt be many more trips to London in the future, just not to crash at Lubix's flat somewhere between Hackney and Shoreditch. I've loved it there. I've loved that you can walk down the road there wearing any shape of shades and no one bats an eyelid; I've loved the Banksy street art that are there during one visit then disappear before the next; I've loved how inspired I feel every time I stay a few days. But it'll be so good to have my whole entire sistership close to me at home. Buh-bye for now, London :)


  1. Such a great post,it sounds like you had a wonderful time in London.I can't believe I've never been to Highgate cemetery before,it looks amazing and I worked in Crouch End which is very near Highgate for years!We walk through a 'gravy yard'(as my son calls it)everyday and I love how it feels so removed from everyday life and peaceful.Thank you for sharing Moon whales too - simply perfect :)xx

  2. Nina i LOVE your post- It inspires me to book a train to anywhere and travel again. I want to read the snow child
    it was on the radio 4 book of the week and i only heard snippets of it but was intrigued.

  3. Hey guys! I'm so glad you like the post :) Gracie, I definitely love cemeteries - my fiancee thinks I'm odd because I'm in love with a house in the park nearby whose garden backs a gravy yard! Perfect! Tansy, you should get that ticket. Esp London, there are so many secret places, it's just finding out where they are. It helps when you have an older sister who's lived there for 10 years. Hopefully this blog helps ;) I'm halfway through reading The Snow Child at the mo and it's just lovely. I heart folktales, and I've just discovered a pattern pervading my bookshelf recently to do with Alaskan frontier survival tales. Hmmm...lots of love x xx x