Hail Britannia: Nunhead Cemetery

When my friend visited this past weekend, her only request for sightseeing was “one of the Magnificent Seven,” and she wasn’t talking about movies. She was referring to the 19th-century cemeteries set up in what were then the suburbs of London, and have since become part of the metropolis itself. People had been overfilling cemeteries in London proper, which meant decaying corpses oozed into the water supply, spreading disease. So new cemeteries with plenty of room were built away from the city center, in less of a cramped and more of a more park-like arrangement, apparently modeled after Père Lachaise in Paris.

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Nunhead Cemetery, London

We went to Nunhead Cemetery on a gloomy winter day, which is the correct time to go, of course. A few other people wandered through the gates carrying cameras, like us, but they took a different route from us and somehow we never ran into them. Every ten minutes or we encountered men walking their dogs; the dog would give us a sniff and a friendly wag of the tail, and the man would give a slight nod of acknowledgement, and they’d move on. So we mostly had the place to ourselves, which only added to the slightly spooky atmosphere.

Most of the graves were from the 19th century, and apparently left untended for at least the last several decades; gravestones tripped precariously to one side, beheaded angels stood guard over larger graves, stone inscriptions were eroding away or covered in bright green moss. The paths were well-maintained but anything just off of them was left in a perfect state of romantic decay. A Gothic sense of melancholy draped over the stones along with the creeping ivy.

At one point, we were admiring a crow as he hopped about, and then he picked up what seemed to be a chicken bone, and just when the scene couldn’t get more macabre, he fluttered into the air and alighted on a headstone. If you’re looking for a mournful Victorian graveyard to wander about in, I can highly recommend Nunhead Cemetery.

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Hail Britannia is the title I settled on for posts about the British adventures I’m having while living in London. It covers London and non-London locations alike. It has a pleasing ring to it but doesn’t, I hope, make us dwell too much on ‘Rule, Britannia,’ not least because I am neither in the Royal Navy nor pro-imperialism. 

Year in Review: What I Read and What I Hope to Read

Books! I want to read them all the time, I always have at least one on the go, and yet despite all that and my two months of unemployment at the end of the year, I still barely made it to 52 books read in 2016. I suppose the rest of life holds a lot of distractions. Anyway, I read several excellent books last year, several good ones, and a few duds. I made a concerted effort to read mostly books by women.

Let’s break it down.

Books read: 52

Books by women: 46

YA fiction: 12

Non-fiction: 8

Adult fiction: 32

Series read or completed: 3

Books read because I wanted to evoke a certain time and mood while I was in a certain place: 2 (The Paris Wife and A Moveable Feast)

My favorite fiction titles: The Interestings, A God in Ruins, How to Be Both, My Brilliant Friend, All Our Pretty Songs, The Girl with All the Gifts, Texts From Jane Eyre

My least favorite fiction titles: The Quick, Burial Rites, The Heart Goes Last, My Life Before Me, Innocent

My favorite non-fiction titles: H is for Hawk, Notorious RBG

Non-fiction titles that surprised me by being disappointing, given how much I like the authors’ other work: Bad Feminist, Scandals of Hollywood

Hard copies read: 5

E-books owned: 3

So… e-books borrowed from the library: 44!

Books written before 1900: 1

Books written 1900-2000: 13

Books written 2000-2010: 1

Books written after 2010: 37

And with an eye to the future…

For 2017, I’m hoping to read:

  • 60 books
  • at least half by authors of color
  • at least half written before 2000
  • at least a third from cultures other than the US/UK

How about you? Any books coming out this year that you can’t wait to read, or authors who you’re hoping will do a Beyonce-like surprise release?

I keep track of the books I read on Goodreads, and I also write mini-reviews of nearly every book I read on there. If you’re on Goodreads, or if you’re looking for a way to keep track of what you read/what you want to read/what your friends recommend you read, feel free to add/follow me on there. There’s a link and a list of what I’m currently reading to the left on this blog’s main page, or down at the very bottom if you’re reading on a mobile.