Dynargh dhe'n Blogofrob

Monday 23rd June 2003


Yesterday Claire and I went to Highgate Cemetery, having finally got the better of some of the slightly difficult timeframes that it appears London tourists have to operate within - for example Saturday brought the disappointing news that Westminster Abbey shuts at 1.45 on a Saturday afternoon, scuppering any chances of a wander around there at a normal time. It was unfortunate that we only discovered this standing by the door of the Abbey at 3.00pm. Highgate's last tour of the Western Cemetery is at 4.00pm on weekends, and we arrived a bit too late. But the cemetery is guarded by a crack legion of fiercely possessive silver haired pensioners, who, in their infinite wisdom and mercy, granted a couple of overspill tours - this meant hanging around a bit rather than searching in the East Cemetery for Karl Marx and George Eliot, but the West Cemetery is certainly worth the wait - I've been once before but the decaying Gothic allure of the place, complemented by thick creeping undergrowth dotted with wild flowers, seems enduring, and I don't believe its beauty and curious appeal can dim, however often it is visited.

Visitors must take the tour, which is slightly frustrating, as you gaze though the trees into the darkened wilderness of tombs and grave stones from the safety of a main path. The place is virtually woodland, the trees, especially in summer, are thick and threaten to consume the unluckier stones - I saw one flat grave with a tree thrusting through its centre, the cracked slab tilted away from its original position, leaning at an angle and clutched by roots that disappeared into the blackness of the tomb. There are roughly 51,000 graves in Highgate, containing close to 160,000 bodies and there must be memorials in there unseen for decades - the guide, the young buck of the management team (a bespectacled 45 year old) mentioned, for example, that Michael Faraday's grave was 'almost inaccessible'. He wasn't willing to go into the more morbid attractions of Highgate, but was an informative and knowledgeable guide, unlike the woman who guided me around there last year. For a more eldritch description of the cemetery this account is enyoyable reading.

Only Pere Lachaise and the Cemeteries in New Orleans can, in my experience, match Highgate for the beauty of the headstones and the ability to inescapably evoke those base but oddly pleasant darkling feelings of macabre morbidity and, of course, mortality.

27 - posted at 14:34:15

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Wednesday 18th June 2003

I'm late in posting this up, but that's because I've been away, busy being relaxed and happy. Anyway, its good to know her Maj has a browse around the weblogs every now and again. Congratulations Rog.

26 - posted at 10:11:37

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Monday 2nd June 2003

I read with amusement that JD Wetherspoon are planning to clamp down on swearing in their pubs, with a 'swear box' contribution demanded for a first offence, followed by a bar if you re-offend (presumably along with being tossed into the street by two gently-spoken bouncers). I've don't really like Wetherspoon's pubs, which are generally too cavernous to have any character and are only worth a visit because of the cheap beer (and even if this is an important factor Samuel Smith pubs are preferable, partly because they're almost vomiting with character). Wetherspoon's currently provide spacious no-smoking areas and have a strict no-games (i.e. snooker, darts) and no-music policy. And now they're looking to outlaw swearing. Perhaps they'll get rid of alcohol next.

Maybe I'm a (fucking) vulgar ruffian. But I like going to the pub and having a good swear. I find that since I gave up smoking swearing gives me something with which to fill my lungs while obscene gestures give me something to do with my hands. If they make me give it all up I might have to resort to smashing pint glasses and throwing chairs through windows, or I may take up smoking again as a substitute and sue Wetherspoon's when I'm dying of cancer.

How is this going to be monitored? How do you define a swearword? If I said "fuck" I'd be barred. But what about "shit"? Is that a swear word? I heard Ricky Gervais say it at 2.55pm on Xfm on Saturday - and under 18s are allowed to listen to the radio. Perhaps Wetherspoon's will decide to put up a list of forbidden words - they could hang them in a lacquered mock-antique frame next to the badly illustrated potted history of the local area that Wetherspoon's punters have to endure while forcing down a microwaved lasagne.

Can I get away with swearing in a different language? And if so, that's a bit unfair, isn't it? If someone can enjoy a pint while loudly telling his ami to retourne enculer les mouches while I have to smile graciously at my friend and tell him meekly to please leave my presence thankyou, surely this isn't right. Everyone should have the right in a pub to swear, in whatever language seems appropriate at the time.

Of course, it would be unreasonable of me to focus purely on the negative effects of this ban. I'm sure "townies" in any university town would enjoy the decline in loudly misquoted lines of Withnail & I interfering with their beer. This in turn would reduce their need to swear, as it has been statistically proven that occurances of the phrase "Fucking students" are most common following Withnail lines. Also, I believe the reasoning behind the pub chain's decision to curb swearing is that swearing is unpleasant for others around and anti-social. Reluctantly, therefore, I applaud the intention. Anti-social behaviour is the bane of many lives - especially Londoners'. For this reason I can vaguely understand why Wetherspoon's pubs have large non-smoking areas: but isn't the anti-social element here to do with health risk, rather than a subjective idea of discomfort, which banning swearing must be based on? And if this is true then there are many anti-social characteristics exhibited by pub-goers which should take precedence over the odd use of colourful language: people who smell, single pub goers or couples who take up a massive table or booth leaving others nowhere to sit, those hideously ingratiating plastic rose sellers, people who piss all over the floor in the gents. I could go on and on before I get to swearers.

I know a lot of people find swearing tedious. For those that don't, like me, this website is enjoyable.

25 - posted at 17:05:05

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