angels on silver strings hang from above

angel inn, highgate

After spending some time among the wild stones of Highgate Cemetery, I strolled through the park and back up to the village and sat in the middle of a traffic island, sketching the Angel Inn. Yup, another pub drawn. It’s a nice, warm pub with a good atmosphere and nice beers. I didn’t have the time (or energy) to draw the inside – some other occasion maybe. I would sometimes pop in here when I lived on Hornsey Lane, just down the hill. When I came out of the Angel Inn, the Sun had long since flown and the pretty garlands were zigzagging down Highgate Hill.

highgate village by night

I hear there is a lot of snow in London these days. Have they learned to grit the roads on time yet? I remember back in, ooh, ’04 I think it was, the second annual Arctic Blast that caught us all by surprise (by giving us three days’ notice), and how my boss gave me a lift back from Finchley to Crouch End, bypassing the strangled traffic on the main iced-up roads by cleverly taking the back streets, but then having to navigate through stranded cars and sliding buses down Highgate Hill. It was like something from the Winter Olympics, but in extreme slow motion. Pretty scary. Highgate is a very steep hill.

frame thy fearful cemetery

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images

(T.S Elliot, ‘The Waste Land’)

highgate cemetery

I love Highgate Cemetery. They used to say there were vampires here, many years ago, but surely they would all have book deals by now. I haven’t been into the famous boneyard in a long time but really wanted to come and catch some sketches here. Or one at least, while the sunlight was still good. I didn’t bother with the main paved routes but dove straight into the thick overgrown muddy paths, where not a single grave is standing straight, and ivy covers the moss-green stone tombstones of someone possibly famous who you’ve never heard of. Everyone is here to see Marx, of course, the tourists from China who all had to study his works at college, snapping a photo next to the bearded tomb; I tried to sketch it but it looked like Santa. I took photos of the cemetery myself – who couldn’t? – and one of them is below. As for sketching, I enjoyed hiding among the dead and drawing the above. I was out of the way. There was one other person I think who appeared from time to time, stealing photos between the stones, but otherwise all I could hear were the crows. I was eager to include the entrance ticket (four quid to get in, by the way) on the page but forgot to account for the red writing contrasting with the greens and greys. It didn’t stop me.

Highgate Cemetery