A visit to Brompton Cemetery

Brompton Cemetery

I have always enjoyed wandering around cemeteries, the older the better. Perhaps it’s because I was a history major at university. And while some find cemeteries morbid or sad or depressing, I find them peaceful and uplifting. They provide me an important reminder about the fragile and finite nature of human life, and the many, many people who have lived and died before me. They make my day-to-day troubles shrink in importance. Perspective.

So, I often visit cemeteries when I travel (e.g. my earlier posts of New Orleans – here and here). It was no different in London last October. I wanted to get to two or three of the city’s “Magnificent Seven” Victorian cites. I made it to just one – Brompton Cemetery – and it was worth the walk.

Brompton Cemetery sign

I took the Brompton Cemetery entrance sign to heart.

Brompton has beautifully trimmed pathways (attractively strewn with colourful autumn leaves) that divide the cemetery space. Some grave markers are well manicured, but they are beside entire sections so overgrown with tall grass and vines, they’re partially (or totally) obscured. I enjoy the variety of grave stones, admiring the design details, reading the inscriptions.

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Love all those angels:

Brompton buildings are lovely too, and provided me some much-needed shade on a bright sunny day.

But I don’t just visit cemeteries abroad; I also make a point of revisiting family grave sites whenever I’m in Alberta. On a trip there last year, I popped in at the Coronation Town Cemetery and went with my aunts and uncles to visit the Cadogen Lutheran Cemetery (pictured below).

Cadogen Lutheran Cemetery

Cadogen Lutheran Cemetery

I love the big skies and gently rolling farmland. Quite, peaceful and pretty. This piece of land was the corner of my Norwegian great-great grandparents original farm, donated for the purpose of a community cemetery.

Must-See Museums: London’s V & A

William Morris cup at the Victoria and Albert

William Morris cup at the Victoria and Albert

Whenever I get to London, I make a point to go to the Victoria & Albert Museum of art and design. No question. If it’s the only building I visit while I’m there, I’m fine with it. It’s one of my favourite places on the planet.

Museums and galleries are often my preferred haunts – both at abroad and at home in Toronto. Each has something to offer, but some institutions are better at welcoming you. They’re simply a pleasure to be in. It’s difficult to put your finger on the whys of it, but you know it as soon as you walk through the front door (when you walk into the V&A, you see Dale Chihuly’s gorgeous glass sculpture – below). Great museums engage the public, provide new and compelling ways to look at art or history, and just draw you in better. That’s how I feel about the V&A. It’s really just fun to be inside it.

Rotunda glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly

So, what’s so great about it? First of all, it’s free. Special exhibitions can be rather expensive (but totally worth it if you can afford it), however, they aren’t necessary to your enjoyment of the place. The museum is plenty big enough to get lost looking and learning for hours.

Second, it’s more than simply paintings and sculptures (though I’m a fan of those too). They have wonderful paintings, drawings and sculptures – but what I really love is wandering through the V&A’s collections of jewellery, ceramics, fashion, furniture, textiles, photography and my absolute favourite, metalwork. Ever seen centuries of intricate wrought iron designs in one place? It’s absolutely spectacular.

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During my October 2015 visit, in addition to taking in the amazing shoe exhibition (Shoes: Pleasure and Pain), I finally got around to seeing their glass collection. Even the stairway bannister is made of narrow towers of glass:

Glass collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum

And third, the V&A has a beautiful garden area in the middle of the museum, a large square with a pretty fountain, with tables and chairs. The architecture is beautiful, and on a sunny day (below is a pic from June 2013), it’s simply stunning.

Tell me you’re not just itching to sit down mid-museum wander for a coffee in this lovely square! It’s even better (and highly appropriate) if that coffee’s in a William Morris design paper cup (as mine was in the picture at the top of this post).

Let’s hear it for a “working” holiday in London

Hammersmith Bridge over Thames

Afternoon on the Thames, overlooking Hammersmith Bridge

For one brief, shining moment (last October), my freelance life actually worked out somewhat in the way I planned.

When I began as a freelance communications specialist four years ago, I had visions of taking my work with me, supporting myself while travelling to interesting locations (both foreign and domestic). I’ve managed to have a taste of this in the past, but last October (yes, I’m just writing about it now – don’t judge me), I spent an entire month in London, UK with friends, while keeping up with my work. It was just as wonderful as I had always imagined.

Hammersmith tube station

Hammersmith Tube station

I’ve been to London before, but usually only for a few days on my way somewhere else. It’s a city where, at any one time, I know at least one or two people living there. (This is what happens when you’re from one former British colony – Canada – and lived almost 5 years in another – New Zealand. Almost everyone you know eventually shows up in London.)

So, what did I do with my month, you ask? Well, and perhaps surprisingly, I actually did quite a lot of paid work for my clients back home. (Though admittedly, I certainly didn’t work all day, every day.) I went on day trips. I wandered around museums and galleries. I took a mini-break to Bristol, and popped over to Hamburg to visit a friend I hadn’t seen in a decade.

Pints in Southwark Tavern

Pints in Southwark Tavern

And it all started with a couple of pints of local beer in the Southwark Tavern with my lovely hosts, watching the All Blacks crush the US team in the Rugby World Cup (I did live in New Zealand, after all). Suffice it to say, I felt like I was living the life I have dreamed of. Just for a month. It was a very good moment for me.

More details and pictures of my explorations to come!