The Tube is close to idiot proof. I love it. Truly Public Transportation for Dummies. I did have an adventure with the rail system that involved a door that would not open to permit me to escape at the indicated time, and then a return train that was stopped by a dead freight train ahead of it, but silme came to get me, so it was am adventure rather than a misadventure. The weather all morning and afternoon was mild, moist, and gray, similar to my favorite sort of New England day (actually, I am finding England very much like New England (2) with its random little roads and haphazard mix of old and new (their old is older than our old, but they burn it down more often)) but now it is raw and raining and I am feeling ill from too much travel and not enough sleep. I will go lie down in just a bit.
Spring is farther along here. There are daffodils and forsythia.(3) Also, there was some cognitive dissonance on the plane, where I not only had red wine with chicken, but watched Jarhead and read Dhalgren. I'm not sure I can blame the headache on the travel.
Today I visited graves. First Westminster, where I apparently charmed a Marshall all out of proportion by asking directions to Ben. "He was a local lad, you know." We had a lovely discussion about Ben and why he's hard to find, because he was too cheap to pay for a proper burial, and is buried standing up, in the Nave. The other poets will have nothing to do with him. In death as he was in life, Ben Jonson. (4) (5)
I also paid my respects to Chaucer, both Eliots, Edmund Spenser (location not listed! he's a mystery!, but he's supposed to be somewhere near chaucerhathblog, so I guessed.), Mary, Mary, Elizabeth, Henry VII special for commodorified and angevin2, various Edwards and Richards (I finally found Longshanks on the third try. What? He's right by the entrance practically? Yeah. I know. If he was a snake he would have bit me.) ("Lions and Plantagenets and Tudors, oh my.")
Henry VII's chapel is amazing. All the world might be roses.
I also paused to nod to Edward Bulwer Lytton and Charles Dickens, patron saints of hack writers everywhere for entirely different reasons, and--after checking quickly over my shoulder to see if I was overlooked--I danced a hasty soft shoe on William Davenant's grave, just for truepenny.
(Davenant swiped Ben's cryptoCatholic grave inscription; I never knew.)
My overwhelming impression of Westminster Abby was that it was busy. And I don't just mean crowded with tourists or aswarm with Gothic decoration or frothing with lacework stone or chock full of dead people. I mean busy with history. Simply humming with the obsolete weight of history, layers of it, overtones, chords of history, history like bones packed into the charnel house until it becomes faceless. Where you step from one grave to another , from one stone to another, and the roughness of the floor and the uneven mismatched worn stones underfoot are somehow a fitting counterpoint to the soaring harmony of the vaults.
A charnel explosion of history.
The stone in poet's corner is less white than dun, incidentally, and there's something fitting in Elizabeth being buried in her grandfather's cream-white vertical Gothic chapel.
By the time I go around to the Chapter House, the sun came out. A good time for it.
All that aside, however, I would say that Kit managed the choice burial spot. That was my second stop; the St. Nicholas Churchyard in Deptford. The oldest part of the Church itself is a Romanesque tower of gray stone that dates from the 1100s (or 1300s according to one site); the newer part is 18th century, also Romanesque, but brick. The church is surounded by a walled churchyard of an acre or so, which is a glory. It's one of the most weirdly beautiful places I've ever seen.
Somebody there both loves to garden, and is not overly fussy about it. The yard is mossy and green, dotted with flowers both in the grass and in beds along the walls. There are great, cumbersome, cancerous chestnuts gnarled until they look like giant apples, one of which is set with shelf fungi (I imagine they're not turkey-tails, in England) the size of my twinned, spread hands--which in turn have been there long enough that they support little green leafy things in their crevices. There is a ruthlessly maintained rose garden, which I want to come back to when it's in bloom. There are mossy memorial stones propped against the walls, and stone tombs. It is green and lush and silent, a block from a bustling multiethnic working-class neighborhood on the Deptford High Street, and I did not want to leave to catch my train.
If you absolutely have to be stabbed over the eye and have your still-warm body wrapped naked in a winding sheet before being dumped in an unmarked grave, you could do a hell of a lot worse for scenery.
Soon, silme is going to give me a driving lesson. Be scared now.
(1) and yet I succeeded in not blowing anything up today.
(2) only with more larches and thatched roofs, and yes, it is due to the Monty Python sketch that I recognize THE LARCH
(3) which are just like American daffodils and forsythia, except they give the forsythia buzz cuts here. Jarhead forsythia. Dude.
(4) Ben's inscription is at floor level, and--final injury--they posthumously returned the H he struggled all his life to elide.
(5) I was wondering if any of the Westminster school-brat graffiti on the coronation chair was Ben's. I think I shall pretend that it is, because it will please me.