An open day for local residents today at Highgate East cemetery - that's the 'newer' of the two wings of this wonderful valhalla. It's where Marx and George Eliot are buried, and it's still open for interments.
The chunky Grade 1 listed Marx memorial dates from the 1950s - he was moved from a more hidden away spot where the stone appears to have been vandalised. Among those who followed in his footsteps, Eric Hobsbawm, Raph Samuel and Paul Foot are buried nearby. As, by chance, is George Jacob Holyoake, the cooperator and freethinker, whose grave is adorned by a bust - that's him with the stylishly long hair and beard.
And there is of course the charm of the remarkable, the outlandish and the unexpected.
A year or so ago, I blogged about a small war memorial in Highgate which was quite literally falling apart - and with it remembrance of those who served at Highgate Camp and lost their lives in the First World War. That's the memorial as it was on the left. When I chanced upon it this afternoon, I discovered that it has been splendidly restored.
There are two memorials either side of a gateway at the top of Swains Lane, just a minute's stroll from Pond Square. There was something elegiac about the manner in which they were crumbling away - and part of me wonders whether that is the most poetic fate. But I imagine those whose forbears are commemorated here will much prefer this new lease of life for the memorial - and now in a century's time, the names should still be decipherable, and some of those who stop and take notice will ponder on the tragedy which befell this nation - indeed the world, for this was a global conflict - in what contemporaries called the Great War.
The facing memorial, to J. Dawbarn Young, has also been replaced. This wasn't as tarnished, but it's clearly appropriate that both memorials should match. James Dawbarn Young was a barrister whose passion for yachting led him to enroll in the naval reserves, and reach the rank of Lieutenant Commander. He died 96 years ago this week.
These are of course memorials not graves. But just a short distance down Swains Lane lies Highgate Cemetery, which in the spring has a quiet enchantment to it. I hope you agree.
For the past thirteen years (with a few years off in Delhi for good behaviour) I have lived in a north London house with 'Dartmouth Park' in its postal address. We're not in the Dartmouth Park conservation area - not in the sort of white stuccoed four-storey 1860s terraced house which sells for £1.6 million - but like to feel we're in nodding distance. Still, it's come as a surprise to learn first from 'The Times' and now from Anne McElvoy in the 'Evening Standard' that we're part of pinkish London's biggest socio-political hotspot.
It was only after Ed Miliband's fratricidal triumph that I discovered he was almost a neighbour - he and his partner had bought, yes, a white stuccoed four-storey terraced house at the Heath end of Dartmouth Park Road. Now, says Anne McElvoy, there's a 'Dartmouth Park posse' of Milibands, Kinnocks and associated hangers-on which is giving our area a touch of class.
Well, I've only spotted Ed once, pushing a buggy on the Heath - and have yet to alight (knowingly at least) on a Kinnock. The late Adrian Mitchell used to live nearby - you can still spot the house from the 'Stop the War' posters in the windows. I occasionally see the novelist Julian Barnes making his way up Dartmouth Park Hill. But for such a well-heeled enclave, Dartmouth Park is astonishingly free of celebrity.
Lots of lawyers, a few behind-the-scenes cultural types, not much in the way of famous faces. A bit like the old part of Highgate cemetery (Karl Marx and George Eliot are in the 'new' bit, the Eastern Cemetery), where there's lots and lots of old bones, and almost all remarkably anonymous.
Anne McElvoy, by the way, lives in ultra-fashionable Amwell, where Peter Mandelson once had a flat. Not many know where Amwell is - but it's chic, smart, with wonderful architecture, and easy walking distance from Fleet Street. Let's learn a little more about that posse.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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