Kensal Green Cemetary
I have a slight - and slightly morbid - fascination with the vast Victorian cemetery that lies a few minutes walk from my front door in Kensal
Green. Photographs of stone angels from the rows of memorials adorn my bedroom. A few years ago, I bought a large framed colour print depicting
memorial photographs from the gravestones. I would rather walk in the cemetery than any park or field.
It is overgrown, ramshackle and overseen by the sentinel of a decaying gas container. But I am at peace here. Here, the children make no noise.
They break your heart silently. When I want to gather my thoughts, here they flourish.
There are other writers for company, too - Trollope, Thackeray, and more recently, Harold Pinter. Chesterton even wrote a poem titled 'Paradise
by Way of Kensal Green' which concludes 'My friends, we will not go again or ape an ancient rage,/Or stretch the folly of our youth to be
the shame of age,/But walk with clearer eyes and ears this path that wandereth,/And see undrugged in evening light the decent inn of death;/For there
is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen,/Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green'.
But proximity, peace and poetry are not the only reasons I wander among the stones and overgrown plots. More simply, I am a grave robber. The
names on the stones here are so rich and weird and eloquent that they provide material for the dictionary of names I am always compiling in case I one
day need them as characters in my novels.
So Crafton Witter, Lizzie Crump, Billy Barf, Edward Scantelbury, Limbert Farrell, Suzy Musk and 'Little B' Serviatrice - take comfort, there is
hope indeed that you will be reborn, if not as an earthworm or an angel, then at least as one of souls that people my books. It is not immorality.
But it is amid all these acres of fading memory, it is more than you might have hoped for.