A Stroll through Highgate – Cemetery, Village & Vampire

Somehow I’d managed to get this far through life without visiting Highgate Cemetery, which is something I put right the other Sunday. Sultry Sunday afternoons are the perfect time for a cemetery walk and the Northern Heights are particularly appealing on such days (although crisp winter early evening is my favourite time to end up in Highgate Village).

Entering the East Cemetery the first grave I encounter is that of the great folk musician Bert Jansch alongside his wife. Not far away is Corin Redgrave of the acting dynasty and just behind is the gravestone of one of my favourite writers, Douglas Adams, a plain black monolith that must surely be a reference to 2001. I learnt from the comments on my YouTube video that the plant pot of pens is a reference to a riff in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy about the place where lost pens go and apparently visitors to Adams’ grave often leave a pen behind in the plant pot. I must now return there to deposit a pen.

Highgate Cemetery from a YouTube video by John Rogers thelostbyway.com

I was tickled by the fact that the cemetery gift shop’s most popular merchandise line was connected to Karl Marx – fridge magnets, various editions of the Communist Manifesto, badges etc. – nearly all of which were sold out. Oddly they didn’t stock David Farrant’s pamphlet ‘Beyond the Highgate Vampire’, which tells the take of when the area was gripped by Vampire fever in the early 1970’s.

Departing Highgate Cemetery I wandered through the delightful Waterlow Park and was surprised to see that this is where the Lux artist film organisation has relocated to from Dalston (their third home?). I must return for a screening sometime, maybe after taking a pen to Douglas Adams’ grave.

The Gatehouse Pub, Highgate from a YouTube video by John Rogers
The Gatehouse

Highgate Village, I feel, is best visited in midwinter, when the presence of the ghosts is easier to detect. I like to find a corner in the Gatehouse Pub and watch them drift through the bar. I wonder if this spectral presence is what drew Samuel Taylor Coleridge to Highgate?