The Magnificent Seven

So when you read the heading, what do you think?

This?

mag seven

Or this?

20140322_155557

Nunhead Cemetary

If you are Charli Mills it would be the gravestone. Her latest prompt is

October 22, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a creepy story. It can be prompted by the green fog in the photo, an imaginative idea about the Beals or take place in a cemetery. If other creepy ideas take hold, go for it! We’ll all shudder and be in the mood for Halloween–or grateful for its passing.

This was itself prompted by a visit to a cemetery. Do look at the spooky picture Charli took and tell me your rational mind is still winning the battle.

For those still wondering at the title, the Magnificent Seven are a string of cemeteries that circumnavigate London and were created when London grew so big in the 19th Century that the existing cemeteries were running out of space. Back then you always buried your dead – cremation didn’t become legal until 1884 (strictly it wasn’t illegal but the religious pressure made it seem so; thus legislation was needed to boost the alternatives). Traditional Christian theology required burial in order for resurrection  to take effect on Judgement Day so it was an attitude that took some shifting. Until the change and the gradual acceptance of cremation (the Ashes, those glorious embers that England and Australia fight over in cricket every two years, were created, in effect, as a follow up to a lobbying campaign to legalise cremation in the UK) you needed space in abundance.

marxPerhaps Highgate Cemetary, home to Karl Marx’s remains, is the most famous but all seven have magnificent histories. My local ‘seven’ is at Nunhead and a fabulous place to walk the dog. There are so many weird and wonderful graves here that you can easily lose yourself in the woods, amongst elaborate Grecian ruins and toppled plinths or stumble onto some marble excrescence dedicated to a Victorian milk-monopolist. Empty mausoleums (mausolea?) dot the site, their contents long since removed for safety elsewhere.

 

The one in north-west London, at Abney Park is the spookyist as it has a large non conformist section ( the Booths, founders of the Salvation Army are buried there for instance). Some of the graves are fantastic. Here’s a gallery of images.

One thing we did notice on a recent visit to Nunhead; it behoved Victorians to stay up late. So many good souls ‘went to sleep’ and the next thing they were six feet under. Indeed the one at the top of this post (after the cowboys) has the deceased joining the Choir – since the Textiliste is now singing in a pop choir, maybe I should be concerned.

Another good reason to visit cemeteries is to collect surnames for characters. Christian names are more tricky given fashions – not much call for an Ebenezer today. We went to a cemetary in Clun once (great name, Clun – a small town on the Welsh Marches near Ludlow – I’ve always speculated on what the inhabitants are known as: Cluners? Clunites? Clunts?); there were some fab names and one is a leading character in a book I’m editing just now.

Back in 1978 I went to France with three university friends – my first time abroad. We visited the war cemeteries in Northern France and I couldn’t comprehend the row after row of simple white crosses. I was 20 and had learnt about WW1 and WW2 at school, about the death tolls and the blood letting in the trenches and on the Normandy beaches but seeing those lines and rows brought to life the numbers I had been told about – 50,000 dead in one day on the Somme. Each cross a person not a statistic. I blubbed, not an easy thing to do in front of friends. None of us could talk. We all took a different path around the cemetery. I had no tools to process what I was seeing other than to think ‘how the **** did anyone let this happen?’ A good lesson in the futility of war and why it is never glorious. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. Wilfred Owen was right. Bollocks.

Hmm, seems like I’ve just gone off in one. So, to lighten the mood, as the next picture shows, cemeteries can be places of joy; it is an odd thing that we imagine sinister goings on in Churchyards when a large number of events thereabouts are happy ones – christenings and marriages. Like mine. Cue picture. All go ‘Isn’t she gorgeous’!

linda grave 2

Ethereal beauty and all that…

So anyway, to the flash. This week I will cheat a little. Mary and her problems continue but I have also included a short story I wrote for a competition about a graveyard. As usual here is a link to Mary’s saga if you need a refresher.

Reincarnation

 ‘A puppy?’

‘Penny needs cheering up. She’s been miserable since Scotland.’

‘My fault?’

Paul touched his wife quickly. ‘Course not. But we did promise.’

Mary nodded. For sure they needed to do something. ‘Does he have a name?’

‘Penny can choose.’

*

‘He’s mine? Wow!’

‘You can name him.’

Penny said immediately. ‘Peter. Look, he has grandpa’s eyebrows.’

Mary stared. It was true. They were just like her late father’s. The dog held her gaze and winked. No-one else noticed. Mary spoke slowly. ‘When did you say he was born?’

‘Four months ago.’

Mary nodded. When her father died.

 

And here is the short story.

figgis

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published two anthologies of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand and Life in a Flash. More will appear soon, including a memoir of my mother's last years. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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30 Responses to The Magnificent Seven

  1. Charli Mills says:

    Wonderful–the puppy has Gramps eyebrows! It feels like closure has been achieved and considering this started with a fantastical prompt, it feels circular. These stories about Mary have so much potential beyond standing on their own as 99-word nuggets.

    And the Magnificent Seven is something I’d be dying to see! Not sure I’d be welcome in the Great Choir in the Sky one day, but maybe I’ll get to chase the flaming cattle with the Ghost Writers in the Sky.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Ah, circular or a figure of eight!? And the cemeteries, now they are all full and closed to newcomers, are great places to have a wander. If you do manage to make it I’ll happily be your guide!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Charli Mills says:

    Meant to ask, too–is the bride among the gravestones real or an apparition?

    Like

  3. Love the reincarnated puppy. That’s brilliant.

    Whaaa? I’m so bummed out. I didn’t know about the “Magnificent Seven” cemeteries when I visited. *sigh* Oh, well, I shall have to go back. Bother.

    Those pictures are amazing. You’ve trumped any photos I have. Awesome. Interesting about the burying. I know I’ve heard that somewhere but couldn’t tell you where now. And I might have made it up. But now you’ve confirmed it, so…

    Like

  4. Amber Prince says:

    Great flash! It’s creepy to think that the new puppy is her father but kind of sweet too.
    And I just want to say… I am completely jealous of your cemeteries. Which now that I think about it, is an odd thing. But I do not have any great cemeteries (also odd) in my area. Mine are all boring and full of flat gravestones so that it’s easier to mow the grass.

    Your bride was beautiful. What a picture of her dressed in white, surrounded by gravestones. My mother married once in a church/cemetery. It’s not something done here often.

    Like

    • TanGental says:

      I assumed you guys married in churches more than most. So who knew. And our gorgeous cemeteries are another excuse to come acros the pond some time…. And the flash is a bit twee – I will try and continue the creep factor for a bit.

      Like

      • Amber Prince says:

        In my area we don’t have too many cemeteries attached to churches. Both are free standing except in a few historical places. I think a lot of weddings take place in venues, like hotels, but we still have plenty if church weddings too. I married at neither, we went to a courthouse and had a justice of the peace perform the service.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. LOL. Really enjoyed the reincarnated puppy story.

    Like

  6. TanGental says:

    Wasn’t as creepy as I wanted but hey let’s see if I can up the creep over the next few weeks.

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  7. I have never heard of a wedding in a cemetery. The Textiliste looks beautiful and the setting seems somehow perfect. I once went to a wedding where the marriage celebrant welcomed us all to the happy couples funeral. Full of portent I felt. A little creepy. I loved your flash although I agree it wasn’t creepy but quite delightful and am also in agreement with Charli – it seems circular. Your short story has left me with visions of all the spirits moving house and despite you saying in this post there is not much call for the old names I noted you did use one in this. Well done Geoff.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Ah slightly misled about the ceremony being in the churchyard. Married in the church but the photos in the churchyard amongst the graves. Thanks for the encouragement Irene.

      Like

      • Oops. Atmospheric photos though and I guess not that unusual in England as you have cemeteries attached to churches. We don’t on the whole. They have cemeteries here a bit like your trip to the war cemetery. Acres and acres of graves divided into denominations with the small section separate for those that suicided.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. willowdot21 says:

    I do love your style, probably because like me you ramble off on a tangent , realize what you’ve done and then double back getting lost again on the way! Please that this as it is meant, a compliment. You bring everything to life as I say just like we are chatting one to one!
    I loved all the info about the Magnificent Cemeteries….. itchy feet might need the train again! Have you ever been to Ealing Cemetery in Pope’s Lane , I lived near that as a child and it seemed like a huge place to me. I used to sit and write in there as a child. And Hanwell Cemetery I have very dark memories of a wild wet morning spent looking for my mother in laws parents .
    The story, the entry both lovely. Your reaction to the War Cemetery very normal such a moving experience. As usual you whisked me there and I had to offer you a tissue. OH! yes the Textalist looks amazing and floaty and etherial. xx

    Like

    • TanGental says:

      I don’t know Ealing so one for the list. Nor Hanwelll. Funny places really. Glad you like my drifting and it is a complete compliment to say I wander off subject! I’m just glad it doesn’t irritate!

      Like

  9. Annecdotist says:

    Great pics, Geoff, I didn’t know about the magnificent seven, but I did read a novel some time back about when the London graveyards were all full so they had to go out to the suburbs and built railway specially directly to it – The Necropolis Railway – I knew the title would come back to me if I rambled enough.
    I think your flash is well creepy – imagine thinking your father has been reincarnated as a dog? But wait a minute, didn’t we have something like that already with the unicorn, or is my mind floating off in the wrong direction?

    Like

    • TanGental says:

      Peter Mary’s dad died alongside his dog who morphed into a unicorn. So you aren’t so far off. And the necropolis railway is such a great name! Thanks for reminding me about it.

      Like

  10. Pingback: Creepy Tales of Few Words « Carrot Ranch Communications

  11. Sherri says:

    Geoff, thank you so much for clearing up something for me that I’ve wondered about for yonks…why ‘The Ashes’ in cricket. I honestly had no idea and your little history lesson about cremation was also fascinating. I love reading your posts because you give such interesting facts and with your wonderful wit added to the mix to boot. Lovely wedding photo, beautiful, and also I really enjoyed your flash, a really nice touch for creepy although I didn’t think it was creepy but rather mystical and comforting…in a ghostly, reincarnationey sort of way. Think I just made up a word there, so ignore…but you get the gist. Great post Geoff 🙂

    Like

    • TanGental says:

      You’re right; I failed the creep test; I needed Mary’s reaction to be more visceral and full of horror, didn’t I? Still time to rectify that HA! HA! HA! And go on, make up words. Reincarnatory. reincarnoration…. there are so many possibilities….

      Like

  12. Sherri says:

    PS Meant to say that as fascinated as I am about graveyards, I would have to say that I immediately thougth of the film…a sucker for westerns that I am 🙂 Look at ’em, just look at those tough guys 😉 Also, I will read your short story once I’ve caught up blogging, looking forward to it.

    Like

  13. Norah says:

    Hi Geoff. Like Sherri I also went for the men! I haven’t yet developed a great interest in graveyards though I am beginning to see why you and Charli find them so interesting; not because there’s anyone there, but for the wealth of information and history there. Can’t say I’m in any rush to get along to one of my own. I haven’t thought of wedding photos in a graveyard – certainly an interesting concept. A little like Irene’s anecdote: I have been welcomed to a wedding at a funeral!
    I’m still enjoying Mary’s story and now looking forward to seeing where this path leads.

    Like

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