Wednesday, 13 July 2011

The Art of Dying Euphemistically

My two weeks of holidays seem to have become a distant memory as I am propelled towards full-time Clearing work in the Enquiry Unit.
It felt like I hit the ground running on Monday.  The phones began ringing at 9am and I did not notice anything else until I was told my phone had been ‘taken out’ for me to go to lunch at 1.30.  I am working all week in the usual Enquiry Unit office until next week when we all move to the Mansion site and take over the computer lab that is normally used by students during academic year.  The campus is invaded by lots of groups of small people doing summer courses – both British and overseas students.  It is very lively in a different way to when the campus is buzzing with uni students.
Today I received my official pass notification to say I am clear to proceed to my third year.  I have also had an email giving the start date and a book list of nine books to read before I start.  September 27th seems a long way away at this time but I have the feeling that it is going to rush past.  I am still unable to read anything with words of too many syllables while I recover from second year!  Maybe I will venture into the library and start on the thinnest book and be gentle on myself!
Last week I only work one day so it felt like a continuation of my holiday two weeks which was really lovely.  I spent the Saturday in Highgate cemetery with my sister.  I love cemeteries – yes I know I am weird but they are amazing places!  I always have fun finding all the euphemisms for dying.  I am reminded of the Monty Python ‘Dead Parrot Sketch where John Cleese argues that he has been sold a dead Nowegian Blue parrot while the pet shop owner, played by Micheal Palin, insists it is just very quiet ,resting or ‘pining for the fjords’. John Cleese, getting nowhere with the salesman who has an answer for everything, retorts in exasperation:
“'E's passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e  rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the perch 'e'd be pushing up the daisies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!!”
…so as we walked around the famous Victorian cemetery it was fascinating to read the various expressions for ceasing to be.
On one family memorial the first ‘entered into rest’, the next was ‘called home’, the next ‘entered the homeland, the next fell asleep while the last ‘is with them now’.  This is maybe a sign of the times, the mid 1800’s and of a very religious family.
In contrast was the very different memorial to Patrick Caulfield the pop artist who died in 2005.  It certainly says it how it is!
My sister loved this cemetery and pointed out one of her favourite pieces.  Almost hidden away beneath the undergrowth was this wonderful grand piano.

I was so curious that I came home and looked it all up on the internet.  I discovered I am not the only weirdo that loves cemeteries – there are whole web-sites devoted to them! There are lots of fans of this piano, a memorial to the pianist John Thornton who died in the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 .  There is a wonderful pic of it taken in 1970 before it was vandalised and lost its lid and ‘music’.  See http://www.flickr.com/photos/flaneur/3446891222.  As we were leaving I totally fell in love with this gorgeous angel holding a water filled dish – a wonderful bird bath- covered in ivy. 

It was worth the trek up to North London but I have always loved our South London Nunhead cemetery – a wonderful overgrown Victorian wonderland and the perfect place to go for a stroll when you need a rest from academic overload. It is very peaceful – no noise from those quietly entered in rest residents!
The two other great days out last week were to the Olympic trials in Greenwich Park and to Hampton Court Flower Show but that will have to wait for my next blog – back soon!

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