Death has rather been in the air of late. Despite the sunshine that has finally blazed London in light and with Andy Murray radiating health, victory, success and all that, I seem to have been involved in some rather morbid activities. And I mean that in the most positive way.
Did you know that it is perfectly legal in the UK to bury someone in your garden? But only one person. Beyond that you would have a cemetery – which requires planning permission. Oh and you have to mention it on the Property Deeds which apparently reduces the value of the place (although not for me, I have to say). I learned this fact from the very lively Dr John Troyer of the Centre for Death Studies at one of the excellent Morbid Anatomy series curated by Joanna Ebenstein at The Last Tuesday Society.
For sometime, I have been mulling over what I would like to happen to my mortal remains and now I know. John mentioned various techniques as alternatives to cremation. One is an incredible sort of steam punk machine which sort of sucks your juice out. Didn’t quite fancy that but I do like the technique where you (or the ex-you) is freeze dried in nitrogen until you are very brittle. Then a sonic boom
is fired at you and ‘puff!‘ you are reduced to a pile of something rather like coffee granules.
Then we were down at West Norwood Cemeteryfor a London Dreamtime event last weekend. The cemetery is one of the ‘Magnificent Seven Great Gardens of Sleep’ built by the Victorians to solve the terrifying problem of London’s dead in the nineteenth century. It is quite posh and well kept, certainly much more so than the crumbling gothic Nunhead – its only neighbour south of the river. I haven’t been before and was keen to see if I could find the teleportation chamber built byBonomi and Warner (more on that here). I think it may be in the Greek quarter.
Speaking of South of the River, if you live in London you will be aware of the great divide. South definately feels different than North – which has often spuriously claimed to be posher, more sophisticated, somehow more London. This may have its roots in that during the eighteenth century, bodies found floating in the river were allowed to be used by surgeons for anatomical experiments. Those landed on the north bank fetched a better price for those who dredged them as there was a greater demand from the northern hospitals..
Tomorrow I am filming a trailer for Hendricks Carnival of Knowledge for which we are programming a London Day of the Dead in October. It will be “a guide to what to do in London the day after you die” and will be chock full of information, entertainment and hopefully a taste of the afterlife (or at least of Hendricks). More on that soon. If you can, I hope you will come – assuming we are all still around by that time that is ..
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