Tag Archives: Highgate Cemetery

The Tomb of the Kings, Paphos

I was a huge, huge fan of the Indiana Jones films as a kid (not so much the last one as an adult, it’s probably best if we all forget that it happened) and have always quite liked the ice of going off for an adventure into some old caves, ancient sites or tombs investigating and finding old relics. It was possibly this side of me, along with the gothic elements to, that lead me to take up a role as a tour guide at Highgate Cemetery. So when I discovered that there was a necropolis in Paphos that looked like an Indiana Jones film set I had to go.

It’s is quite surreal as you enter the park that within metres you realise that you are not surrounded by natural caves but by tombs. From the outside they look like a rocky natural cavern and then you go inside and discover there is much more than meets the eye. Who knows what might be lurking in them.

These are not actually tombs of kings but really a series of tombs built by the rich and aristocratic of the area. As you get towards the centre it all gets more and more showy. The more tombs you go in.

Until you get to the centre and possibly the grandest tomb I have ever seen, and believe me there are some corkers in Highgate, nothing quite on this scale though.


Quite something indeed and actually quite spooky when you get down there and there is just you and all that space…

The spookiness (and stillness and quiet) was part of what I loved about it all. As you descended or ascended each staircase you were never quite sure what you might find.


Bar a few small incidents of some Cyprus Lizards (which are pretty big) a pair of unsuspecting pigeons and a pair of fellow tourists popping their heads out when I least expected it I was very brave. (I did almost scream in the couples face when they suddenly appeared.) So maybe there is still time for me to become an intrepid explorer…

…Maybe! Or I could move here and become a cave/tomb guide. I do now really fancy some tales of adventure in the Indiana Jones style though. Know of any series or novels like that? I fancy getting lost in a few jungles, tombs and forgotten/hidden valleys, any recommendations?


Filed under Random Savidgeness

Simon’s Bookish Bits #24

Well after a little holiday my Bookish Bits are back with a catch up to some links around the blogosphere, my thoughts on a book everyone has been talking about, and an update on some of the places that you read and what sums up your reading tastes.

First up I want to say a thank you to all the people who commented on the post I did on ‘Where Do We Read’ (if you haven’t commented then do as I want to do a post on the results over the next few weeks) I am still waiting for some pictures from some of you of where you are reading at the moment or the strangest places you have read.

One picture I did get sent this week was from Norman in Australia, who asked for your advice on literature about men in cardigans, in response to Simon of Stuck-in-a-Books request to get us to find pictures that sum up our reading tastes. (You can see all the bloggers who have contributed so far here.) I asked for non bloggers to have a go and here is Norman’s which “depicts my interest in “calm loneliness”. Single men and single women managing bravely to survive outrageous fortune. Some writers who explore this empathetically are Anita Brookner, Barbara Pym, Elizabeth Taylor, Penelope Lively, E.M. Forster, Graham Greene, Camus, Kafka, Pinter, Patrick White, and Elizabeth Riddell (a little known Australian poet)”

Who else has any they would care to share? Send them to savidgereads@gmail.com and I will pop them up on ture Bookish Bits.

I thought that I would try something a little different with my bookish links this week and simply list a selection and see how that all goes with you all?

The last link brings me onto the book that everyone is talking about this week which is the winner of this years Orange Prize ‘The Lacuna’ by Barbara Kingsolver. I have to say I was a little surprised that it won. I am not sure about it being rigged, of course you never know. I do think that not letting a book win because its won other awards is a bit silly though – if a books bloody brilliant it should be allowed to win everything surely?

Myself, I am currently in the Kirsty of Other Stories camp on the book so far. I have been reading it on and off for about five or six weeks and I love it, then don’t and then just leave it with no desire to get started again. I am reserving final judgement though until I hit the very last word of the very last page. In terms of the Orange though this year seems to have been a weird one almost like no one quite knew what to do with it, or be ballsy? Am I being overly harsh?

I may well finish ‘The Lacuna’ this weekend as I am planning on a big weekend of ‘finishing off’ several books that I have been juggling. Book switching in terms of reading is not a talent that I am really blessed with and maybe that’s what a recent reading funk was slightly about?  What have you got planned this weekend both reading wise and in general?


Filed under Simon's Bookish Bits

Simon’s Bookish Bits #22

Today I thought I would do a post on audience participation. Something that I have been a little lax at, as you will see from my sudden commenting splurge on Thursday, on the blogosphere and in comments because it’s been deadline week again.  Mind you the blogosphere seems so quiet (pins dropping anyone – hee hee) that maybe it has been unnoticed. Anyways while that madness has been going on I have been partaking in some audience participation myself whilst also planning more, which links into podcast of the week, and some of it links into books in general – you will have to read on to find out more…

I have seen two plays for work in the last week which I simply had to tell you all about (sorry f you aren’t in London to see them right now but they may tour etc) the first was ‘Love The Sinner’ which is a new play by Drew Pautz which is debuting at The National Theatre and really is something to see. In fact like the other play I have seen it’s a show which encompasses a rollercoaster of emotions dealing with a meeting of priests in Africa and something that happens there that will change one of the groups life forever. I won’t say more than that but it’s simply spell binding and left me and my friend speechless one minute and then roaring with laughter the next and back again. The cast was fantastic and in two hours subjects like modernism of the church, AIDS, affairs, poverty, IVF, sexuality and even squirrel trapping and cucumber sandwiches are all touched upon. It made me excited about the theatre again.

The second show that also has you crying with laughter one minute and moves you to tears of sorrow the next is ‘Holding The Man’ based on Timothy Conigrave’s book (see a book theme already) and adapted to a play by Tommy Murphy. This was a HUGE success breaking heaps and heaps of box office records in Australia, now having seen it I can see why. It’s the true story of Tim and his partner John and the effect the AIDS epidemic has on them in the 70’s and 80’s. Another unmissable show, the two leads were flawless and Jane Turner (of Kath and Kim – one of my fav shows – who I got to interview this week and was lovely, lovely, lovely) is superb.  I now simply have to read the book! Has anyone else read it or seen the play?

Not content with those shows I have also pencilled in some author and book talks and I thought you might like to hear about them in case you wanted to pop a long to anything (yes it’s a bit London-centric this post bear with it). The nearest, most pressing and probably most under advertised event in my diary (I am praying I have tickets) is happening at Highgate Cemetery on Wednesday this week coming – the 26th – when Audrey Niffenegger and Tracy Chevalier will be talking about their books based on and in Highgate ‘Her Fearful Symmetry’ and ‘Falling Angels’. It’s in the chapel costs £10 and is not to be missed though very limited seating I imagine. You can find out more here.

The next, which links to podcast of the week, is a recording of The World Book Club with the author Carlos Ruiz Zafon. If you havent already got this as a subscription on your iTunes then you simply must go and get it here, plus you can here this one in a few weeks! I thought, and still think actually, that ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ is an utter masterpiece of a book and one that if you haven’t read you simply must. I am actually debating reading it again myself as well as ‘The Angel’s Game’. The only thing is that I now have to come up with a question to ask… eek! This event is taking place at the Beeb on the 3rd of June and is sold out already. So why am I telling you, well guess what? I have a spare ticket! If you fancy it then email me! (I might not answer straight away as will probably be lying in the sun today.)

If that wasn’t enough I also have the ‘Orange Prize Readings’ and the author Andrea Levy in discussion coming up at the Southbank, more on those nearer the time though. So which authors or bookish events have you got lined up? And, as ever, what are your reading and non-reading plans this weekend? (I have two vampire books to finish, the last NTTVBG to help host and lots of lying in the sunshine planned! Plus its time for one of these!) Do divulge your plans please!


Filed under Simon's Bookish Bits

Falling Angels – Tracy Chevalier

I am trying to think for the life of me why I haven’t read any of Tracey Chevaliers books before ‘Falling Angels’? I think I had gotten the impression they might be a bit historically twee. Where do we get these subconscious ideas from? However having been recommended it by some of you and by some of the other tour guides at Highgate Cemetery (which plays a huge part in the setting of the book) I mentioned it enough around the house for The Converted One to get a copy for me as a surprise belated birthday treat.

When opening the book I instantly got a shock. Wife swapping? In 1901 (well New Years eve of 1900)? Didn’t that all come in during the sixties with car keys and some such? Apparently not and Tracey Chevalier uses the opening of the morning after the night before to instantly put us into the deeply unhappy mindset of one of ‘Falling Angels’ main characters Kitty Coleman. Kitty married for love and yet now several years on and a daughter (Maude who is also a pivotal character) later on she isn’t quite happy with her lot and spends her time either in books or strolling round Highgate Cemetery. She is in essence bored and unfulfilled and it’s the changes in her that often as not move the story on but it’s not a story just about Kitty.

The day after Queen Victoria’s death all of England goes into morning and many head to their nearest cemetery and that’s where Kitty and her family meet The Waterhouse’s, a family not quite of the Coleman’s status, who have a family grave their with an angel that the Coleman’s object to. Being polite Victorian society they say nothing and make polite conversation. The families’ daughters however manage to go off and have an adventure, meeting gravedigger apprentice Simon, and become the best of friends drawing these two families into an acquaintance neither are sure they want. It’s these two families and the lives they lead after this and how they affect the others that the book follows and as we all know some families have some big secrets. Along with the domestic drama’s Chevalier also features the themes of a country in a time of change not just of monarchs but a whole era in which cars replace horses, fashions and customs change and a women’s movement starts (if you are interested in the suffragettes this is very much a book for you as it’s a huge plot).

Chevalier manages to fit a huge amount of change in a rather remarkable time in history effortlessly into this book. It could be too big and vast a period to cover because it’s so full and yet your divulging all this information easily because of the wonderful narratives. Yes, I said narratives and we aren’t talking one or two or even three here, I think by the end I counted ten from each member of the family (the two girls Maude and Lavinia are two wonderfully polar voices and very entertaining) but that of the gravediggers apprentice, the maids, the mother in law and the cook. Rather than being complicated each characters voice rings true and a full picture of these families is painted. I thought it was marvellously done.

I will admit before I started it I thought ‘Highgate better be in this a lot’ because I am slightly obsessed at the moment and didn’t know if the rest would interest me but it did greatly. I didn’t rush through it because I wanted to savour every page, every voice and I will admit I couldn’t have guessed the endings either. I am definitely going to read more Chevalier, where is good to head to next? Has she anymore set in the Victorian period as I could wallow with her there for ages all over again?


Filed under Harper Collins, Review, Tracy Chevalier

All About Those Victorians

I actually wanted to call today’s post ‘All About Victorians and a Little Bit of Death’ but I thought that the second half of that sentence would either put people off or possibly attract the wrong sort of attention and so I toned it down somewhat. There is a reason behind my post today though, its not just being slightly macabre for the sake of it. I mentioned to you on Saturday that it was a big day for me at Highgate (and I was appallingly nervous) as it was the important tour guide training. I actually took a picture of a very newly uncovered tombstone that I thought might interest all you fellow book lovers because of whats carved on it…

Anyway the good news is that (hip, hip hoorah and a huge sign of relief) I am now officially one of Highgate Cemetery’s Tour Guides!! So should you happen to venture there on a weekend after the 10th of April then you might get me taking you around. Naturally I now want to be the best tour guide ever, unlikely as some of them have been there for a decade or more and know so much it makes me feel quite vexed, and so I am on the hunt for more reading matter that can bump up my knowledge of the Victorian era and even all things deathly, which means I need to face one of my reading weaknesses… Non fiction!

As you can see above I have dug out a few non fiction goodies I already own that might help me. ‘Necropolis’ by Catherine Arnold is a book about ‘London and its dead’ that I mentioned a while ago, dug out of the TBR and then promptly forgot to read. ‘Stiff’ and ‘Six Feet Over’ are the two of Mary Roach books that I have been meaning to read for ages, the first is all about what happens to your body after you die and latter is all about the afterlife which the Victorians were very into. ‘Underground London’ by Stephen Smith is about what lies underneath London that you might be missing out on and discusses some of the cemeteries etc. Finally Jessica Mitford’s book ‘The American Way of Death’ might be slightly off track and in the wrong country but it might have some relevant bits and we do get a lot of American visitors to the cemetery and I have been told ‘engaging with your audience is key’.

I need your help though. Not only do I think that there are more books on this subject I am more than likely missing out on I have a huge gap in my knowledge and that’s the in’s and out’s of Victorian life and the history of 1800 – 1900. I did get sent both ‘The Victorian House’ and ‘Consuming Passions’ by Judith Flanders in the post but they went missing which was very vexing and the publishers didn’t send a second set. I have heard these are marvellous though. What would you recommend? I can guarantee many of you will have wondrous recommendations of books that I should give a read and if you do I would be thrilled.

You might also know some places to go that I haven’t thought of. I dragged The Converted One and my friend Michelle round Brompton Cemetery yesterday (they filmed some of Sherlock Holmes there, so a sort of tenacious bookish theme there too).

I have also already done Kensal Green, which I previously shared with you, and aim to do the rest of the Magnificent Seven in due course. But apart from cemeteries where else might I go and visit? I know I live in London but I often find people who don’t hear or secret places those of us living here pass by. So that’s your mission today, to recommend places of Victorian interest to visit that I might have missed and even more importantly books on Victorians that I must, must read.


Filed under Book Thoughts

Simon’s Bookish Bits #14

You might be wondering why I have jumped from Simon’s Bookish Bits #12 to Simon’s Bookish Bits #14 and its because I am a little bit (or even a lot some might say) supersticious and suspicious about the number that falls between the two. But hey, its another random fact about me that you now know. Oddly that sort of ties in with the first thing I want to talk to you about and ask you help with and that is to do with these two books…

As some of you might know I volunteer for the wonderful Highgate Cemetery and am currently in the midst of my training to be a tour guide and so I want to have lots of nuggets of information of the whole place and the practices just in case. So naturally I am really keen to try and get my hands on a copy of ‘Highgate Cemetery: Victorian Valhalla’ by John Gay and Felix Barker as well as ‘The Victorian Celebration of Death’  by James Stevens Curl.  These fit the bill delightfully and actually the former has been offered to me on loan by one of the guides… me being me I want my own. So I went for a hunt down a certain shopping river but the prices on were really quite expensive (I won’t be buying them I am seeing if someone lovely I know will buy me a copy of each for my Birthday – which is Wednesday). I am hopeless at knowing other good sites to get them from so I wondered if you could hunt any copies down and email me if you find some links of places where they are more reasonable? A random request I know, but one I would most appreciate your help with, so thats mission one for you today.

Now for a book for you, just who was it who won a copy of ‘Solar’ by Ian McEwan? Well that lucky person would be Sandy! Sandy do drop me an email with your address and the publishers will be winging a book to you that looks very like this one (I like to think it says ‘To Simon, Love Ian’ but I think its just ‘To Simon, Ian McEwan’ you can make your mind up hahaha). If you still want a copy do pop over here where Lizzy is giving a signed copy away too!

That picture was taken from an event I went to on Thursday night with Polly of Novel Insights, in fact you should pop and see her post on it rather than have me prattle on about it. It was a delightfully interesting evening and I can announce that ‘Atonement – The Opera’ is now being planned for 2013. Should be interesting. McEwan was very entertaining, however when Polly and I got to meet him we both went a bit hysterical, you could say we went back to being 5 again. Like this in fact…

Savidge Reads and Novel Insights (aged 5)

Yes thats really us. Do pop and see her thoughts on the evening. I am doing more bookish meets of sorts in the forthcoming day. In fact if some of you are reading this late in the morning I will be having coffee and goodies with Elaine from Random Jottings at this very moment and then on Tuesday I am off to see David Vann with Kimbofo! Phew and on my birthday something else bookish is going on plus throw in the latest NTTVBG meeting on Sunday… It’s going to be a busy bookish few days, I cant wait!

What about you? Off to do anything bookish over the next few days? Got any author events on the horizon? Whats being read by you all at the moment?


Filed under Book Thoughts, Simon's Bookish Bits