Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The Magnificent Seven

Over a year ago now, myself and Jim began our epic journey together, to conquer London' magnificent seven cemeteries.  A mammoth task, even for the likes of us.

Each visit would require careful research and detailed planning, such as who to say hello to, and which local pub sold the best best bitter, and had the best beer garden (cigarden henceforth).

Before I go any further, a quick historical recap if I may...

The magnificent seven cemeteries came about when Londons dead began overflowing church grounds into water supplies, and down the new sewer system.  So with the ground literally bursting at the seams, the solution was to surround Victorian London with magnificent graveyards, while putting an end to the use of church grounds for new burials.

This was done over a ten year period starting in 1832, but it wasn't for another 150 years, until after the movie was made, that the cemeteries got their name, the Magnificent seven.

Abney park was the first site we visited, and you can read all about it here...

This time we headed for the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium.

While not a member of the magnificent seven club, it certainly has as much history, character, beauty and interest as the others, probably more in fact, and as it was easy to get to, or so we thought, we selected it as our next destination.

For the record, at the time of choosing, I had no idea that it wasn't one of the M7.

Anyway, a long story short, myself and Jim met up at Liverpool street station, on a warm and sunny morning.

We had four stops on the train ahead of us, followed by a short walk.

Eight stops later, we felt something wasn't right, and wondered if we missed our stop.

Jim checked his iphone, then announcing that we should have gotten off about twenty minutes ago.

We doubled back.

Some time later, we reached the fabulous gated front of the cemetery, and were greeted by a gentleman kitted out in the city of London uniform.

Interesting factoid this.  Even though the city of London is miles away, the grounds, which is one of the largest municipal cemeteries in Europe by the way, is still part of the city of London.  That said, you don't need to live in the city to be buried here.  It takes everybody.

We arrived, but we didn't know where to go, what with 200 acres of landscaped cemetery standing in front of us.

The gentleman enquired if he could offfer some assistance.

Gentleman: Hullo
Jim & me: Hi there, howaya. 
Gentleman: So then, who have you come here to see.
Jim: (with hand on heart)  Bobby Moore
Gentleman: Ah yes, every proud Englishmans favourite footballing hero.
Gentleman: And you Sir?
Me: Michael Barrett.
Gentleman: Who?
Me: Michael Barrett.
Gentleman: I'm afraid I don't know him.  Who was he?
Me: A Fenian.
Gentleman (scratching his head): Well, we do have some Armenians somewhere, but I'm not sure exactly where...
Me: No, I said Fee...he was the last man to be publicly hanged in England.
Gentleman:  Oh yes, I think we have him, try over there...

So off we skipped, with nothing but a vague idea and a map the gentleman had given us, in search of our heroes.

We found Sir Bobbys memorial, and a stunning little plot it was too.  The great man was cremated somewhere else, but his ashes are resting here.

We found plaques belonging to two of Jack the rippers victims, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Ann Nicols, and lots of memorials to old churches and graveyards whose inhabitants were re-interred here.

These re-interments are fascinating and a story to themselves, mostly down to the union of benefices, but the real crowd pleaser was finding the plaque to the aforementioned Fenian, Michael Barrett.

This poor unfortunate was publicly hanged for killing a load of people when trying to blow a hole in the wall of Clerkenwell prison.  An accident then, but it didn't go down well with the locals at the time, and that was pretty much that for him, and for Londoners sympathy towards the Irish cause, which did exist at the time.

There was some doubt as to his guilt too, seeing as he was in Scotland at the time of the blast, but in 1868 outside Newgate prison, they hung him anyway.

Newgate prison made way for The Central Criminal Court, which we all know as the Old Bailey, and as such, the communal lime grave was relocated to the city of London cemetery.

Fifty souls were removed and placed in a hole in the ground.  End of.

After the cemetery, we retired to the pub, ordered food, and took our beers to the cigarden.   

I blazed up my Partagas Serie D No. 4, and the resulting conversation with the bloke at the table beside us went like this...

Bloke: Wow, I thought that was a barbecue starting off..
Me:  ha ha ha
Jim: ha ha ha
Bloke: Oh it's a cigar.
Bloke: But it's not a good cigar
Bloke: I know the smell of a good cigar, and that's not a good cigar.

As Jim lights up his Partagas Petit Corona Especial.

Me: Eh yeah, it's just a Partagas
Jim: yeah, they're just cheap Cubans

So, at this stage I'm feeling suitably insulted, but I mostly hate this bloke.

Bloke (after a minute of intense silence): Well, maybe they're not the worst.
Bloke:  Yeah, their starting to smell OK after all.

With that, they all got up and left.

Bloke: Cheerio
Me: Yeah, see ya.
Jim: Bye now.

Me: What a dick
Jim: Idiot.

So, as I calmed down, we began to wonder where our food was.

Twenty minutes later, the food arrives.

It was shite.

So, as we supped our beers, and smoked our cigars, an old lady shows up and asked for a light.

We have a selection of lighters, two of which are jet lighters, so I suggest she uses the normal lighter, or risk losing her eyebrows.

Old Lady:  Is that an accent I hear?
Me: Yes it is.
Old Lady: Where from?
Me:  Dublin
Old Lady (looking disappointed): Oh...

She turns away.

Old Lady (looking back):  I thought it was North of England...

After being insulted for the second time, I reply with something nonsensical, then ask Jim if she means Manchester, or Newcastle?

That was enough of that.  We finished our pints and made our way back to Liverpool street, back to civilisation, and decided to call it a day.

Myself and Jim hope to finish the magnificent seven cemetery tour by 2017.

Bobbys Memorial

Mary Ann Nichols

Catherine Eddowes

Michael Barrett and 49 others

A re-interment memorial (nice read)

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The London Olympics 2012

I know, I know, it's been ages since my last blog, but truth be told, a lot has been happening in and around the streets of London recently, and I myself have been busy with all sorts of things and stuff. 

Now that the Olympic and Paralympic games have finally ended, I decided it was time to get back on the blog.

It's been a while and I'm a bit rusty, but seeing as I'm a contender in the Irish blog awards, no doubt thanks to Cigar Loving Doorman, I though I'd increase my chances ten fold, and post something brilliant for a change.

That said, this entry might have peaked already, as I rack my brains and struggle to remember what great things I was surely up to over the past month or so.  I guess though, like most people, my main focus was of course, the Olympics games.

I didn't bother with training or anything like that.  I thought I'd just rock up and ask whats the story, any chance of competing or wha'?, seeing as I didn't get any tickets an' all!  Maybe one of the athletes has pulled out or forgotten or met with an accident perhaps? No?

Surprisingly enough, that plan didn't work, so I guess I'll just have to wait another four years until Rio.  Probably a better chance of getting tickets for that one anyway.

As mentioned, in case you didn't pick up on it, was the fact that I, like millions of Londoners, got not a single ticket I applied for. 

So as I prepared myself for a few weeks of sitting on the couch and watching the games on the telly, I wasn't feeling at all bitter when Joe phoned to say he had tickets to the Victoria Park opening ceremony party, and tickets to the boxing, if we wanted them that is.

We wanted them alright (thanks very much Joe), and first off we enjoyed the brilliant atmosphere of opening ceremony, a mile or so from the Olympic park, which had a Red Arrows fly-past, and all sorts of wonderful things going on, followed a week later by a trip to the Excel where we watched Katie Taylor box her way into an Olympic final, which she thankfully went on to win.

Comon' Ireland!!

We also got to see the legend that is Damien Duff, who seemed to be walking around a lot, more than was strictly necessary I'd say.  At the time, I thought he was just playing the crowd.  But alas, as it turned out, the poor man just couldn't find his seat.

Across a row he went, across another row, then another. 
Down to the front he went, he stopped, he asked for help.
He talked, he turned, he smiled. 
He walked back up to where he came from. 
He was right in the first place. 
Eh hello, I think you're in my seat there Mrs...

The Excel arena was full of Irish supporters, and while there, I spotted one of my teachers from school.  I hadn't seen the man since 1989, so I wasn't too sure as I wandered over to say hello.

Turned out it was him, so hello again Eamonn Doyle, and Eddie O'Hara.  Very nice talking to you  both. 

I nearly introduced Eamonn to the wife as Mr. Doyle, but as I struggled, he saved me by cutting in with Eamonn. 

Thanks Sir.

I did enjoy a few cigars on both occasions of course.  At Vicky park, I had a Ramon Allones Extra and a Partagas Petite Corona Especialle.  Both excellent, and the RA Extra proved itself an excellent outdoor smoke.

Although I also enjoyed quite a few cigars over the course of the Olympics, I've only got one worth mentioning. 

This one had been sitting in the humidor for well over about 18 months, after my Dad brought it over from Dublin, after a friend of his brought it over to Dublin from Las Vegas.

When I got my hands on it, it was terribly dry, and I didn't think it would last.  So after leaving it alone in the humidor for those 18 months, I thought I'd give it a go, and I must say, it was excellent.

Maybe it absorbed some oils or whatever from nearby Cubans, or maybe it was just excellent to begin with, either way, it was very enjoyable, and burned slowly and perfectly all the way to the nub.

The cigar came from Vato Cigars, so please click on the link and check them out if you're ever in Vegas.

There's pictures below of the cigars, the Red Arrows and the results of some baking I've been doing lately.

That's another thing that kept me quiet lately, baking.  Yes baking.  Great fun baking coconut flour chocolate mouse cakes.  And gardening.  Gardening has also been keeping me busy. 

Life in the fast lane.

Next time, I've got another eagerly awaited graveyard adventure with Jim to tell you about, a visit to Casa del Habano in Berlin, and top stories from Ibiza and Formentera.  

I know I'm excited.

Vegas Cigar

Yes, I baked that cake.

RA Extra in Vicky Park

Duffer, not one of his best

Thats a better angle

Comon' Ireland!