For today’s inspirational location, Claire Fuller takes us to a special corner of London.
Highgate Cemetery in Our Endless Numbered Days
The location most people refer to when they talk about my novel, Our Endless Numbered Days, is the cabin in a remote European forest, but I want to talk about the cemetery that is at the end of Peggy’s (the narrator’s) garden.
For those who don’t know, Highgate Cemetery is a famous Victorian graveyard in North London, divided by a road into two parts. And it is the west side – dilapidated, overgrown and amazingly atmospheric that features in the book. I needed a London location where Peggy could learn about nature from her survivalist father James, and unsurprisingly there are very few places in London that were suitable. I decided that Highgate would be the place after taking a tour around the west cemetery (you can only visit on a guided tour), and walking down its winding paths, through the Egyptian avenue and around the Circle of Lebanon.
In the mid 1970s the cemetery was closed to visitors and this suited my timeline perfectly. Peggy and James explore without fear of discovery. They collect edible plants, catch squirrels and imagine seeing a funeral, and later Peggy buries a photograph of her father’s head beside a statue dedicated to Rosa Carlos. Anyone who’s read Our Endless Numbered Days might be interested to know that there isn’t actually a monument to Rosa Carlos in the cemetery; in real life the monument was erected for Carl Rosa – a German who founded an English opera company.
If you ever get a chance to visit Highgate Cemetery, I would urge you to take a tour of the west side, you won’t be disappointed.