Didn’t expect to find the one we did and not to find the one we wanted to. I mean, we were looking for that dead actress but found the lady instead. Lady Wilde to be exact. Oscar’s mom. According to her tombstone she wasn’t just his mother but also a nationalist (which is no surprise) and a women’s rights activist (which is a surprise to me). But also a pretty snobbish character according to Dave. Dave? Yes, Dave. The old guy we met at the graveyard and who visits the place twice a week every week. He likes the quiet atmosphere he said. And he loves to chat about the people who’s remains are lying there under the most fantastic stones, monuments and tombs. Surrounded by stone carved angels frozen in time. It’s a poets place shared with writers, theater people and painters, doctors and officers, gentlemen and their ladies.
So what’s snobbish about lady Wilde? Well, Dave told me that she had some desires concerning the place where her remains were to rest till eternity. A tree for instance. She demanded to be buried under a tree, which I can understand as she would be secured by crows and other creatures inhabiting the trees. Like the squirrels one can see running around the place. The snobbish thing however was her wish not to be born next to ‘commoners’. After all, lady Wilde was a lady and commoners where of the lower species in her opinion, I presume. I guess it’s forgiven by now.
Dave was quite a character and we met him by accident. The old man was about seventy years old I suppose and walking in the muddy paths in between the stones and monuments. He obviously knew his way around because for an hour or so he guided us through the maze of thousands of stones to the likes of William Thackeray, princess Sophia, some poets and writers and peculiar ladies. With stories as a company he clearly enjoyed showing some of the special monuments. From the Egyptian like tomb with the sphinxes around it, to the lady with the veil over het head and the tomb from which a tree grows without any roots in the ground. It made the place magical and the visit most enjoyable.
After the long walk it was nice to rest a bit at the pub just around the corner. A typical Victorian style building with high ceilings, dark wooden panelling, an endlessly long bar and just the right tables and chairs to be comfortable. The Mason’s Arms is an old one, named after the stone masons who would have been working next door carving stones and monuments.
The tube station is near and within minutes the underground brought us right into the heart of London for a non buying shopping spree in Oxford and Carnaby Street, Piccadilly, Soho and with some detours to Burlington House, the wonderful building where the Royal Academy of Arts was and still is seated. It is magnificent with beautifully painted ceilings, impressive stairways and an atmosphere which is inviting. Great exhibitions too but that wasn’t what we came for. It was the building with the seven arches at the entrance looking like enormous teeth in a monsters mouth waiting for people to step inside.
We’re in the Windsor Castle. The pub, not the castle. In Holland Park close to the Kensington area for which this whole visit is intended. The great thing about the place is that’s its still for the most part in its original state. Three areas separated by wooden walls to divide the customers. At the back is the Sherry Bar. In old times for men only. The 1835 pub was first a meeting place for farmers bringing cattle to the market in Hyde Park, then a meeting place for painters and poets and now for trendy and moderately wealthy locals. Most important me is that it is the very location where some of my novels characters used to meet long, long time ago. And it felt good to be there because it was everything I hoped for to find. An ideal spot for some key scenes in the lives of the ladies who have become a part of my life in such an unexpected manner.
A few hours later we’re back at the Mason’s Arms, drawing a bit and writing a bit in anticipation of what’s to waiting for us in the coming days.
© 2013 Alice Anna Verheij