The Magnificent Seven


This morning was spent accompanying Maggie, Mike and Bill wandering first around the industrial centre outside the town and then around Bergerac itself.   The other customers in the large supermarkets on the outskirts were mostly French, whereas the Saturday market sprawling across streets both old and new, featured a fair smattering of English accents.  Although larger than most it has a pretty familiar set of stalls; cheap clothing and nicknacks; CDs and DVDs; vegetables and much else.  Maggie was attracted to tables containing crumpled, presumably second-hand, clothing priced at 1 or 2 euros.  The men weren’t.

We first had to drive around in search of a parking space.  This took some considerable time because the main carpark was occupied by a funfair.

By the time we returned, and Bill and I were dropped off at Sigoules, the acute headache I had woken with was considerably worse and I felt a bit queasy.  There was nothing for it but to lie down.  I divested myself of my raincoat, shed my shoes, and fell on top of my duvet.  I dozed for about five hours, stirring to climb under the duvet when I felt cold.  In the early evening I took three paracetamol, made scrambled eggs on toast, and returned to bed after eating them.  I was now well enough to finish reading ‘Her Fearful Symmetry’ by Audrey Niffenegger and begin Philippa Gregory’s ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’.  Before settling down to nine hours sleep, I remembered to take off my jacket, otherwise I remained fully clothed.

Some five years ago now, I received a telephone call from Mike Kindred telling me that his friend John Turpin, whom I had met once or twice, had asked him if he knew anyone who could take the photographs for a book he had written about the seven landscaped Victorian cemeteries known as ‘The Magnificent Seven’.  He sought my permission to give John my name.  This I gave willingly.  For the next two years, covering different seasons, John and I visited the venues for the purpose of photography.  From Kensal Green and West Brompton in the west to Abney Park and Tower Hamlets in the east, I became very familiar with the Victorian way of death.  Usually travelling with John, who knew all the cemeteries backwards, I sometimes returned alone to those in the west to which I could easily walk from W2 where I was living at the time.  One winter’s day John rang me to tell me about magnificent sunsets he had seen at Kensal Green.  Off I went  and took what I think were stunning sunsets against the various extravagant monuments in that, the first of these cemeteries.  It was a great disappointment when Amberley Press chose, for reasons of cost, to publish in black and white.  As I am not at home I cannot illustrate this post with a picture from the book. 

Sigoules cemetery will have to do.

My friend Alison knew of this publication, so when she discovered that ‘Her Fearful Symmetry’ was set in and around Highgate cemetery, perhaps the most famous of the septet, she lent me the book.  Once I got over one or two early similes which I thought rather fanciful, I thoroughly enjoyed the beguiling novel.  It is a ghost story like none other.  It is about love, grief, loss, and relationships, displaying a sound knowledge of humanity.  It provides evidence of a familiarity with London, introducing me to the intriguing Postman’s Park, of which I had never heard.  And it has a surprising denouement.

Postscript 10th September 2013:

Now at home, I add a few random (except for the sunset) pictures from the cemeteries.

The book’s ISBN number is 978 – 1 – 4456 – 0038 – 3.  Published by Amberley, it is by John Turpin and Derrick Knight.