29 May 2009

Pet project: bike to work via a cemetery

Biking was the only way to get into work today anyway on such a glorious sunny May morning. But on a bike you can do extra stuff before work in a way that would be just too damn tedious by tube or bus or car. We had an 8.15am appointment in Hyde Park, and getting there via the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and Wellington Arch, was a delight.

(And, incidentally, at Parliament Square bikes and buses can now turn right directly from the north end of Westminster Bridge into Whitehall. Saves having to go round four sides of a square. And having to identify the latest lot of protesters and deciding what's outrageous and has got to stop this time.)

In Hyde Park we were meeting with someone from the Parks to see the Pet Cemetery, one of London's quirkier hidden gems. It's not open to the public; you have to email the Parks and they fix up a private view for you. It's just inside the park in the garden of Victoria House, opposite Lancaster Gate tube, now a private residence. You can't see much from Bayswater Road though you can glimpse the headstones through the railings.

The Pet Cemetery provided an informal burial ground for dogs and cats of wealthy Londonites and operated from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. The last animal grave is dated 1956.

Not much into pets, me: sheepdogs yes, lapdogs no. But there's something gently touching about these memorials to once much-loved companion animals. Here lie Titsy, Fluff, Quex, Ba-ba and Phisto. This is the final resting place of Wobbles, Topsy, Chips, Pippin, Scum and Smut. Beneath us are the mortal remains of Scamp, Yum Yum, Tosh, Bogie, Flossie and Punch. In this spot is commemorated Ginger Blyth of Westbourne Terrace, not some wartime air-ace, but King of Pussies.

It was an invitation to ponder on mortality and the looming nemeses of HGVs turning left. All I could think of was breakfast, though.

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