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It's A West Norwood Thing.



Only recently have I shared - as I often try and do - a link on social media about the tours that Friends Of West Norwood Cemetery do; the first Sunday of the month; and free tours at that. And then it occurs to me that I might not have gone into detail about my backstory with this cemetery. I did check my journal posts and couldn't find anything, and sure as hell couldn't remember anything, so here we are.


Let me give you some basic background. West Norwood Cemetery, as you might have guessed from the name, is a cemetery. Situated in West Norwood in South London, the cemetery is 40 acres of grounds that are host to tombstones, graves, monuments, tombs and catacombs. Not only is it big (and also known as one of London's "Magnificent Seven" cemeteries), it's old - having originally opened in 1837.


So where exactly do I feature?


In years long past, I used to work in West Norwood. There was a relatively small business park where I'd take a job in one of the businesses. In order for me to get to work, I'd take the overground train to West Norwood and then walk from the station to work. That walk took me past the entrance of West Norwood Cemetery, and even though that was wide and expansive, I didn't give it too much thought. But the business park I worked in was behind the cemetery, so I had to walk the length (or maybe it was the width) of the grounds - and that took a while. That was my first time it really piqued my interest; what with the high wall and everything. And then I turned right at the end of that long road, and walked alongside an even higher wall (and if you've read the stories in the Sunset Is Just The Beginning mythos, you might recognise this wall) until I could continue on and reach the business park and thus, the office.


The more I walked past this cemetery, the more curious about it I got. Eventually went for a walk on the grounds. What struck me about the cemetery is how vast it was - and still is. Once you get past the entrance, which is majestic in itself, the area immediately in front of you is of a decent size. Where the cemetery office is (if memory serves) along with space for vehicles to pass. Continue on and eventually you'll get to a fork in the pathway. Telling you this doesn't convey how vast the area is - but regardless of which path you take, you're going to be rewarded with a veritable sea of tombstones in greenery. Stretching pretty much as far as the eye can see. Tombstones, kerbsets, mausoleums, statues, crypts - all through trees, rises and mounds in the earth,. along with flowers, bushes and weeds. Let's not forget the catacombs either.


Since that point, I've written a number of works that feature West Norwood Cemetery as a character - I say character, because when I write, I want to convey, the ...well, the character of something. It doesn't matter whether it's a human, animal, monster, or a location, or whatever. Such things may have character and from an author point of view, I think they should. How else can the reader buy into them if they don't?


I digress.


Most notable are the works in the Sunset Is Just The Beginning mythos. While that's the short story that started it all, it's chronologically the third in a quartet of stories - preceded by Sanity Slips Through Your Fingers and At The End Of A Pistol (in the DeadSteam collections), and followed by the novella But Worse Will Come in a mythos that spans nearly two centuries. It was only after I'd written the novella that I'd then revisited the cemetery for another look around - and actually taken the cemetery tour.


I can honestly say I'm not biased; the tours are good. They're informative, there's a lot to see, the guides are knowledgeable and patient, and they take the time to answer questions. What I missed out on when I did the tour was actually seeing the catacombs; if memory serves, they were undergoing renovation when I last visited.


The more I write, the more likelihood there is of stories that will reference West Norwood Cemetery in some way. And, why not? No it's not the only cemetery there is in London, and it's not the only one I featured in my work. But it *is* the one I've featured most. I may very well browse the grounds again in the near future (since it may have evolved somewhat since I was last there); all part of parcel of writing. You know; pick up sensory reference material firsthand - the landscape, the sound, smell and feel of the place.


It's a West Norwood thing.




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