Sunday, June 15, 2008

Exploring ...

One of the most important things about writing for me is the non-writing bit. I believe completely that the writer is the one who keeps in the chair, but it's still important to engage with the outside world sometimes. In her book, The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron talks about 'artist's dates', the dates you have with yourself and which help to 'fill the well'. Well, I had a little one-to-one with myself in London recently just mooching along some back streets. Then I came across this...



Apart from the ribbons, the gates look as if they just lead on to yet another builder's yard, but they are the site of the medieval burial ground, the Crossbones Graveyard where the 'Winchester Geese' or prostitutes from local brothels were buried. In his 1603 Survey of London, Stow writes:

'I have heard of ancient men, of good credit, report that these single women were forbidden the rites of the church, so long as they continued that sinful life, and were excluded from Christian burial, if they were not reconciled before their death. And therefore there was a plot of ground called the Single Woman's churchyard, appointed for them far from the parish church.'


Now they are a shrine, with votive lights, ribbons, cards and gifts to commemorate both the 15000 women buried there, but also for all 'women on the street' throughout the ages.



Apparently the graveyard was forgotten about for many years until it was dug up for an electricity sub-station and the remains discovered. A proposal to build some offices there was turned down and now there are plans to turn it into a memorial garden, It's clear that it's not forgotten any more, but it still didn't seem peaceful to me. It's not too fanciful to say I felt a really deep sadness I just couldn't logically explain.



When I got home, I looked up the meaning of pyscho geography and from that essay (see the link), mooched along to this one.

Now I want to write about the idea of an emotion getting stuck in a place. I've had the experience of walking into a building before and just needing to leave, equally some houses make me feel immediately relaxed. I can't explain why, and I hadn't thought about the potential that this might have for writing or indeed, town planning.

9 comments:

Spot said...

Has been great to read your blog since finding it by chance a week ago. So thanks for so many interesting pieces to read.
Relating to your last post - yesterday, I was at Monks House in Rodmell which was Virginia Woolf's last home. And as I attempted to describe in my blog yesterday, I just couldn't get my thoughts free from the last walk she made from there to the river. Birds sang, picnics were eaten, kids ran about and shrieked in the orchard, we all had a happy day. but there seemed no getting away from this cloud of sadness there.
Have you read Landscape and Memory- Simon Schama? I don't own it (if I did I would never get any creative work done), but have read it several times. He writes of the same kind of 'leftovers'.

Tania Hershman said...

How interesting. I was introduced to the notion of psycho geography recently, found it a fascinating concept. I can't remember who talked about it - something about lay lines too? May it be inspiring to you.

Clare Sudbery said...

"couldn't logically explain"

Seems pretty logical to me! It's a very sad tale. Those poor forgotten disregarded women.

You've reminded me that I should do more of this type of thing. I did think I would, in the latter stages of pregnancy. But there's so much else needs doing... and I'm quite reluctant to leave the house for lengthy periods at the mo - there are so many ways in which physical discomfort can catch me out (hunger, thirst, needing the loo, getting backache / exhausted after short periods on my feet, indigestion, an inability to cope with heat, the list goes on...). Maybe I'll do day trips with baby after he's born. I did a lot of that with my first one, and did a lot of the old scribbling in the notebook whilst breastfeeding in bizarre locations...

Anonymous Bosch said...

I made a whole series of images about the Cross Bones Graveyard its such a fascinating place

Sarah Salway said...

Thanks Spot, haven't read it but will look it up. I must make a list sometime of all the books I've found through blogging - it would be a fascinating journey on its own!
Interesting you're discovering it too, Tania - have you written anything about it? Would really like to see how other writers have tackled it.

Sarah Salway said...

I know that is logical to be sad, Clare, and interestingly I changed that word several times in the original post because it was more than just the story. That drew me to the gates once I realised what it was about, but there was something else that made me want to run away. I'd written 'sensibly' first and that was interesting because I thought about senses. I suppose that's where sensible comes from.

Sarah Salway said...

Anonymous - I'd love to see your photographs. Are they on your blog, or could you send me the link?

Anonymous Bosch said...

They are not on my blog, not sure if there might be a few on my flckr site
http://www.flickr.com/photos/anonymousbosch/
Too many damn photos to keep up with.
I will have to scan the negatives and upload them at some point I am in the process of building my website a few of my favorite images will most likely end up on there http://www.anthonyodonnell.co.uk/

Sarah Salway said...

Thanks, anonymous. I'll check those out.