Saturday, May 17, 2008

At the Funeral

The funeral was *lovely*

We went down on Wednesday evening, after work and stayed over at Barb’s place. After managing to sleep comprehensively in, we rushed off to the Salisbury crematorium for the service, starting at 09:45. Got there about 10 minutes before.

There were lots of people gathered about outside. All the immediate family, less the little grand and great grandchildren. Lots of people I had never met. Lots of people in general. The chapel was absolutely stuffed to the gunwales. It was quite amazing, really, when you think that Mick was a gentleman of venerable age who had been retired for ten years and had been living a very quiet life in a very small village for several of those years. More to the point, most people would only have got the paper with the funeral details on Thursday morning. Though I suppose most people had heard about it on the grapevine anyway.

Anyway, the chapel was packed. There were people he had worked for, the sons of people he had worked for, all sorts of bods. The ebullient funeral director arrived with the hearse and Mick and we all trooped in, Gwen escorted by The Builder. I sat next to Terry and Jenny, who were next to Gwen and The Builder. The service was conducted by a visiting canon. We all sang the hymns enthusiastically (The Lord’s my shepherd, We plough the fields and Abide with me). The canon spoke a lovely little eulogy. I think we sent him (Mick, not the canon) on his way with ceremony, humour and gentle mourning.

Then we all trooped out. I was told the names of many, many people. I promptly forgot them! We all milled about outside until the EFD warned us that the next service was about to begin and we would, alas, need to move on. Lots and lots of us moved on to the Dayroom at The Orchard where there was a veritable feast awaiting us. (Just as an aside, The Builder had been talking to Gwen and Jenny earlier in the week. They were worried there wasn’t going to be enough food. We were all going to starve. BRING SUPPLIES! So I made party pies and party sausage rolls and took them with us. There was no starving going to be happening in the Dayroom yesterday. No danger of starvation At All. The tables were positively groaning. Still, it was nice to have party pies. I like party pies).

Anyway. Where was I? Oh yes. Lots of the people whose names had passed straight through my ear holes at the Crem came up and started talking to me. Many years as the wife of a parish minister came into their own – I don’t actually need to know who people are to make small talk with them! People all milled about and drank tea and ate party food. I met several members of the family I hadn’t run across before. Jeanette and Matthew were there, as were Ian and Donna. But so too were Terry’s children and a couple of his grandchildren. There was also a surprising number of ex-wives. All The Builder’s ex wives were there, but there were others as well, belonging to different people. Folks began to drift off until eventually, it was just the extended family. At just before 2 we all made our way to the local church for the interment of the ashes.

Yesterday afternoon brought two pieces of information my way (although the first one had really been imparted a week earlier). That was that it is possible, if you have a cremation early enough in the day, to retrieve the ashes in the afternoon for a same-day interment. The second is that there is a church in Nunton. I had thought that the Nunton church was the one that sort of sits between Nunton and Odstock. But no. Nunton has its own little church, tucked along a little road I had never previously noticed. And it’s a beautiful little church. A flint and stone church in a lovely little churchyard. I had a quick peek inside it, but I really must take the time to have a proper look, and to find out a bit about it.

So Mick’s ashes now lie in that lovely little churchyard with some flowers to mark the spot. I think there are plans to put a little stone marker there to tell folks where he is. I think he needs a little bush as well, but I don’t think you’re allowed to plant shrubs in churchyards!

The main question I had about yesterday was what exactly I should wear. Mick had stipulated that he didn’t want everyone in black. The Builder, of course, wore his black suit, but wore a yellowy, cream shirt with it. I don’t really have any black clothes, apart from a couple of black jackets. I do, however, have a lovely floatie purple dress. Purple is good. It’s a Christian colour of mourning, but also a colour of celebration and royalty. I wore that, with a black Laura Ashley jacket that I bought in a second hand shop after Raymond died (because the velvety jacket that I wore to his funeral made me look like a big, furry black bear!). And my black lace up shoes. Without pantyhose. This was fine in the morning. No worries at all. But by the time we went to the church yard, the clouds had come in and the wind had got up and my floatie dress is of a summer persuasion and the bottom bits are quite diaphanous – and it was bloody cold around my knees!!

Everyone else was a touch on the chilly side as well. We went back to the Dayroom for a cup of tea and a sandwich. And then The Builder and I took Barb home and made our own way home.

We did, however, collect another pub. We had been pondering what to do about food. There are three pubs along the road that runs from Swindon to Gloucester, once of which is the Highwayman. We called in there, on spec, really. Any of them would have done. And it was lovely. They have just introduced Black Rock Grills which are griddled stones which are heated to around 400o. These are brought out on heat-proof trays with the meat of your choice on top. You then cook the meat pretty much as you want it cooked. The Highwayman offers some interesting choices – ostrich, kangaroo, bison amongst other things. We were boring and had rump steak. It’s quite good fun – but I was ever so anxious that The Builder was going to accidentally catch his hand on the stone and immolate. (He’s already swiped his forehead with a saw AND chopped his thumb with another saw this last week – I think I have reason for concern!) Fortunately, he didn’t immolate. Or catch his hand, and we got home safely with no real excitements at all. Oh – apart from the shell of a burnt out truck on the hard shoulder of the motorway, with all the lanes bar the far one closed down and emergency vehicles dotted about and things.

Marlo was very pleased to see us home. Again.

Right then folks. My funeral. Here are the instructions. (Pay attention at the back, please!) Proper church service please, though I don’t mind if it’s at the crematorium. No black – or not very much. Rousing hymns – none of this abiding or shepherding – and the last one is to be Thine be the glory. To the proper tune! You lot can choose the others, in consultation with the vicar. Oh - and a cardboard coffin; terrible waste of wood to create a beautiful, polished coffin just to burn it. And none of this same day interment of the ashes. I want to sit on somebody’s mantelpiece for a bit (or several somebodies’ – a posthumous procession sounds rather fun). At a time deemed to be appropriate, I want to be dispersed from a pretty bridge into a pretty river or stream. You lot can decide amongst yourselves which bridge and river. After both events (cremation and rivering) I expect there to be a satisfactory attendance at a suitable pub and many sore heads the following mornings

Remind me one day to tell you about the Tortoise Lady at The Orchard. She deserves a mention on the blog. But not today. This one is already quite long enough :-)
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