The other day my Mum started discussing her funeral plans with me. She is eighty-five this year and I suppose at that age one starts to think that the day is coming when you won’t be around. Even so, it was pretty shocking to be talking about her funeral.
The first ever funeral I went to was my Uncle Raymond’s. Raymond was my favourite uncle and the most wonderful guy. When I first started work when I was sixteen, going on seventeen, I used to get off my bus, the 152, at the Bluebell pub in Handforth after coming home from work in Manchester and Uncle Ray was there, waiting for the pub to open. Inside he chatted to everyone, the staff, punters he had never met before and at the drop of a hat would produce the photographs from his recent cruise showing him and my Auntie Elsie sat at the Captain’s table. He would come back home with us, have dinner, and then take my Dad out to finish the evening off.
When he died his funeral cortege took a detour past the British Legion, one of his numerous watering holes, and the staff and customers came outside to pay tribute as his coffin passed slowly by.
The funeral was sad and tearful and the wake was pretty similar. A lot of sad people, a lot of tears and my Dad, who had probably lost his best friend was devastated. I was driving that day and was asked to run some long forgotten relative home. I did so and returned a short while later. Only twenty minutes or so had passed but when I returned, I returned to a happy, noisy, enjoyable party, full of laughter and fun. I don’t know what had happened in the twenty minutes I had been gone but I came back to exactly the sort of party that my Uncle Ray would have loved.
When my Gran died the funeral service was held in Marple, I’m not sure why as it was nowhere near where my Gran lived or was buried. The journey from there to Southern Cemetery in Manchester was for me, a masterpiece of motor car management, juggling with high water temperature and having to dive into a garage to top up my car with water.
At the graveside I noticed my Dad making signs to the two grave diggers and after the coffin had slipped into the ground and the final words of the vicar had faded, my Dad, a former grave-digger in years gone by, had a happy and joyful reunion with two of his old co-workers, much to the dismay of my Mum who stood with me and cried her heart out. (Not your finest moment, Dad.) At least he thought better of introducing her to his friends which I thought he was going to do at one point.
A few years ago I went with Liz to a funeral in Lytham. I felt distinctly out of place, an intruder even, as I did not know the deceased or his family. There was however, a rather nice buffet which, under the circumstances, I felt it was important to do justice to. I did feel a little mean when I grabbed the last pork pie moments before a teary eyed lady in black appeared and eyed the empty plate somewhat wistfully.
When I was introduced to her later I could see from her expression she was trying to place me. As I smiled and offered condolences I saw the moment of realisation ; and I almost heard her say in her mind ‘I recognise him- he’s the bugger who took the last pork pie!