This isn’t a morbid post but it is about death. Or the arrangements around death. I’ve been put in mind of this subject by an incident yesterday in Crystal Palace. The Textiliste and I were on our way to the park via the ‘triangle’ – a one way system of shops and eateries that comprises the hub of what is Crystal Palace. As we waited to join the one way system a hearse pulled up opposite and a gentleman in frock coat and top hat climbed out. He solemnly led the cortege along Westow Hill (our direction of travel) at a, well, funereal pace before reaching the traffic lights at the far end where he climbed into the passenger seat and the hearse turned right to the second arm of the triangle and moved off at a steady 20 mph. There’s a church along, erm, Church Road (funny that) so perhaps that’s where they were headed.
As I understand it the walking bit in front of the coffin usually takes place at the house of the deceased or where the cortege starts and again at the cemetery to control the flow into the ceremony, bringing a certain solemnity to proceedings. But why, I pondered, did this walk start and finish along a street known for its restaurants and shops?
My mind went back a few years to my uncle Les and his funeral. Les was, well, a bit of a lad, a bit of the black sheep and someone who enjoyed his life. In deference to his darling daughter, my cousin, who I know reads these posts I will leave it at that as a synopsis of the Life Of Les. It was certainly full. When he died I took my mother, then in her 80s to Herne Bay for the funeral. On arrival at his ex wife’s house we were told the cortege would be taking a tour around the Kent countryside to pay final visit to some of his favourite places before making for the crematorium; we were invited to follow.
Mum and I settled back and we set off, wondering where we would be going. It didn’t take us long to find out. We drove at a decent speed pausing five or six times. The George, the Rose and Crown, The Shepherd’s Crook, The Sea Salter and the Man of Kent. Or something like that. Businesses in which Les had invested regularly during his life; he believed in keeping his investments liquid. The landlords would miss his custom.
Mum, a prude and
a bit of a big snob to her fingernails was harrumphing next to me but I thought it a splendid final gesture. He would have approved and it brought a smile to many, if not all, faces. Perhaps today’s deceased wanted to pay a similar homage. Or maybe he had a shop there. I hope the family got something from it anyway.
It made me think where I’d like to be taken for a final farewell. I asked the Textiliste if she knew where I’d like to go. ‘It would have to be somewhere,’ I mused, ‘where I’m guaranteed to enjoy myself. Where I’m at my most content.’
It was obvious to me; apart from my house, it would be one of the main London sports grounds where I have spent many happy hours -Lord’s or The Oval, for cricket, or Twickenham for Rugby. Maybe, I thought to myself, all three.
I hadn’t articulated these thoughts when the Textiliste brought me firmly down to earth. ‘Well if we are talking about the place to which you instinctively retreat then that would be the downstairs loo with a crossword and pencil.’
There are times when one’s carefully managed self-perceptions take a fatal blow from which there is really no return. I see it now – my coffin sombrely carried in front of a small group of mourners perched on a set of white porcelain chairs, clutching that day’s Sudoku while in the background the Jam’s ‘Going Underground’ thumps out of the speakers.
As I say, always leave them laughing…