Always leave them laughing

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…

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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22 Responses to Always leave them laughing

  1. roweeee says:

    Geoff that’s what family’s for. They almost seem to revel in dragging you down a peg or two. I would expect that my family would say writing away on my laptop working on my blog and there are a few op shops I’m rather fond of, although I must confess that I’m usually buying expensive designer clothes there at bargain basement prices so it’s not as though I’m going for the cheap stuff. I also surround myself with vintage ephemera such as antique and vintage tea cups and the sort of thing you’d find at Grandma’s house. I don’t drink often enough so you wouldn’t find me at a pub. The kids would also say I’d be chatting to someone.That is, if I were still alive although they could well argue that dying wouldn’t be enough to shut me up.
    Loved the post and had a chuckle. I watched the funeral of Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes on TV and they had the procession through his home town of Macksville with the Funeral Director in front. My aunt is a funeral director and she doesn’t share the secrets of the dead but she did tell me that she’s had requests from old ladies to be buried in red underwear.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Autism Mom says:

    If you really want to leave them laughing get someone to make up comic crosswords for the occasion.

    Oh! Jam and Paul Weller before The Style Council – that takes me back…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. willowdot21 says:

    You have left me with an image visual and audable that will stay with me all day…. People will wonder what is that woman chuckling about.
    I remember having to drive a car load of friends to a funeral in a chapel on the Royal estate it Windsor. No sign posts scant instructions… Silent panic growing in my head. Until in the distance I saw a hearse. I slowed and waited at the crossroads in the middle of nowhere. It glided past and I followed at a discrete distance. It was as if she was saying ‘Come on you lot , you couldn’t find your way out of a paper bag!! ‘

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Annecdotist says:

    Your uncle’s last journey sounds fun. As for those horse-drawn funeral carriages, I love them, though rarely seen these days – though have put one in Sugar and Snails – unless that was one of the bits we cut.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. trifflepudling says:

    Very much enjoyed Les’s final ’round’! My mother loved shopping. On the day we collected her ashes, my father was very upset and there was no way of getting them home without his seeing the urn. The only answer was to kill time until he went out, so my sister and I got on the 31 bus, sat on the front seat upstairs, and went down to Ken High Street. We went round all her favourite shops and had a cup of tea in Barker’s. I’m sure she really enjoyed her last sally round the shops! It kind of helped us, I must say! In my head, when I was idly looking at some coats, I could hear her saying: “No, darling. I’m not going out with you if you’re going to wear THAT!”, etc etc…

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Ah mother’s voice. Yes I still hear mum even five years after she died. ‘Don’t do that, darling.’ And the no 31. How many times did I hurtle down the corridor on a number 31. Thank you so much for commenting. Much appreciated.

      Like

  6. Sue Vincent says:

    I rather think I woul like the Textiliste 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great story, Geoff, and just goes to show that just about anything can bring out the inspiration to write.

    I can still remember a funny incident at the funeral of my Great Grandmother back in the 1970’s. She and my other Great Grandmother (Maud) did not get on and I can remember the container holding her ashes being on the mantle piece, and my Great Grandmother standing next to it flicking cigarette ash into it. When my mother kindly pointed out what she was doing, Muad looked at the container and said “look at that Annie, you’re dead and your still putting weight on”.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Charli Mills says:

    Ha, ha! Which is why it’s good to have these discussions with your spouse. Not the humbling, per say, but the acknowledgement of higher aspirations. I like this idea of final visits on the way. I suppose if death were to sneak up soon, I’d start my final ride at Elmira Pond and finish at the VA cemetery in Couer D’Alene. I’ve already asked the Hub to speak my eulogy in his “Gravedigger” monster-truck voice. It’s the voice he uses when I force him along to the grocery store. If he goes before me, I’ve promised to breath helium before speaking his eulogy. There. We share a peculiar sense of humor. 🙂 Well matched in our funerary plans.

    Liked by 1 person

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