Well, we’ve all been to a few….not a barrel of laughs you’ll agree!
Having said that, I can recall two that were very good….. very hard, not funny but very good, but like anything in life, you have to look at the funny side of some situations that you may find yourself in, and in this blog…. well, that’s what I’m going to do.
One of my early funerals in life, first began in a house. I stood in the kitchen full of people, waiting for the hearse to arrive, you see, people don’t just hang around kitchens for parties, it’s for any gathering. It’s not seen so much these days, but you used to have a house service first before going to the crematorium. Everyone dressed in black… suits of course and ladies in black dresses. Me? I was in black, but not a suit. I was too young to own a suit, (this is the point where I sound old) “Not like the generation of today, where you can buy suits for any age off the shelf….and at a cheap price.”
Right, back to the story, I was too young to own a suit, but it just so happened, that my school uniform was black, so that’s what I stood in that day. YES, I know what you’re thinking “Dave…. but didn’t you have a school badge stitched on the jumper?” Why yes, yes I did, but in my mind I thought if I move around a lot, it’ll look like a handkerchief sticking out of my suit jacket top pocket that I didn’t have. By the way, my first suit was in the late 80’s, it was what they called a ‘grey flecked’ suit, with white socks and gray slip on shoes. I know…… let’s not talk about that anymore, that’s another story for another blog!
So, back in the kitchen, as I stood in amongst the people all talking very quietly with serious faces, there was a knock on the door. It was the undertaker. Now for legal reasons, let us call the deceased “Whisky.” The owner of the house opened the front door then turned back to us, their eyes filling up. The kitchen fell silent, one pair of eyes looking down the long hallway with about forty pairs of eyes staring back. In a broken voice, they called out to us all “Whisky’s here!”
At this point, without any
control, I thought “What a strange thing to say??” as this was my first image that came in to my head the moment it was said…..
The coffin was then carried by the undertakers in to the front room of the house, which by the way…. and I tell no lies here…… was a job in itself! The coffin was not far off vertical with the sound of the odd thump and bang coming from inside…. if the deceased wasn’t a contortionist in this life, they certainly were in the next! The undertakers were panting and groaning, straining from weight of the coffin with gallons of sweat running down their faces and they still managed to keep their hats on. Albeit I’m sure their arms had stretched twice as long by the time they had finished, Health and Safety would have had a field day with that type of situation now.
Once the coffin was back in its horizontal position and placed on the trolley in the front room of the house, the undertakers panted and dragged their feet and long arms and lent up against the wall. We, well… ‘I’ followed the adults in to the front room to gather around the coffin for a small service, it was a tight squeeze as some didn’t bother moving and stayed in the kitchen, drinking tea and talking…… do you remember those simple things in life before mobile phones?….you know talking?
Everyone bowed their head to pray, only to be disrupted by one of the family members losing the plot, (sorry lost control) they crashed through the small gathering of people and like a man
jumping off a bridge on to a fast moving train just like in the movies they jumped on top of the coffin. Swaying everywhere on top of it just like the Lone Ranger would jump on his horse and steer the horses reins, at that moment I didn’t feel so silly anymore in my school uniform, even one of the undertakers done a double take.
Then there are other funerals, where you have the opportunity to ride in the limousine car behind the hearse. Now this car has special powers….. stay with me on this. So you’ve just pulled up at the place of rest (and in my experience on the few occasions, we were there a little early) so at this point you stay in the car and have nothing else to do but watch the people arrive. Don’t forget there are some people you only see in weddings and funerals….. and there’s usually a good reason for this. So this is your opportunity to have a good look at who’s turned up. Now if you’re one of the ‘chosen ones’ to carry the coffin, all you’ll notice is a sea of black and don’t get to see any faces, so sitting in the car is your first opportunity to see who’s turned up and who hasn’t. You see, over the years of going to funerals, sitting in the car following the hearse, I have been able to assess that there are four types of characters that people turn in too when going to a funeral….. I wonder which character type you might be?
Character Type 1 – Most people know you’re waiting in the car, so they will not look out of respect and go inside.
Character Type 2 – Stay outside oblivious why they are there in the first place as they can’t stop talking and laughing (loud) due to seeing a friend or family member that they haven’t seen in years, and try and fit as much information in as they can…. a little bit like speed-dating.
Character Type 3 – The person who wants to look at you in the car but doesn’t, but at the same time struggles controlling their eyes and half gives in. At that moment it looks like they have wonky eyes, one eye looks at you in the car and other eye looks at where they are going. Always easy to spot these types of people in a Chinese takeaway…. when asked do they want chips or rice with their chicken curry they’ll always answer half and half!
Character Type 4 – the crazy one, who thinks it’s one big surprise that you’ve turned up at the same funeral, they act like it’s a Saturday night out on the town and you’ve just pulled up in a taxi at the club. They come so close to the car window they’ve practically licked it clean whilst waving their hand at you so fast the wave looks blurry, whispering “Hiya”
Then there’s the experience of lowering the coffin in to the ground, nothing worse than if it is on a slope and it has been raining. The grave diggers pile the earth up around the edge of the grave, sometimes covering it with planks. You see the rough terrain, then with full concentration holding on as tight as you can on the straps, looped through the handles of the coffin, whilst trying not to slip or fall, you lower the coffin. Well, clearly I didn’t concentrate enough, as it looked
like I was just about to show off with a full hour of non-stop break dance moves around the grave side that I didn’t know I had. My foot slipped, over the edge and into the grave I headed, one side of the coffin dropped towards me nearly taking out my teeth. It was close; I was nearly in the grave before the coffin. The vicar was all shapes like he’d been made out of rubber following my every move, the grave digger threw his shovel like a harpoon to the floor and run towards me; it was all in slow motion. The other pallbearers had to take the strain as I had to re-set my footing, I slowly looked around, so slow I even had time to pick out all of the Character Type 3 people with the wonky eyes and I’m sure there was a Character Type 4 in the 2nd row still waving whispering “Hiya!” It could have been disastrous.
May I take my hat off to all grave diggers, a very tricky job and not very nice, although I think some may be on a ‘job and finish’ contract! On the odd occasion they stand as if they’re on the front line but holding shovels at the ready, even the digger driver has started the machine up and filled the grave in before you’ve walked to the limousine car behind the now empty hearse.
Then there’s the funeral of the distant friend or colleague you once knew. I’m not sure if I’m the only person who’s done this, not just once may I say, but a few times. Now this can be an awkward moment, especially when the information given regarding where and when don’t seem to add up but you go anyway.
Now before we go any further, picture this, it’s been years since you’ve seen any of these people so you might not recognise many of them…. if any at all. One time I turned up at the graveyard, two funerals to early…. I stayed for one (nobody asked who I was), although I did think of a line if they did, it would have been “I’m an old work colleague.” No good of course if the deceased was 99 and I was only 22! What could I do? I was standing with everyone, everyone I didn’t know…. I didn’t want to be seen walking away, I couldn’t stay any longer and wait for the right funeral as I had to go back to work, and anyway, I then remembered it was a Catholic funeral that I was turning up for and they can go on for a very long time. The family had the service first in the Catholic church, half a mile away, before going to the graveyard where I had been looking like ‘Mr Keen’ and ‘Mr Early Bird’. I didn’t realise I had to go to the church first. I had the right day, right time, wrong place. No wonder I hadn’t seen any familiar faces!
The other time I went to the wrong funeral, I was told to be at the crematorium by 2:30pm on a certain Thursday. I turned up amongst people I didn’t recognise……again. This time I waited outside in disbelief, thinking to myself “I’ve done it again!!” After listening to the people in the crowd compliment how tanned one woman was, then asking where they’ve been and how well they’re looking. She wasn’t lying…. she was so tanned she looked orange. Two people beside me decided after the coffin had been carried inside for the service, they were going to leave and drive back to the deceased’s house before everyone else arrived back so they could get a good car park space on the drive, because…….. they had a new car! It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to work out that they had a head start on that one because everyone else was inside attending the funeral.
I’ve even witnessed someone taking a selfie with the hearse in the background…….. I know!! I have now though, mastered a manoeuvre that enables me to sneak off if I’m ever at the wrong funeral again. You must pretend to answer the phone and go out of sight, as if to be respectful, but once you can’t be seen and once at a safe distance, you run away and go home….. quickly……. thank you mobile phones for that!
I also understand why the people’s names are written in flowers by the sides of the coffins inside the hearse. It’s for people like me, to stand at the gates away from the family and friends and check the name corresponds with the person whose funeral it is that you’re going to, or supposed to be at! That way you know that you’re at the right funeral. For legal reasons again let’s say the name of the persons funeral that I was going to attend was “BOB”. Now if I see “NAN” then it’s a good indication that I’m at the wrong funeral, and then at that point I pretend I’ve had a phone call and sneak off immediately.
By the way, I did eventually go to the right funeral in the end…..it was a week later not a Thursday but on a Friday, not at 2:30pm but at 10am……and wait for it….. Not a cremation….it was a burial. Here’s an idea though and it’s just an idea, crematoriums and grave sides should be either like bus stops with red light signs where the words flash across the screen or put up posters around the outside on the walls like on theatres. Advertising who’s getting buried or cremated that day or week and who’s coming soon…… just a thought……
As always on the Easy Blend, I’m letting you know what I’m listening to….. today it’s Colin Hay, Waiting for my real life to begin.
You can find out more about my book ‘Farrago: Ten Tall Tales’ and buy it here…. (click on the cover)
Until the next Easy Blend blog………..
Stay warm and fuzzy……..