Tag Archives: death

Stop All The Clocks (Part 3)

Sorry, it’s been a while since Part 1 and Part 2, which covered making my own funeral arrangements. I had meant to keep them closer together but, as you know, I’ve not been very industrious lately.

The funeral is going to be non-religious, cheap and hot, with a cardboard coffin and informal dispersal of the remains. Let “economic dignity” be the theme.

That leaves the catering and the music.

The music is a problem, as I’m very limited in my musical taste, and a lot of it has been done before. On top of that is the problem that the music isn’t really for my amusement and going through the curtains to The Crazy World of Arthur Brown may not meet with Julia’s approval. In fact I know it doesn’t as we’ve discussed it before.

Being serious for a moment, my funeral isn’t really about me. Yes, I’ve no doubt that they will talk about me, share a few memories and, if honest, agree that I did have a few imperfections. Really, though, it’s for the people who are left behind, and planning all the details seems a bit presumptuous. After all, I’m not the one who is going to have to sit through it all.

There’s a site with some favourite songs but most of them are either a bit over-used or too sad for funerals or, let’s be honest, rubbish. I’m not going to set myself up as a music critic, but I will be leaving a list of songs not to play at my funeral.

I quite like Banks of Green Willow, though I also like the theme from The Outlaw Josie Wales. Not saying anyone should play them, but there are worse songs to go out to. When the Angels Sing sounds like it should be suitable, but despite my love of the track it doesn’t really fit with my dull suburban life.

One of the things I’ve been meaning to do is write some better funeral poetry as most of it is fairly dreary. We read one of my father-in-law’s poems at his funeral – a short light verse about senior moments and that was good. One of my cousins had one of his own poems at his funeral, which was a bit more serious, but still better than anything you find by Googling funeral poems, apart from Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.

Anything that talks about meeting later or, even worse, being in another room, is definitely out. So is anything claiming I am like wind beneath your wings, or anything else. The word wind, when linked to me, does not, I confess, lead to thoughts on a higher plane. It’s meant to be a dignified occasion and I don’t want any sniggering during the eulogy.

That’s enough for now, we’ll have to cover catering in another installment as I get nervous when a post gets close to 500 words. I’m a blogger, not a novelist.

 

 

 

Stop All the Clocks

I’m coming up to sixty, I’ve been talking to a man who officiates at funeral services and, on the way home last night, I listened to a radio programme about funeral singers. This would tend to indicate that it’s time to think of funerals.

Apologies to anyone who finds the subject in bad taste, but there are certain things that need arranging beforehand. I’m a bit on the large side, for instance, and the average coffin always looks a bit on the small side. Wicker, apart from its green credentials, has a bit more give if you’re having to pack a fat man in it. Cardboard is probably even greener, and you could probably make your own if you had enough warning. That might be a step too far, though totally in character for my parsimonious nature

I’ve had a quick look and made my first decision. I’m going for cardboard, as they do one of decent size at a reasonable price. You can buy them here on eBay, with free delivery. In contrast, most wicker coffins are only about six foot long and p&p on eBay is £50. You can buy a lot of sandwiches for £50.

I may well shrink with age (if I live long enough) but I’m still currently too tall for a wicker coffin. I don’t think we need to worry about the width just now.

I’d also like to be buried in a natural burial ground, but I’ve just looked it up and find a burial plot costs £600. You can bury one person in it or scatter four sets of cremation remains. The ashes seem more economical but you have to get cremated first and I can’t find a cost for this to do a proper costing. Even Cremdirect want to sell you a complete funeral. The don’t cover the Nottingham area, but if they did I’m not sure if they’d want me, as they say – “Additional costs my apply to oversize coffins in excess of 6 foot 4″ and over 24″ wide”. You could probably fit me into  6′ 4″ as it leaves an inch at each end and you’d be able to bend my knees a bit, but I’d have to check the 24″.

Their cost, as long as you’re small enough, is £2,150. Alternatively, you can have a Nottingham Funeral for £1,799.99. It’s the Council’s modern equivalent to a pauper’s funeral, and there may be extras, including an extra charge for having a Friday funeral. No, I don’t know why.

Nor do I know why you’d trust your funeral to people who have trouble organising basic bin collections.

Part 2 to follow…

A Misty Morning and Thoughts of Mortality

It was, as the title suggestd, misty this morning. Due to Julia’s start time it was also dark, so there was no photo-opportunity. I may try again later.

Mist, which can be a nuisance on a long trip, is always welcome at this time of year because it tells me that Spring is coming. There’s a fine line between yearning for Spring and wishing your life away. and this year is probably the first time I’ve felt this quite so sharply. The last twelve months has made me focus on health, age and mortality in a way I’ve never done before.

It’s also the first year where I’ve been so aware that there’s more to winter than crisp mornings and a nip in the air. This year I’ve had to worry about falling and  the fact that I need to keep warm. O;d people die in winter, and I’ve been feeling old. In fact I’ve been feeling Very Old for the last few weeks as all my joints seems to have turned up the pain setting. If I was youmger I’d insert a Spinal Tap reference here about the pain levels being turned up to eleven. But I’m old. So I won’t.

They used to say that one of the signs of old age was that the policemen were looking younger. That happened ages ago, and didn’t really bother me. My personal milestone, is that Life Peers seem to be getting younger. I’ve added a link for readers who aren’t familiar with the UK’s constitution arrangements but, frankly, it doesn’t help.

All you need to know is that in the old days (basically from the dawn of time until 1958) if you worked hard, did your best and tried to be a useful member of society you would be allowed to wear yourself out and die.

If you added a layer of corruption, politics, back-stabbing, lick-spittling and (often) cash to that , you could become a Peer. In fact, let’s face it, if you did enough of this, you could get by without the hard work, doing your best and being a useful member of society. If you look at the current crop of Peers it’s hard to see many that will be of any use until we have Soylent Green on the menu.  Having lied, cheated and bribed your way to the top you could then pass on your title to future generations of inbred offspring.

All this changed in 1958. After 1958 you were generally no longer allowed to pass it on, and there was more politics involved. Because if you want to improve something, adding more input from politicians really is the way to go, isn’t it?

Getting back to the point, Life Peers are looking younger. To add insult to injury, they also remind me of my lack of success as  they all look sleeker, richer and socially superior to me.

 

 

The Carus Brothers at War (Part 1)

I just took out a subscription to an internet newspaper archive last week and the first task I set myself was searching for some family history. With one branch of the family it has come up trumps.

You may have heard some of this before as I have mentioned it and have used the photographs before. Sorry for the repetition but with new information, and it being exactly 101 years to the day since his death, I thought it was worth another post.

I have many common names in the family but am fortunate in having one branch with the name of Carus. To make things better, they come from Clitheroe – a small town with its own newspaper.

Harry Carus (1887-1916) was my great grandfather. When I started researching him I knew that he was one of a large family, that he’s on the Clitheroe war memorial and that he left a wife and three daughters when he died. He was a chapel-goer, Sunday school teacher and member of  a self-improvement club called the PSA (I believe that’s Peaceful Sunday Afternoon). He joined up as a volunteer and, on his last leave before going to France, laughed when his irate wife discovered that the three girls had found, and mostly eaten, the special cake baked for his last visit.

It had been on a top shelf in the kitchen and my grandmother had climbed up the lower shelves like a ladder before passing down to my Auntie Peggie – second in age and partner in crime.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission gives the information that he died on 10.10.16. He was a Corporal, aged 28, belonged to “B” Battery of the 180th Brigade
Royal Field Artillery. He was the son of H. A. and Margaret Carus, of 27, West View, Clitheroe, Lancashire and husband of the late Ellenor Carus.

This was during the latter, rainy, part of the Somme battle and was probably every bit as hellish as we imagine the First World War to be.

He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, the iconic arched memorial that lists the names of  72,396 Somme casualties who also have no known grave. In a later post I may well come back to the phrase “no known grave” as it’s an interesting subject in itself.

As more details became available from the release of records I was able to learn a little more about him.  He had four brothers and two sisters, worked for a grocer and his last known address is still standing. I have visited it using Google Maps.

The army medal rolls show that he went to France on 28.11.15 and is entitled to the 1914-15 Star, War Medal and Victory Medal. They spell his name “Carns”. His family was also given a bronze commemorative plaque and a scroll. On the subject of names, his wife was Eleanor, so even CWGC aren’t perfect.

When I searched the newspapers I was able to find the memorial notices posted a year after his death, and pin down a couple more family addresses. The family was still together in those days – the remarriage and death of Eleanor  and the separation of the girls was still to come, as Harry’s death continued to affect them in the coming years.

I was also able to find a mention of his death in the “25 Years Ago” column, when it was noted that he had been in a gun pit with six others when a shell landed in it and killed five of them. Presumably this was what had been contained in a letter at the time of his death – my grandmother had always said he was hit by a shell that killed him instantly and left nothing for burial. It’s nice to have corroboration but I’m not sure it’s true, it was just what people wrote home to parents and widows to hide the truth.

That, in a nutshell, is the life and death of Harry Carus.

Poppies

Roadside Poppies

Sad Stories of the Death of Kings (Part II)

…let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings

Richard II  William Shakespeare

It’s time for Richard II now. He was the son of the Black Prince, who didn’t live long enough to be King, though he was quite kingly and was the victor of Crecy and Poitiers, the battles that, with Agincourt, make up the only three battles of the Hundred Years War most of us have ever heard of.

Richard was eventually imprisoned and was probably starved to death by his gaolers. Quite honestly, he had it coming, as he wasn’t an easy man to work with and seems to have gone out of his way to upset people. He didn’t, as I recall,  do right by the leaders of the Peasants’ Revolt , though he was only a boy at the time. Later, he took on the political establishment, was accused of tyranny, and even madness, and was given a bad write-up by Shakespeare. His body was put on display to show he was really dead, and to stop anyone believing the was hope of a restoration.

Henry IV and V were interesting enough, but shuffled off this mortal coil due to natural causes, whereas Henry VI was said to have died (whilst imprisoned in the Tower of London) of melancholy. I’m sure it can be a melancholy place, but let’s face it, he was in there, out of sight and imprisoned by the man who had taken his throne (Edward IV). Several centuries after his death he was exhumed and examination showed damage to his skull and blood in his hair – more a sign of murder than melancholy.

Edward V ruled briefly before being replaced by his uncle, who became Richard III. He is one of the two Princes in the Tower and as nobody knows what really happened (though we all have an opinion) I will leave it there.

Richard III is well known, though mainly via Shakespeare, as is his death and his rediscovery under a car park in Leicester.

At that point we can leave the Wars of the Roses and get on with something a little less complex. Henry VII, who had no real right to the throne, came out on top and died of natural causes. Henry VIII also died of natural causes, unlike several of his wives. Edward VI was sickly, and died aged 15, bequeathing the throne to his cousin Jane.

Lady Jane Grey ruled 9 days, becoming a protestant martyr and making Edward V’s 86 days look like a lifetime, which, of course, it probably was. I know she’s a Queen rather than a ing but it seems out of step with modern views to exclude people for being women. She is the only monarch of the last 500 years of whom we have no proven portrait. I don’t suppose she had the time. Eventually she was executed. For details of how the Duke of Monmouth coped with this problem you will have to read the post Kings we Never Had. I can’t supply a link because I haven’t written it yet.

Mary I, Elizabeth I, James I (or VI if you are Scottish) all had their foibles but died of natural causes, and Charles I has been covered in an earlier post.

Charles II could have died of several things. With twelve illegitimate children it could possibly have been exhaustion. Two of his illegitimate sons had a place in the family tree of Diana, Princess of Wales, which means that when Prince William eventually ascends the throne he will be the first descendent of Charles II to do so.

It could also have been apoplexy or his kidneys, though I prefer the mercury poisoning explanation. It seems that one of his plans for financial security was to turn lead into gold.  He was a bon viveur, but, let’s face it, no financial genius. There was a lot of mercury involved in the process and though he obviously had people to do the work for him, he must have inspected his laboratory regularly and taken it in.

Charles’s last illness shows all the signs of mercury poisoning according to recent scientific examination and analysis of a lock of his hair shows ten times the normal levels of mercury.

William III, who ruled alone after the death of his wife Mary (daughter of the deposed James II) fell off his horse after it stumbled on a molehill, and died from pneumonia that came on as a complication. It was ironic that the horse had been confiscated from a Jacobite plotter. The Jacobites took the opportunity to toast the mole (“the little gentleman in the black velvet waistcoat”).

After that there were 234 years when Kings and Queens just died of natural causes.

That brings us to George V, who seems have been given an overdose to make sure he died at a time convenient for the morning papers. The evening papers, it seems, were not seen as respectable enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What we did on our holidays

You can tell it’s holiday time because the roads are clear, the travelling is easier and there are groups of teachers wandering about dressed as ramblers.

So what did we do on our holiday?

Well, we started by looking at the new bantams and chicks to ensure they were OK.

Sadly there was a dead lamb in the barn. It had been found last night by a group of ramblers, having stuck its head through the sheep netting and then threaded it back through an adjacent square. You couldn’t do it if you tried. In the subsequent panic it strangled itself.

No you couldn’t make it up if you tried. The Farmer had been forced to cut the fence to remove it. That was how tight it had managed to wedge itself in.

Now, I don’t like losing animals at the best of times, and I certainly don’t like losing them to accidents, but this was so random that it is hard to see what we could have done differently.

My first job was to check the incubator and then to look up what a flashing “P” meant. Twenty minutes later I established it was a warning that it had lost power at some point. To be more precise, it had lost power when I unplugged it and moved it. So that was 20 minutes well spent.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It stands for “Power”

Once everyone had arrived we had a good handling session with the new bantams and altered the housing arrangements for the chicks.

We collected eggs, fed the chickens, did a census of the (heat stress has seen a few of the old ladies off recently) and harvested cabbages. We planted Brussels Sprouts (or nobby greens as they are known in Nottingham), made lavender decorations, twisted corn dollies, showed two groups of visitors around (I keep hoping one of them will be an eccentric and generous millionaire). Julia brought what I thought was a small and tender beetroot in from the garden (I say tender but I have no intention of ever eating beetroot). It turned out to be a radish the size of a golf ball and I suspect it will be both woody and fiery to eat.

We also added more photos to the individual pages and did quite a bit of butterfly counting. (You may already have noticed that.)

And we brought the sun-dried peppers out of the polytunnel.

I think that’s all.

Now all we need to do is get the shopping list ready for tomorrow, get set up for yoga, prepare the kitchen.

Number Two son had a broken tooth extracted this afternoon. I wouldn’t normally bring domestic trivia to the blog, but I had to after asking him what time his appointment was.

Yes, it was two-thirty (tooth hurty – the classic joke time!). I tried not to laugh when he told  me.

It’s going to be a bundle of laughs tonight, me trying to suppress my mirth, Julia being motherly and him drinking his evening meal through a straw.