Tag Archives: funeral

The Journey of a Life

It was beautiful as long as it lasted – The journey of my life
Farewell my Friends – Rabindranath Tagore

Today we celebrated the life of one of my uncles who died shortly after his 100th birthday. It was, to be honest, a very pleasant day. We set off at 7.30, the roads were clear and when we arrived in Wendover it was everything you would want from a small English town. The Church is light and airy and was pleasantly cool on a day that saw my car temperature gauge reach 33 degrees C. The service was excellent and we saw the memorial cross in the header, pictured by Julia.

It’s just a shame, as we mentioned several times, that we only meet when someone dies. If it hadn’t been for that it would have been a perfect day, with good weather and five generations of the family there. I’ve never had a picnic in a church before, so today’s post funeral buffet was quite a strange experience. I couldn’t, initially, rid myself of the feeling that I was going to be told off by a church official as I balanced a cup of tea and a plate of sandwiches on the chair next to me, but by the end, I was much more relaxed. I managed to spill cream from the excellent scones on my shirt, but fortunately I missed my tie. The tie is now folded back in the glove box ready for the next funeral.

I think one of the kids might have given it to me, as it’s much narrower than any tie I remember buying. This is good – if it had been wider the cream would have fallen on it, and ties are not easy to clean.

Now, a quick word on the wooden cross in the picture. I may have covered some of this before. After the war, as the Imperial War Graves Commission (as it was then) concentrated all the smaller burial grounds into the larger cemeteries we see today and erected the permanent grave markers, they gave the families the opportunity to have the original crosses from the graves of their loved ones. As I interpret the various articles I have read, the families had to pay for the markers to be sent. For many of them, already struggling to get by without a husband or a father, this additional cost could not be justified. Despite this, around 10,000 were returned. According to a website I read this evening, the location of approximately 550 are known. That means either that there are 9,450 held in private hands, which is unlikely, as you would hear about them or see them for sale, or that over 9,000 have rotted, been thrown away or otherwise lost. That is what happens to our history if we don’t look after it.

Of course, you could say that about a lot of things.

More information on Captain Hudson is available here. And here.




Black Tie Number Two Please

Today has been a day of varying fortune. I trimmed my beard on Tuesday night and shaved my head last night. I should really have done it sooner but I hate doing it. There are always a lot of little wisps to tidy up. However, it does look neat and, as haircuts go, it lasts a long time. I will probably touch it up with a razor for the next funeral but after that I could easily leave it a year without needing to do anything to it. This morning I smoothed the beard off and was, in terms of personal grooming, good to go.

Jacket, tie, new white shirt, bag of poetry mags and a notebook and some oranges  and I was ready. After dropping Julia off at work I turned for Newark and the North. At that point I noted that my new route, avoiding the morning rush in Nottingham, was going to be a little longer than I had planned for and half an hour was sliced from my time calculation. There were roadworks on the way, I got stuck behind a wide load and I needed to stop at Wetherby services (not my favourite) as the length of the journey had outlasted my bladder capacity. That all left my planned 1½ hour cushion looking rather depleted, as it had gradually shrunk to 20 minutes.

At that pint the sat nav sent me the wrong way in Knaresborough and by the time i had corrected that mistake I managed to park and beat the coffin to the church by about thirty seconds, putting my tie on as I reached the pew.

It was quite an uplifting service and a crowded church, which is always good. I met a number of cousins I hadn’t seen for years. One of them now lives in Northampton, which will be quite close once I move to Peterborough. I don’t know if you remember the picture of the three little girls with parents in 1915, I did use it in a previous post, well we are the children and grandchildren of the three little girls.

My great grandfather and mother and grandmother and two great aunts.

The children of the great aunts (I met three today) are my first cousins once removed, and their children (I met two today) are my second cousins. I never really knew, just referred to them as cousins, but I thought I should look it up for blogging purposes. I’ve been very fortunate with my family as I’ve never met one I didn’t like, even after gaps of decades.

Another snippet about the day -I got stuck in roadworks on the way back, then behind a wide load again. And, struck by inspiration, I found another black tie when I sat in the car this morning. A little voice said “look in the glove compartment” so I did, and I found my other funeral tie.





No justice, no answers, just a Haibun

I just had a really good rant. I won’t be publishing it, but it has cleared my head. It was all about people whining that they want “justice” and “answers” about the death of their loved ones in Care Homes.  I have news for them – there is no justice, there is just stuff that happens. There are no answers, just opinions. And most of all, there is no point dwelling in the past. Yes, you can learn from past mistakes, but once it gets past a certain point the 80:20 rule cuts in, and you spend a lot pf time going nowhere.

Instead of appearing on TV demanding “justice” or “answers” in relation to the death of my father I will post a haibun today. It was first published in the April 2021 issue of The Haibun Journal.


In John Clare’s Footsteps

a grass cup
five speckled eggs
— my fathers’ hands

Despite social distancing rules, one of my cousins helps me adjust my tie in the crematorium car park. He says that he only wears ties at funerals. It’s the same for me. Dad’s generation, on the other hand, didn’t think they were properly dressed without a tie. We weren’t allowed to see him at the funeral home because of the covid restrictions, but I think of him wearing the grey silk tie my sister provided.

As we wait, I look over the ranks of rose bushes to the fields beyond. The scent drifts on the breeze. John Clare, the Peasant Poet, was born and lived a few miles from here before his descent to the asylum. Our family walks used to take us through these fields, where skylarks scattered us with song. I can only see one today as it rises to the clouds, but, in the manner of the modern larks, it does not seem to sing.

silent in the clouds
— a dark spot




A Funeral in the Time of Lockdown

“The best portion of a good man’s life is his little nameless unremembered acts of kindness and of love.”


It was my father’s funeral today. I haven’t mentioned it before because everyone has their own challenges at the moment and many of you have your own parents to worry about.

However, it’s a significant day in my life, and part of  my record of lockdown.

He died after a short illness, having tested positive for Covid 19 several weeks ago. He was moved from the care home to the hospital as he became weaker and, after a brief rally, died peacefully, without experiencing any of the breathing difficulties reported in the press.

Last time we visited he beat us all at dominoes. He may have lost his ability to remember people, but he still retained his facility with numbers. He was still competitive, too, and retained the will to win that had led my mother to hide the Monopoly board each Christmas was still there.

I will remember that visit, with the sound of a distant TV and the click of dominoes, and my sister telling me it was only a game.

It is a matter of great sadness, but he was ninety one and you cannot complain at that.

The funeral was a strange affair. We could not use the village church because it is closed during lockdown, and simply met at the crematorium for a short service. Numbers were limited to ten, and we had to tell many friends and family members they must not travel, as we want them all to stay safe. There was, of course, no gathering afterwards, which made the whole thing seem incomplete.

There was a list of people who were allowed to attend posted near the entrance. This includes partners, children and grandchildren but excludes friends. If you aren’t on the list, you aren’t even allowed in the grounds.

Our group included three family members and five friends.

In doing this we weren’t actually breaking government guidelines, as close friends are allowed if family members do not attend. Most of the friends attending had known him for between twenty and fifty years and seen him more often than most family members.

It seems that the crematorium is making up rules to suit itself.

Having checked the regulations to ensure I am accurate in reporting, I can also add that the figure of ten people seems to be an arbitrary figure decided by the crematorium, rather than a government figure.

My father loved singing and, in his youth, he had been asked to join a professional singing group but my grandmother had been unwilling to let him go. Sadly, we are not allowed to sing tomorrow as excessive exhalation is considered a health hazard.

The service was available on webcast and a number of people have already been in contact to thank my sister for her efforts in organising a meaningful and dignified service in the face of several difficulties.

It was an uplifting service, celebrating  a life, without being boastful. This summed my father up. He achieved many things in life. Starting from a position of disadvantage, he educated himself in the Royal Navy, worked hard, and won several prestigious awards. He also found time to work for charity, serve in a soup kitchen for the homeless, and stay married for 60 years. My mother, it has to be said, played a large part in his success.

He was known for being blunt, being good company and working hard. Mainly, it has to be said, for being blunt.

As we left the crematorium a large group of socially distancing mourners we lined up outside the gateway to pay respect to another funeral. This is how we mourn in times of lockdown.






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.




The Week in Brief and the Bookshelf Principle

Just catching up on a few things from the

On Wednesday we visited Dave for a Quercus meeting. It was a cheerful time despite the sadness of winding everything down. Once we’d poured the tea, passed round the cake  and discussed our health we watched the Tour of Britain on TV.

Nobody would mistake us for racing cyclists, but it was going round North Nottinghamshire and we were trying to spot places we knew. They had been sprouting yellow bikes and parking restriction notices for weeks so we knew where it was going. I had thought of going out to take photos but I fought off the temptation.

Although it was obviously sad for the participants it was also funny to see two cyclists disqualified for riding on the pavement.

The same could be said of the crash, as they came round a corner in Retford to find that a man with a Blue Badge had parked his car in the way. I am sorry for the rider who was injured, and the others who fell, both for the pain and the waste of all their preparation. However, I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t also funny to watch, even if there was something evil about my amusement.

It’s also an example of a disabled driver parking somewhere despite the danger. People seem to think that possession of a Blue Badge or the use of hazard warners mean they can park anywhere.

On Friday morning I saw a convoy of silver grey Rolls Royces in the mist, some with consecutive personalised number plates. There were ten of them, which tends to suggest that there is big money in the funeral business. It must have been a big family to need ten cars.

Later on Friday I found myself in Retford, thinking that it might be worth looking at the accident site to see if there was any broken glass left. I’m sure it would have sold on ebay. Unfortunately my mind works on the bookshelf principle and I didn’t hold on to the thought.


Do I need to title this “Bookshelf”

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the bookshelf principle, imagine a well-filled bookshelf with no ends. When you put another book on the shelf one falls off the end.

We used to use it (semi-jokingly) when coaching kids at the rugby club. Some of them had very short shelves and even a piece of litter blowing past could trigger sensory overload. As I’ve aged, I’ve begun to notice that my bookshelf has become shorter.

And that was how, when I saw someone I knew on the market, the ebay idea dropped off the end of the shelf.

Sometime this week I also published my 900th post, I think it was Friday but I sort of lost count. Or dropped another book…

Four days in October

We’ve had a lot on over the last few days, including illness, a 450 mile trip, a funeral and  a lack of internet access (I decided not to take a laptop).

None of this is particulalrly interesting, but I didn’t want you to think I’d been slacking.

There were a few points of interest – wondering what they were doing to the stand at Epsom racecourse; watching a buzzard being mobbed by a crow (if one crow can actually “mob” something); adding more to the family history; seeing a parakeet fly over Leatherhead Crematorium; seeing mistletoe growing at a height of only six feet (it’s amazing how it grows straight from the branch – even though I know it has an enzyme that allows the seed to get through the bark, I was half expecting to see roots of some sort), and going round the Royal Worcester Museum.

We could have done more in Worcester, as the Cathedral (which houses the tomb of King John, who died in Newark 800 years ago this year) and The Commandery are both very close to the Royal Worcester Museum. However, it was raining, it was mid-day and it was Saturday. The car parks were full, the streets were busy and we were thinking of home. In other words, I’m getting old.

Final photos are of my tea on Thursday night.  We set off after Julia finished work and got straight on the M1. We stopped at Leicester Forest East services and went to Burger King. Note that the burger on the [poster has loads of crisp bacon protruding from the sides of the bun, whereas mine struggles to reach the edge of the burger.

I will make no further comment., apart from to say that those rashers came from terribly small pigs.