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Called up yonder

  Mon 1st December 2014

The people from the particular flavour of Evangelical Christian religion in which my Dad was a Minister for over thirty years arranged a funeral that was much more personal and knowledgeable of the deceased than many. My brother, who is still in the God Squad, did a most impressive oratorical exposition of Psalm 23, full of rhetorical devices in his speech and gestures. Overhanging the ceremony was the reason Dad lost his job and his (our) house -- his affair with one of his congregation, about which one can never speak.

One of my other brothers, and my sister, gave a short reading. This was mine.

My Dad didn't have the easiest of starts in life and it didn't get a great deal easier as time went on. Dad didn't find the outgoing, social game an easy one to play, but he did well under often difficult circumstances. The two ways I remember him dealing with this were first, by using his strong work ethic, exemplified most clearly in his going to London, friendless and homeless, receiving no help at all in doing this for his family.

And second, through his sense of humour, which was very English, located firmly in his delight in the absurd and the endless fascination we have with class difference and awkwardness, along with a pleasure in physical humour – which struck my next eldest brother quite literally one Christmas Day. Dad stood in the middle of the living room energetically swinging a key around on a yard-long piece of knitting wool. “Wouldn't it be a pity,” he said, “if this flew off and hit someone” – a couple of seconds before the key unleashed itself and shot towards [my brother], hitting him just above his eye.

Earlier this year, it was a pleasure to see my Dad on fine form at his and Mum's Golden Wedding celebrations, which was a day he clearly enjoyed – with all the extended family and one or two recent acquisitions from the online mail order catalogue.

Whilst it wasn't planned that way, I am glad that is those memories of that afternoon, seeing my Dad happy, relaxed and contented, that will stay with me from one of the last times I saw him.

Afterwards in the short service at the crematorium my brother produced three last letters from Dad, which, he said, he hasn't been able to read yet. Every time I attend a cremation it seems more repellent. You claim to love someone, then at the end you put them in an oven and burn them.

Then it was back to the hall where the local ladies had put on a tea. Mum bore the day well and my Dad's sister is staying with her for a few days. I got sat opposite these incredibly attractive two young sisters, the daughters of a friend of my Mum's, all black minidresses and diaphanous tops; but unspoilt and easy talking.


Me and Trina managed to get off for the evening and had one of the best pub nights out I've had in ages. People in the Northeast seem to have a confidence, or perhaps a carelessness, that you don't find so much in Lancashire.

In the first pub, we got talking to Ten Ton Tessie and her even fatter husband and sister-in-law. Next onto a brilliant couple of hours in Wetherspoons, where we got talking to a couple at the next table, for a woman with a pint is always going to be a conversation starter. They were both CAMRA members and recommended a nearby pub renowned for its ale, in which we became counsellors for a bloke who didn't seem to be sure whether he was going out with a girl who came and sat with him for a drink.

Trina went to get us another couple of pints. The barmaid, gesturing towards me, said "He's really into his real ale isn't he?" and presented her with a tankard for me. It was just a promotional thing that they had left over from Greene King, who brew real ale which tastes like diluted handwash, but it was a nice gesture nonetheless.

Next day all the family and friends (but not, unfortunately, the tightly-outlined sisters) went out for dinner. One pint and I was giddy, rewound from the previous night. We left that afternoon, since we were going back the following day to Huddersfield, for a full afternoon of the complete string quartets of James Dillon, a composer who Trina said looks like Frank Zappa dressed as Charles I, although I think the resemblance is more to 80s funkster Rick James. Great music though.

James Dillon

Rick James

10 comments

Comment from: smallbeds [Visitor]

K. and I are thinking of you, Looby. And well done with that oration: it’s a lovely vignette of the man.

Mon 1st December 2014 @ 18:30
Comment from: [Member]

Thanks JP, that’s lovely.

Mon 1st December 2014 @ 18:37
Comment from: [Member]

a nice remembrance for your father - i can see that it was heart-felt, and that you didn’t lie.

Cremation ceremony? In the UK you ATTEND the BURNING of the CORPSE?!?!? That is an alien concept - here we let the workers at the crematorium handle the messy bits, and we are handed an urn full of dust that we are told used to be our beloved. It could be from the janitors ashtray for all we know, but we are not invited to the actual torching of the body!

Tue 2nd December 2014 @ 03:31

Had you spoken of your dad’s crisis before? I don’t recall and it’s certainly something I’d remember. The spirit is strong but the flesh is even stronger. That’s how it’s always been and always will be.

I didn’t attend my dad’s funeral. I wonder what people said about him? I’ll have to ask my sister.

Does cremation lessen a love for someone? How is throwing them in the ground and pouring dirt over them any different? Seems the practical way to dispose of a dead body to me. It’s what we did to my mom and what’ll be done to me. Scatter my ashes in Manhattan.

I had to Google CAMRA. A cause I can support!

Tue 2nd December 2014 @ 11:43
Comment from: [Member]

DF: No, sorry perhaps I didn’t make it clear. They’re in the coffin while you do all the hymns and so on and then they get moved beyond a curtain to be burned (silently, probably later, when you’re not about). Then like you, we get the ashes (which as you say you, could be anyone’s) I find it a revolting and violent custom, and regret the fact that it has become inexplicably popular since WWII.

Exile: Yes, I’ve mentioned my Dad’s decline before, in the entries called untuned and Yea though I walk through the valley of disco for two.

Burial is gentle, respectful and much more environmentally friendly. As it says on the website of the place where I’ll end up, Cremation “pollutes the atmosphere with hydrochloric acid, hydrofluoric acid, sulphur dioxide, mercury and dioxins, which even in very low concentrations can cause cancer and other illnesses.”

Have a look at their website and tell me that is not a lovelier and more harmonious place to end up that an oven.

In the earth, you will be eaten by little insects and simple animals, which in turn will be eaten by others to form their mouths and wings, and you will literally have eternal life, in all sorts of other animals’ bodies.

Tue 2nd December 2014 @ 12:36
Comment from: Furtheron [Visitor]

Isn’t one of them Robert Plant on the weekends too? This is why the Led Zep reunion isn’t on he is being 3 people at once.

Hmm… a friend of mine had a green woodland burial. However for me - I remember watching some timeteam or something where they dug up a bunch of graves, in one of them the skeleton was all hunched up and on the underside of the coffin lid there were marks clearly indicating that this one had been buried alive. The archaeologist made some comment that this isn’t that unusual. So… given a two floor journey in a lift can give me the willies since then I’ve made it abundantly clear - burn me!

Wed 3rd December 2014 @ 13:59
Comment from: [Member]

But that was donkey’s years ago, and it is infinitesimally unlikely to happen today. If you’re worried about that you should reject cremation on the grounds that the oven will conk out and leave you half burnt.

Wed 3rd December 2014 @ 14:17
Comment from: Suzy Southwold [Visitor]

Furtheron - some Victorians used to be buried with a little bell in the hope of someone hearing them if they were buried alive. Others used to stipulate that an artery was cut beforehand.

Personally I’d wake up underground than in an oven any day, but as L says it’s really not going to happen these days.

Thu 4th December 2014 @ 07:43
Comment from: Julie [Visitor]  

You know, there is a company in the suburbs of Chicago that will take the ashes and compress them into diamonds for you…

Wed 17th December 2014 @ 16:28
Comment from: [Member]

The ways firms earn money nowadays! Who thought of, and sold that, I wonder.

Thu 18th December 2014 @ 00:33


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