They say a week is a long time in politics. I say a week can be a long time in anything. This time last week I was enjoying being warm and dry after a walk in heavy rain; my Aunt Nessa was still alive; I was scraping up some work and had tickets to the theatre on Thursday and to a literary event on Friday.
Obviously I should not have chosen for my aunt to die, and I should have liked to go to both the theatre and the literary event, but it was nice to be in the bosom of my family for twenty-four hours; to lean against the work surface in the kitchen at Cousin’s and chew the fat; tell stories; marvel at Fido’s successful campaign to make himself persona grata in the kitchen and small sitting room; cuddle Westie Boy; and hear Mother’s voice in the local accents.
After the funeral we adjourned to the adjoining café. It is called Reflections. It is the first time I have been to a crematorium with a café on site. What a good idea. No hiatus between service and story swapping; no getting lost trying to follow directions in unfamiliar territory; and surprisingly good coffee. Knowing I should not be home until late, I broke my no coffee after midday rule, and I am glad that I did.
I think I may have said before that talking in my family is a competitive sport. Aunt Nessa’s wasn’t the last funeral of the day, but we were the last out of the café. It had to be. At least ten of us present were blood relatives. There were six first cousins for starters. Or rather nine. But six of us are first cousins with each other, then the other three with each other as well as being first cousins once removed with uncle Bill, and second cousins with the six first cousins, if you follow, and I shall quite understand if you don’t.
Then in-laws, who have doubtless had to learn to hold their own after the baptism of fire and loquacity experienced at their first family gathering. Cousin’s Husband is at an advantage here as his family is no slouch in the talking stakes either. The friends and neighbours were quieter, but they too were far from silent. The staff had to tell us the café was due to close before we reluctantly found our coats; I started to worry that I might not get to the airport in time for my flight; and we found ourselves out in the night and the unexpected rain – it had been a bright sunny day when we arrived.
One of my first cousins present was one I have not seen in decades. You’ll find he’s changed, said my cousin Tom, rather unnecessarily I thought. But I recognised him straight away. You’re Mike, I said. Yes, he agreed, with that look people have when total strangers know who they are and may be trying to sell them something they definitely don’t want. I’m Isobel, I said. He looked relieved and surprised, but it can’t have been too horrific a surprise because he made a point of coming to talk to me later. He has a nice dry sense of humour that I don’t remember from our youth. Some things do improve with age.
And if I mention age then Uncle Bill has to get star billing. Now the the Acknowledged Elder of the Family, he is as far away from a doddery old man as can be imagined. At ninety-three, his days must surely be numbered, but he’s doing a damn fine job of not noticing. I’ll risk posting a picture and hope his wrath does not descend upon me.