If there was ever an argument that might persuade me to move to the vicinity of Newmarket, it would be Southgate’s. I went there this morning to discuss Mother’s ashes. She died six years ago, and after the funeral, which we arranged with Southgate’s, she was cremated. The plan was to have my father’s ashes disinterred from the spot where they are buried, and which I think he would have thoroughly disliked, and mix and scatter his and Mother’s remains together.
In sitcoms, until the advent of Six Feet Under, undertakers were generally depicted as gloomy souls. At Albin’s, South London’s leading undertakers, the mood is upbeat, and when a colleague and I visited (for reasons I shan’t go into here) we had a wonderful time. We also learned that they watched Six Feet Under. I forgot to ask Luke at Southgate’s about the television programme, and I think now I should have asked him if he knew Albin’s, which like Southgate’s is a family firm.
He remembered Mother’s funeral, and Aunt’s; remembered that they came from Northern Ireland and we established that he has friends who live near to their birthplaces. But I was there to talk about the ashes. Or rather to collect them.
Our original plan had foundered when we learned that after all this time (Dad died in 1991) the oak casket in which his ashes were buried would have disintegrated. An archaeologist might have been able to identify his remains from the earth around him, but we weren’t planning to bring archaeology into it.
So we have been thinking of scattering Mother’s ashes around his spot, and adding her name to the plaque. There is a problem with this, at least as far as I am concerned. I don’t live anywhere near the cemetery and when I go there I have no sense of my father. It’s the same place Aunt is buried, but her plot is for a full coffin, and is in a particularly lovely part. I described it here.
So I talked this over with Luke, and we considered the options. We could put Mother’s ashes in with Dad’s. They’d be together, but I still wouldn’t visit often, and I still don’t like the location. We could scatter some of Mother’s ashes by where Dad’s ashes are buried, some by Aunt’s grave and some in Co Derry near where her own mother lies in an unmarked grave, my grandfather never having a headstone erected.
I could take them home and keep them in the airing cupboard with Cat’s until my own moment comes and someone else makes the decision. I am hoping to see Older Nephew tomorrow evening when he may join me at das Boot, where I am now, for supper and a poodle along the river. It’s something to talk about with him.
So in the end I left Mother’s ashes at Southgate’s and drove back to the marina via the villages I have come to know since Mother’s move into sheltered housing some ten years ago. Each road is redolent with memories; hurrying to visit her, taking her out for a drive before her dementia made such excursions things of fear and anxiety for her, my own fears about how she was being looked after. I bought fresh broad beans and garlic from the organic farm, mushrooms and onions from the local Co-op, stopped and took pictures of poppies by the roadside.
This afternoon I made a start at cleaning the non-slip covering on the gunwale which always gets filthy. I am sufficiently encouraged by my efforts to look forward to continuing my work around the prow tomorrow. One of my mooring ropes is fraying, so having managed to get online, I have ordered a new one. MasterB has resisted my invitation to venture ashore, though there’s no one around. I suspect he’ll do the same as last night and try to persuade me to let him out in the wee small hours. No chance.