Substantial Refreshments

After the burial it was time to head for the hotel for refreshments. I was going to be in the limo for this journey. Philip, the undertaker, said the car would take us wherever we wanted. Within reason, he added after an infinitesimal pause. I looked at him questioningly. The day before, he explained, one woman had asked if it could take her to the coast. Mind you, he added, if you promise my father (the driver of the limo) fish and chips at the end of the journey he’ll take you anywhere.

We settled for the hotel.

A few hours after Aunt died, Older Nephew looked at the will. Aunt had left instruction that *substantial* refreshments should be provided after her burial. This immediately made us want to know what had caused her to make this specification. Annoyingly, she had gone where we could not follow to find out. My cousin Tom, charged with co-ordinating the family in NI to come to the funeral (a task as easy as herding cats), and a clergyman, laughed when I read it to him. *Light* refreshments, he had seen specified often enough, but *substantial*? This was a first.

We speculated that she must have been to a funeral where afterwards the mourners were offered a meagre selection of crisps and a packet of iced gems. Of course, we shall never know what the real reason was. A death sparks lots of questions and topic of conversations you’d like to have with the person who has just died. In my case, being charged with the arrangements, I shouldn’t have minded a little more clarification about what substantial meant. A number of people have suggested it meant quantities of alcohol, but as Aunt drank seldom and little, and the family in Ireland is almost tea total, I didn’t think that was correct.

After much studying of the menus at the local hotel which was to host the post burial part of the day, I asked them if we could swap some things, exclude all egg dishes when they said (in answer to my question) that the eggs they used were not from range birds, made a decision, and then worried about if I had made the right one until last Thursday.

A quick survey of the mourners decided I had, and at the end of the day, when the hotel staff were clearing up around the family who were the only people left, gathered around two tables pushed together and sharing stories, we had the sense to ask for doggy bags.

If I were to do it again, and that’s not likely, I would say no to sandwiches. They were the only part that disappointed. They had been made slightly in advance of our arrival and refrigerated. The result was that they were a bit dry. Otherwise, the food was great, and people tucked in and chatted. Although I obviously knew my family, and some of the friends and neighbours, there were quite a few people there whose names were familiar but whose faces I did not know. I had had the bright idea of asking people to email their memories of Aunt so that these could be included in the Order of Service.

If you caught the whiff of sarcasm in the adjective *bright*, you were spot on. It was a good idea. The end result made me glad I had done it, and lots of people said how much they liked it, but it was a headache getting some people to write more than “she was a good Christian with a lovely smile”. I felt instances of her good Christianity would build a clearer picture. The ex-teacher in me came out, and some people received returned work, where I pressed them for particular memories, rather like the Point Example Explanation pupils need to remember when writing essays. I mean, saying Shakespeare was a good writer and he had a beard won’t get you many marks in the exam, mainly because it says next to nothing about him. Continue reading

Funeral Arrangements

A telephonic evening after a busy day with a visit to the dentist to repair a chipped tooth. Fingers crossed we have got a date for the funeral, though it seems a long time away, which will accommodate travelling family, church pianist, local council employees at the cemetery and the undertaker’s prior commitments.

It is a bit odd, being a Minor Cousin, to find myself in charge of all this. Tonight after a couple of longish ‘phone calls, I sent an email to my various relatives, and now I wait for the results.

My cousin Tom, who is a clergyman, accepted, with a slight sigh of resignation, my nomination of him to speak on behalf of the family. I just hope the church minister can find someone (someone Aunt liked for preference) to speak for the church community. Continue reading

Willing for Willow

A bit of progress today, conversations with the undertaker, the church minister and the solicitor. Now at last I have some idea of what I am expected to do under the terms of Aunt’s will and funeral plans.

So first up, a decision about the coffin. I think it’ll be willow, or wicker. The sort with the rounded end. With spring flowers, preferably native to these islands and in shades of pink and mauve. So first snag. It’s winter, not many flowers around. Or at least there ought not to be but as it was so mild before Christmas there are some. I am wondering about hyacinths. But if you have suggestions, do step forward now.

In the meantime:

Suffragette colours

Suffragette colours

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Number Not Recognised

This morning I was playing with MasterB and thinking I should call Aunt. These are the hiccough moments. Since she has been too weak to attend her church I have often called her on a Sunday morning. Later in the day I am competing with visitors and the daily ‘phone call with Uncle Bill.

So, a bit of adjustment. MasterB of course doesn’t know she is dead, but he did know Aunt who loved him. He was very relaxed and trusting with her. They met shortly after I got him, and each time he saw her after that he wound himself about her, rubbing his face against her, and making himself at home in her home.

At home

At home


I started to make the Ginger Ninja calendars for Aunt. The first year there may have been just the one. Maybe a second for my Aunt Nessa. I don’t remember now. Six months of Cat, six months of MasterB. Cat and Aunt had a special relationship. I’d say he exploited her good nature. Certainly he recognised her as someone who would give him attention and listen to him. Continue reading

No Matter What

It is the end of the day. We are nearly there. The funeral arrangements have had a sudden enforced change, but we have enough sorted out to feel confident. Mother’s good friend had been working on the first date we had for the funeral which changed within twenty-four hours. Somehow, none of us told him until today. He was going to speak, but now he cannot attend as he goes away on holiday the day before. He and I had a long chat tonight. I don’t think we can arrange an external TV link, but he is going to talk to the minister so that his notes can be part of the minister’s address.Not ideal, but it will mean he is part of the service even though he cannot be there.

Marina Sunset

Marina Sunset

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Clearance and Flowers

Another day ends, and a glorious sunset at a quiet marina. I am tired. Very tired. Today has been hard. Lots of tears when driving. Lots of lurches while packing up her clothes for the charity shop. I bought so many if her clothes in recent years. There was the striped t shirt we got in the Marks and Spencer outlet store at Junction One just outside Belfast in 1999, which she loved and wore and wore. It set us off on a path of stripy tops that she enjoyed for the rest if her life. Her fleeces; plain and in a range of blues, pinks and mauves, with a red one thrown in for colour. Her waterproof is now on das Boot as a spare. We got it on a trip to Long Melford, one of our favourite places to visit. If you don’t know it and are in Suffolk, it is near Lavenham, but far less touristy. Lovejoy fans may recognise it. It is known for its antique shops, and the church is stunning. Continue reading