I went to the funeral of a family friend this afternoon. He was the male half of a couple who have been friends with my mum for about forty years. Back in the mid seventies, when my parents’ marriage broke up, they were a wonderful source of support to her. The man in question, D, was a plumber. He’d often take a tea break in our kitchen, popping in for a chat with my mum – a ciggy or two and cup of tea or three! He was a very softly spoken man, with a dry sense of humour and twinkly eyed smile. According to family legend he once baby sat for me when I was about four years old. Once he’d read me a bedtime story I asked for another. In all innocence he said:
“How many bedtime stories do you usually have?”
Bless the man, he read me my seven stories.
The weather here was typically changeable today, but the sun blazed down for D’s funeral. The crematoria is surrounded by massive trees. I was early, so walked about for a bit in the graveyard. The graveyard is part of a larger one that was over grown and out of use for many years. The grave stones are largely Victorian and wonderfully varied. Dani and I once went on a guided walk and got shown some of the most unusual: a massive granite one in the shape of a railway turntable, for one of the chief engineers of the London to Brighton line, one with a beautiful white horse for a whole dynasty – mothers, daughters, fathers, sons. It is a place I love to walk. I find the stones, the calm certainty of the place, a very soothing environment. I’ve always liked graveyards.
It is strange to find that my parents’ generation is really old now. Faces from the past call to me and I dredge my memory and realise that I know them. What shocks me is the realisation that I remember those people when they were my age now. They were just ‘grown up’ to me.
Anyway, here’s to good old D, who bailed out my mum on many an occasion when the services of a plumber were beyond the reach of our family purse, who loved to dance, to fish and to have a laugh. I hope that F (his wife of some 48 years) can hold close the happy memories through the darker times ahead.