Friday, December 16, 2011
The funeral - service, interment and wake - took place yesterday in Liverpool. About forty people attended, mostly mum's relatives. As the wicked lothario who had carried off the favourite niece all those years ago. I felt a little uncomfortable, but in the event everyone was very friendly towards me, thank goodness. I immediately recognised two of mum's aunts (her mother was one of eight sisters), Dorothy and Rosie, and we had some rare old chats after the funeral. Of mum's three siblings, I knew her "little sister", Angela, at once; she's one of those lucky women who doesn't seem to age. I took at little longer to recognise David and Michael, and had long chats with them as well. .But the surprise for me, and even more for Jeremy and Sarah, was the number of offspring. Aunts had had sons and daughters, little known to us, and those sons and daughters had had sons and daughters. Bewildering and beautiful.
Jeremy and Sarah were magnificent. They looked good in their funereal black, they had organised everything to the last detail and played their part in the service with immense dignity and warmth. I defy any one to stay dry-eyed, especially when the eulogies were delivered.
After the service, I had a quick chat with the vicar, the Reverend Alan Kennedy, himself a scouser with all that that implies - nous, sense of humour, feet on the ground, and as affable as they come. He forgave me for having put the standard AV of Psalm 23 in the Order of Service, when I should have used the sung version, and congratulated me on my children: "You must be very proud of them. You and Irene did a wonderful job as parents". That was the moment when I ceased to be dry-eyed.
Jeremy stayed in Liverpool overnight so that today he can spend a quiet time at mum's graveside. saying the private farewells that he couldn't yesterday because he was so "on duty", making sure that everything and everyone was all right. Sarah and I came back to Ely by train, exhausted but tranquil, knowing that mum had had the "good send off" that she and Jeremy (and I) wanted.
The day was full of anecdotes, and I am glad I had one to add to the collection. Irene's grandmother, the formidable Grandma Holmes, had married off seven of her eight daughters, and was ready to turn her attention to the next generation, of whom Irene was the eldest and the favourite. So when she heard that some fellow was courting Irene, she needed to vet him. So Irene and I went to Platt Farm, the clan headquarters, and I stood, apprehensive believe me, before the Imperial Throne, ie, Grandma Holmes's elevated chair (it had a valance to hide, it was said, a crate of Guinness, but that is surely a canard - they would never have told scurrilous stories like that about Queen Victoria). She had piercing black eyes, appraised me silently for a while, and then motioned for me to come a little closer. Then, without warning, she reached out, grabbed my thigh and squeezed it really hard. She then announced to the assembled clan "Well, he's got good legs anyway." And that was it. I was accepted, or at least not rejected, and some while later, Irene Marjorie Pye became Mrs Allsop. And very shortly after that, Jeremy and Sarah Allsop were born.
Time for a cup of tea and another box of tissues.