Friday, 4 March 2011

The Irishness Of It All - In England Too

"All you are is a professional funeral goer," a friend once said to me.

I cannot deny it. I do tend to go to a great many funerals. Not that I want to. It is the downside to knowing so many people and feeling my Celtic side rising inside me and feeling that strength in numbers and 'being there' is the best way of giving a fraction of support. I've not yet resorted to reading in depth the website -, though the blog is interesting if a little morbid reading, with articles such as 'Afore Ye Go', 'Grief Memoirs' and 'Roundup'.

I'd prefer, in a perfect world to never have to go to any funerals at all.

This week there have been two. Equally moving in both ways. One was a village affair, where the local character was much thought of and the whole region turned out to pay their respects. The other was extra special. It was an elderly person who exuded warmth, fun, interest and caring, who meant a great deal to me. The family are equally genial and I would have traveled to the ends of the earth to say goodbye.

As I trudged up the hill from the station, through the flat countryside which reeked of manure and a mixture of badgers' and foxes wee wee, past the vast quantities of litter on the muddy roadside, I was met by one of the family outside the church.

"Oh hello, Big Foot," he said warmly.

That set the scene for the rest of the day. "Mother remembered your Size 15 feet," said one. "It was a part of her inspection tour of my house," said another, "when she came across your shoes she would always say to the other person, 'and LOOK at those shoes."

As funerals goes, this was the warmest yet. There was Irish blood running through the family and it was in effect an Irish wake in England. A rare and wonderful occurrence.

"Have you heard the joke about the Irishman and the eleven Englishmen," said a person, referring to the great Irish victory over England in the World Cup Cricket.

"Having seen everything today," said the priest, "I must say I am very proud to be one-eighth Irish.

Danny Boy was played in the church. There was whisky flowing at the reception. The day was sad but uplifting. A perfect send-off to someone who was loved by everybody.

I headed back to the station with a sense that I must enjoy every second from now on.

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