Monday 28 November 2016

Missing the principal

Last week was busy with funerals.  On Monday, we buried the last of my father's generation. He had no brothers or sisters and I wrote about a couple of his cousins a couple of weeks ago. In that reminiscence, I neglected to mention another pair of cousins, a boy and a girl, and the last of these was being laid to rest in the family plot in Co Wicklow. I had to cancel a class instruct the students to "do independent self-directed learning", because we never cancel classes at The Institute. When I left home, I looked at the sky and listened to the weather forecast and decided to leave my father's funeral overcoat at home rather than have something else to keep tabs on. The bright Winter sun slipped behind a cloud 15 minutes later and a cold driving rain came along in its place.Only rain, not sleet or snow and it stopped after an hour shortly before I got to church. Things went fine until we had to go outside for the actual burial: there we were met by a whippy wind and light drizzle and before long my knees were shaking uncontrollably as they fought to maintain core-body temperature. When we were done, I remarked to a distant cousin that, cold as I was, it was a lot colder below ground and so we parted. I couldn't go to the Afters at the local hotel because I had more classes in the afternoon that really needed my care and attention.

While I was getting chilled to the knee-caps, The Beloved was on the high seas going to help repatriate Dau.I after her 5 year sojourn in Egypt England [let my people go etc.]. TB's ferry was the last to leave Ireland on that route because a huge storm was forecast and crossings were cancelled in advance. That was the Storm Angus that whacked Brittany on Sunday 20th November and caused a power outage in 70,000 homes.  But The Beloved made it across the Irish Seas into the shelter of Milford Haven and up against Pembroke Dock on time and in good shape. The parallel Stena ferry was not so fortunate: Fishguard is much more exposed than Pembroke and the captain was unable to dock safely. The passengers spent 23 hours heaving up and down at sea waiting for the wind to die down. Complimentary buckets for all passengers.

The following day, I represented The Institute at a careers fair down the road and got me a free lunch. I was reminded on return that the uncle of my oldest friend was coming home to rest that afternoon. He was as strangely eccentric chap - of horse-riding protestant stock from the Midlands like my own people and he was determined to be buried in the same County Wexford as my grandfather. The fact that he made only fleeting visits to the home place in Wexford and had actually died in Denmark made this desire only slightly awkward. Protestants don't mind being cremated and it's very easy to ship ashes - much easier than, for example, 100ml of shampoo. Indeed the uncle had died several weeks ago and Tuesday 22nd November had been picked a month previously to achieve maximum attendance by and convenience for his extended family. His devoted Danish friends had elected to drive themselves and the urn to the funeral obsequies and had booked tickets on the Fishguard ferry. They had to spend 23 hours in a B&B in Fishguard and missed the funeral! At least they could look out at the storm rather than slopping about in the middle of it. If this reminds you of the story of my father being late for his own funeral, it must be the way that I tell it.  After classes and careers fair I drove the length of two counties to spend time with the family and arrived at the hotel about 30 minutes before the Danes and the leading man. One of the nephews whipped the urn up to his bedroom to decant some of the remains into a separate container. It turned out that not everyone was agreed about where Uncle should be laid to rest and the compromise was a split decision.

And although I'd been fed to the gills at lunchtime, I could hardly refuse to dine with the family after the partitioning was complete. Like many funerals for people who have passed away after a long life, the sadness was mixed with a certain levity as we reflected on the many wonderful tales that had accrued about another Anglo-Irish eccentric.

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