|Black Rock Sands|
There seems to be an overarching theme of the departed at the moment: not just deaths of the famous in the news, about whom the less I say the better, but also much closer to home. My mum has lost three people from her life recently: a friend, a family member, and the husband of a woman she has known all her a life and who is, in fact, my brother's godfather. As she said as we stood in the waiting room at the crematorium, 'It makes you wonder if it's worth going home.' Meanwhile, I was pondering whether the positioning of a defibrillator on the wall was at best optimistic.
We were gathered to commemorate the aforementioned relative, my aunt, who was one of two sisters of my late father. She was almost 90, which is a good age, so while the occasion was sad, there was no sense of tragedy. After the brief ceremony, we retired to the cricket club for a Staffordshire wake of mugs of resolute tea and pork pie. As Jessie from The Fast Show might have put it, 'Today we will be mostly eating pig.'
My father and aunt's surviving sister, still glamorous with full pancake and turquoise eyeshadow, notwithstanding her advancing years and diminishing height, held court while gesticulating with a whisky in one hand and a ham cob in the other. As her daughter wryly observed, 'At least she hasn't got a hand free for a cigarette.'
Apart from the circumstances I would say it was a lovely afternoon. I saw cousins I hadn't seen for over 30 years and met people from my aunt's life who gave me a more rounded view of the woman who had been a presence throughout my childhood. Sadly, it had been a while since I had seen her, although we had kept in touch.
One of my strongest recollections of her is of draughty holidays in north Wales where I would be in one caravan with my family alongside another housing my aunt, uncle and cousin. After having spent the day sheltering behind the windbreak on the beach, we would huddle in one van to share fish and chips and a game of cards. Before bed we would treated, if that's the right word, to hot orange squash and Nice biscuits. Thanks for the memory, Auntie Joan.