Coronavirus Diary 87 – Gatecrashing a strangers funeral

As I write this, in the U.K. today is Budget Day. Of course I didn’t want the Budget, being mentioned in Parliament during the last one meant this years was always going to be even worse… and last years was epically rubbish.

I’m in week 113 of this nightmare with work still being at best just half a day a week. My last was on Saturday and ironically the Parliament tour couldn’t happen because of Covid which isn’t the first time that has happened. Irony can be pretty ironic as the saying goes.

The last few days have been particularly tough even by my standards. ‘Everyone’ back to work, going or planning holidays or at least pretending to get the show back on the road.

It was my mothers birthday on the 14th and the 28th is that other dreaded day. I wish she had died on almost any other day as it always seems to be within a week of Mothers Day and she died the evening before Good Friday (Easter) and Easter moves around so you end up having 2 or 3 rubbish days instead of the one if she had just died on November 12th or whatever.

My daily walk today was particularly unusual even for me, oh to have work so I could have a daily 7 pr 8mile morning walk. With spring arriving, so has nature woken up. I often hear woodpeckers and it always reminds me of one of my favourite films, The Colour of Paradise. It’s about a blind boy in Iran. Everyone loves him except for his Dad. He is just the sweetest and kindest boy ever. Being blind, sound is so important to him and when he is in the woods and hears the woodpeckers, he counts the taps on his fingers as if it is morse code so he can work out what they are saying to him.

He is really heartbreaking though as all he wants to do is being with his family but his Dad keep sending him away. Being Iranian it’s got a smattering of religion and it always makes me a little sad when he is crying and he tells his Grandma “God must not love him for making him blind, and says that his teacher taught that God loves the blind children more for their blindness. Mohammad then questions why God should make him blind if he truly loves him more though he is told that God is invisible and is in everything and as a blind boy he can be more intune with things than everyone else.”

It all resonates with me a lot, maybe more as I am blind in one eye (like I don’t have enough issues lol), being alone and Excluded. At the end of the film something bad happens and a white light rests over the body of the little boy, it is uncertain whether he had died, been saved or was finally feeling the love he craved.

I was thinking all this through as I do and got offered a free hot drink by a lady who thought I needed one in the little parade of shops and better than that, some After Eight mints which I haven’t had for years! That’s pretty much a proposal in my books 🙂

So I went and sat on the bench I do most days in the cemetery next to John and Anne who died about 260 years ago. There was a rather oddball man loitering 20 or 30 feet away, well odd enough that he stood out even to me. He was wearing a rather tatty suit and kept scraping mud off his fingers on the edges of old grave-stones and yet he was looking at me like I was the weirdo. I wondered perhaps whether my After Eights was making me marriage material in his eyes too.

I am so not fussy at this point in time!

But then I realised he was what would one time be called a gravedigger. A few minutes later the Vicar arrived with just one or two people in attendance. They were carrying a wooden box of ashes.

It felt disrespectful to look on and yet I’d walked for miles and had just as far back so I did that English thing where you pretend not to notice something eye-catching going on or when someone lets off wind in a lift and everyone stays in total silence as if nothing ever happened. Obviously my After Eights were just beginning to go soft in my hand and the warm sunshine which obviously was a total nightmare on a certain level.

I decided to sit everything out and wait for the service to be over and just as I was contemplating my own Stexit as I so often do if only to get over the awkwardness of it all when things got a little more awkward. I was motioned over to the graveside. I’m not sure if it was thought I was part of the family, I’m guessing not but I decided to leave my hot drink and mints on the bench.

The funeral was for an old man in his 80’s called Jack. Prayers were said and I poured a trowel of soil onto his box. I have no idea who the poor chap was but he used to be a teacher and seemingly was on his own so at least we had that in common.

10 minutes later I went back to my bench. My After Eights were more or less intact and the sun had kept my hot chocolate, hot. I sat wondering what on earth Jack would be thinking of this and then feeling a sorry for him that his funeral was so low-key but also sad for myself and wishing for a hug that would never come.

Then from out of nowhere, the biggest white feather came down from heaven and landed on my knee and for a few moments I was feeling loved.

I’m used to weird things happening to me but I must admit that I’ve never gone for a walk in the woods before and ended up taking part in a strangers funeral.

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including several #1 sellers. I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. I run my private tours company with one tour stated by the leading travel website as being with the #1 authentic London Experience. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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