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1 AN OLD LAND ROVER
5 A NEW JOB AT THE FUNERAL PARLOUR
My wife got a new job last month as a cleaner at the local undertakers. She has an affinity for the morbid side of life and seems to take a comfort in all things dark. All went well for week or so as she did her Mrs Mop impression, cleaning and dusting etc, also a bit of flower arranging which given my wifes lack of artistic talent led to some very unusual arrangements.
Then came the fateful morning when due to illness and holidays the funeral parlour ran short of staff and so asked my wife to “dress” one of the deceased. This entailed tidying the person up i.e. putting a small amount of makeup on etc so that should any one wish to view the body in the coffin it would be presentable. To achieve this undertakers use theatrical makeup as it has slightly more body (get it “body”………… oh well). Although no one wanted to view this particular person it would be good practice for her and should she do well, who knows she could win promotion. My wife rising to the challenge accepted, no doubt blinded by the promise of 50p per hour rise in pay and a black uniform with top hat and flowing satin lined robes.
The deceased had died a natural death at the age of 90. My wife thinking he looked a bit too wrinkly and pale decided to apply a spot of rouge to his cheeks and so she drew a perfect circle on each cheek and coloured them in a deep bright scarlet. The wrinkled forehead was smoothed with a generous application of Polyfiller and his whole face painted in a light brown face paint. The grey eyebrows were coloured with black gloss and the bald head was covered with a piece of red carpet. His thin lips were made more generous by the application of a bright red felt tip pen which ran out half way through so was finished off in a fluorescent green. The hospital were he had died had mislaid his false teeth and so my wife generously donated a pair of fake Dracula teeth she had in her hand bag. (Seems strange just by happenstance she had a pair of fake vampire teeth. Was this the real reason she had taken the job?)
The time came for the funeral but due to the holidays there was a shortage of pall bearers. There was only one thing for it they would have to use the wife, who would be provided with a sack barrow to get the coffin from the graveyard gates to the grave. Or maybe the vicar could lift one end and my wife the other? The boss late for his weekly golf match left the details up to the wife. His parting words were. “Oh by the way there are no cars available either to carry the mourners”.
This was a very progressive undertaker with an old Victorian hearse and a pair of black horses . The problem was that the normal driver was on the sick so his place would have to be taken by his YTS understudy, and so after a lot of effort loading the casket into the hearse my wife and the YTS lad trotted off.
They duly arrived outside the deceased persons house where the mourners expecting funeral cars were told in no uncertain manner by my wife (who always thinks attack is better than defence) that this was to be an old fashioned procession where everyone walked behind the hearse preferably wailing, moaning and throwing ashes over themselves, but in this age of central heating it would just be the wailing and moaning. She then demonstrated how to throw yourself in grief over a coffin. She started throwing herself over the coffin wailing through a loud hailer like some muezzin from a minaret.
“Why? Why? Why”!
Many of the mourners ran back inside the house scared out of their wits.
A person of my wife’s weight throwing herself at the coffin was like hurling a demolition ball into a flimsy brick wall. After a few practice throws the coffin started to splinter at the corners so she thought better of it and just organised them into an orderly line.
The procession started at a slow pace my wife at the front, her wooden leg beating a slow march on the cobbles, with the hearse following. The mourners bought up the rear all wailing and moaning just as my beloved had told them to. All this organising had taken longer than anticipated. The funeral was running rather late and my love wanted to get home for tea and Coronation Street. The procession started to increase speed as my wife started to ‘up’ the pace her wooden leg beating a faster tattoo on the roadway. Very soon the fast walk became a trot, the mourners where beginning to tire and soon what was a tidy throng became a long straggling line as the old and infirm were left behind gasping and wheezing in the road. The horse driver on the hearse was also finding it difficult to keep at this pace because for the horses it was neither a walk or a canter. The horses fed up with always doing a slow walk decided for themselves that it would be a canter; they started to catch up with the wife who hearing the beating of steel clad hooves on the road behind her getting closer, sped up a little. The horses seeing this also upped the pace soon the whole procession was hurtling down the high street, the problems started when they began to hit the speed humps. Horse drawn hearses do not have the best suspension and this hearse being over a hundred years old had very stiff springs. At each speed hump the carriage hit the rise and was thrown into the air to come crashing down on its rickety wheels, this did nothing for the coffin as with each bump this too became airborne hitting the roof of the hearse and coming crashing down onto the floor. Soon the hearse started to disintegrate leaving a trail of glass, wood and black feathers down the road. This debris was also causing difficulties for the mourners who now had to run an obstacle course.
My little Zola Budd at the front was oblivious to the carnage behind her, all she could hear was the heavy breathing and hoof beats of the closely following horses, she, now tiring decided that enough was enough and veered off the road into the Co Op car park hoping the horses would carry on. Despite the desperate rein tugging of the now terrified horseman the horses followed her, their goal seemingly to trample her underfoot. Or maybe just lick the salt from her now perspiring neck, who knows? After one circuit of the car park my wife decided the only way to escape was to go into the Co Op this she did and the horses followed. By now the coachman had chosen the easy route of jumping off, slightly injuring himself on a pile of shopping trolleys lurking in the corner. The doors of the shop being only seven foot high ripped the top of the hearse off as it passed through, the wife threw herself under the ‘nearly out of date yellow sticker cabinet’ as the horses now at full gallop ran up and down the aisles scattering shoppers and shelf stuff like confetti, that is until they came to the vegetable section where on seeing the apples they screeched to a halt sparks flying as their iron shod hooves skidded along the tiled floor. The coffin though carried on, flying through the air landing in the pizza freezers. An eerie silence descended upon the shop the only sound being two, out of breath horses, munching their way through a heap of Coxes Orange Pippins.
My wife crawled from underneath the cabinet and went in search of the coffin. When she found it she heaved the coffin onto a shopping trolley which was sheltering nearby and marched out of the store, there was a job still to be done. The mourners by this time had arrived at the car park entrance to be met by my wife, her black hat slightly askew, coming out at a dignified pace with the coffin on a squeaky wheeled Co Op shopping trolley,. As she turned and walked towards the cemetery they followed her silently, many with muddied and torn dresses or trousers still recovering from the obstacle race up the high street.
My wife wheeled the coffin through the gates to the grave side and as the horrified mourners silently looked on she tipped the box into the grave, it went into the soft earth standing upright, very slowly it started to topple over crashing into the grave, luckily in the correct position and right side up. The only problem being that the lid of the coffin came loose and slipped down to reveal what looked like a badly painted shops dummy. The rough journey had done nothing to enhance the corpse’s looks as most of the makeup had smeared and the red rug wig had slipped onto his upper lip to look something like a walrus moustache. The Dracula teeth had also dislodged and were half out of his mouth. Various mourners screamed or fainted, a plucky fellow even ran off to get a wooden stake and hammer. Was this Uncle Harry, Dracula or Coco the Clown? My wife jumped down into the grave and quickly kicked the lid back on hammering in the nails with her wooden leg. Hopefully no one had noticed. The vicar standing at the head of the grave stood in astonished silence franticly crossing himself wondering at the meanness of people who did funerals on the cheap only paying for one pall bearer and no hearse, and also dressing in their tatty garden clothes. What was the world coming too? And he wasn’t too sure but he could have sworn the corpse had fanged teeth, was it really dead? He would keep a careful eye on this grave over the next few nights.
On her return to the funeral parlour my dearest was told that although they could not fault her enthusiasm she was a tad too progressive for their liking and told politely that her services were no longer required.
She is now thinking of hiring herself out as a professional mourner, and is practicing her wailing and moaning using flour** instead of ashes, and also perfecting a technique of throwing herself over coffins without demolishing them. She is also offering her services as a clairvoyant, saying personal goodbyes directly to the deceased from the mourners at the grave side........well those willing to pay.
**There is a clean joke ( note clean) about the dead and self raising flour but I have forgotten it. Maybe a reader could help