Published: Tuesday March 10, 2015.
It was a tough, two-day trip for nan’s funeral. I managed about 2 hours in the car before I got bored, and resorted to having a peanut M&M every two miles to pass some time. The CD I have in the car was on loop for most of the journey, mostly because the FM radio reception at speed is pretty poor, but partly because I didn’t have the tolerance for it. I stopped at a service station somewhere around Birmingham, found a tasty-looking tuna and corn sandwich, and was served at the checkout by a cashier with drawn-on eyebrows who asked if I wanted an out-of-date chocolate bar. I politely declined. On my return to the car, the AA truck next to me had just about restarted the battered ’06 plate Skoda, and the besuited driver was explaining to the technician how he hadn’t seen many “Asian-looking mechanics” before.
I arrived mid-afternoon at my brother’s house near Selby, and he showed me to my room. No wooden beams. No wonky ceiling angles. Just a box room, like most people have. His house isn’t the most extravagantly decorated, and it reminded me of how houses are when they’re freshly moved-into. Ideas and potential swirled around a bit. I thought about having a conventional house again, and all the trappings that come with it. We both headed to Leeds Road to see mum and dad. It was the night before the funeral and it was the first time I was in nan’s house without her being there. It didn’t feel too awkward, largely due to everyone else just being OK with it. A lasagne later, talk turned to what I might want to snaffle from the house. A lot of the furniture is being left in situ for the house sale, and the cupboards are mostly bare. It felt like business shutting down, which on one level I suppose it was. I snagged an old BT telephone which might still work. It’s a curio for Jen’s office; I’ll stick to DECT, thanks. Dad had a trial-run of his eulogy, which ran to about 11 or so minutes, and held it together pretty well. I lost it toward the end, which set him off, too. I wouldn’t describe my family as especially emotional, certainly not my dad, but funerals do tend to bring it out in folks, after all.
I didn’t sleep especially well, but chose to have the window open a little to calm my mind. The streetlight outside didn’t bother me, and the background traffic noise was a useful distraction. I forgot to pack a toothbrush, and as I needed to top-up on diesel to power the world’s most fuel-thirsty Volkswagen, a morning trip out seemed to be a good move. Three garages later, I had a full-tank and a couple of toothbrushes. Late morning, we all congregated at Leeds Road again to prepare for the funeral. By 1pm, we were all ready to go.
I took a final walk around the house and grounds of 173 Leeds Road, Selby. At the end of the garden is a playing field, which backs onto a railway line. I remembered the day that, as a youngster, I helped move hundreds of house bricks just to the side of the back gate with my grandpa. I remembered the garage with oily tools, apples wrapped in newspaper for long-term storage and a ribbon hanging from the ceiling so he wouldn’t drive his Mazda too far in and bash it on a toolbox. I also remembered nan’s chocolate layer cake that she used to make whenever we went round. This is the last time I will be at Leeds Road, perhaps even the last time I’m in Selby, and it’s another era of my life that’s ended.
The cars arrived about 45 minutes later and by 2pm we were outside Selby Abbey. I’d elected to be a pall bearer, along with three other members of the Cooper/Bradley rabble. And so, with some precision and deft, we got my nan into the Abbey for the service. There were hymns, prayers, dozens of people dressed very smartly, and it all went according to the service order. After about 40 minutes or so, we carried nan back out to the waiting hearse, and she was on her way to York crematorium. I don’t know what will happen to her ashes, whether or not dad and Helen have a plan is not clear, but the day went exactly as it should. I am told that the post-service cake spread at Leeds Road was a little over the top, but the kids next door at 175 enjoyed it immensely at their party.
I have no doubt nan would’ve been OK with that.