Some years ago, when I owned a business, when I employed people, occasionally an employee would die and as befits a Gentleman of my status its only right as their employer that you go to their funeral – and thats where my problems started.
Take Maurice for example.
Maurice was a sales representative in my employ, he lived in Hull, we had a service engineer from Hull too, Dennis, the tourettes engineer, I’m sure you remember him, well he gets involved later as well, but for now we have Maurice, a 61 year old sales rep in my employ.
I never saw Maurice with his tie un-straightened, never saw him without a gleam of polish on his shoes, never saw a crease in his suit, in short he dressed immaculately and as a sales rep he was very successful, introduced himself to customers as “Maurice, as in Chevalier” to which the young receptionist or telephonist would reply “Eh, who ?” or more likely they’d call their boss and announce “Maurice Chevalier in reception for you Mr Jones” while Maurice waved his hands and tried to interrupt, “No, no love, I’m not Maurice Chevalier” to which they’d reply “But I thought thats what you said” and on and on…
Anyway one day he died.
The day before I went off on a short holiday I got a phone call from his wife to say that he’d slipped and fallen the night before when taking his dogs out for a walk, he’d broken a leg and was in the Hull Royal Infirmary, I wished him well and said I’d call in on him when I was back from holiday.
Got back from holiday and Margaret our Receptionist/Hitler said “Maurice is dead”.
“No” I replied, “Maurice has broken his leg, I spoke to his wife”
“No” she replied, “He’s died in hospital”
“Margaret” I replied, “no-one dies of a broken leg these days”
“Well they do in Hull” is all she said.
And so a week later I went to his funeral at Cottingham Crematorium, I arranged to meet Tourettes Dennis there, remember Tourettes Dennis, can you imagine taking someone with Tourettes to a funeral – a whole different story.
So the funeral was at 11am and I was a bit late when I arrived, in fact everyone had gone in the crematorium and the hearse was just arriving at the gate as I got out of the car so I scurried in the door and took a seat at the back, looking down the aisles to see if I could see Tourettes Dennis but I couldn’t, he was the only person that I’d recognise at the funeral because of course I didn’t know anyone from Maurices family at all, couldn’t see, or more importantly, hear Tourettes Dennis at all – anyway just then the music started and the pall bearers carried Maurice’s coffin in, so I sat politely and waited.
You know pretty quickly if you’ve got the right funeral or not, the first clue is usually the flowers on top of the coffin, if they spell out “MUM” like these ones did then you’re pretty certain that its not going to be Maurice in the box, not unless there was something he was always wanting to tell you anyway, the second clue is when the vicar stands up and starts the service with “We are gathered here to say farewell to Noreen, dinner lady of this parish…” its then that the sinking feeling in your stomach starts and you realise that you’re at the wrong funeral and thats the reason why you can’t hear Tourettes Dennis down the front interspersing every vicars sentence with “FUCK!”.
So what do you do – fortunately you’re sat on the back row so you could sneak out, but the funeral director shut the doors behind him and he’s now stood there reverently, head bowed, hands clasped in front of him, you’d have to ask him to move to get out, maybe have to explain why you want to leave after just one sentence of Noreens eulogy, thats not very polite is it ?
So I stayed, I stood up when the vicar said to stand up, I sang/mumbled a hymn or two and mimed my way through the Lords prayer and then Noreen slid serenely through the curtain and the weeping relatives made their way down the aisle and the funeral director opened the door and I waited for everyone to leave before exiting myself into the morning sunlight.
Someone shook my hand, thanked me for coming, asked if I was going back to Noreens for a sandwich tea, I blagged my was past them with sombre face thinking all the while of where the hell Maurices funeral was and at what time was it, I was sure it was Cottingham but it can’t have been 11am, or maybe Noreen was running late, or I was running early…
Finally after shaking hands with everyone, some of whom stared at me with a “Who the fook are you” expression and after explaining to those who asked that I was a work colleague, some of whom were just about to say “Well I’m a work colleague, so who the fook are you ?” before I broke free of their handshake and moved on through the crowd, I found myself in open space and headed across the car park towards my car and safety – and thats when I saw Tourettes Dennis standing next to my car and staring at me with a very confused look on his face.
“Hup-fook, thats a, fook, coincidence isn’t it, fook ?” he said in his own inimitable way.
“What is ?” I asked
“You, hup-fook, knowing someone else who, fook, died in Cottingham this week”
“Dennis, one day I’ll explain it all to you …”
Maurice was up next so Dennis and I went into the crematorium and I sat in the same seat that I’d just vacated, and bugger me if it wasn’t the same vicar hosting Maurices funeral too, the look he gave me as he walked in could have curdled milk, they must get some right wierdo’s in Cottingham, serial funeral attendees.
I knew we’d got the right funeral though when Maurices coffin arrived to “You ain’t nothing but a hound dog…” with a pair of blue suede shoes on top of the box.
Noreen just had flowers, Maurice had Elvis to walk in and out to.
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