Thursday 23rd November 2017
I guess I started to realise something was wrong quite recently, finding out that a dear neighbour and friend actually was far much older than I had estimated. Suddenly the reality dawned on me that this person was not immortal, and nor was I. At sixty-one and with my checkered health, both past and present, it registered that the application to extent my own badge of immortality was never going to pass through the fine fins of my letter box.
The second thing, I read on Facebook that my Dads friend had passed away, strangely I had seen Silvia a few weeks previous walking along the roadside looking very tired and out of sorts. I mentioned this to my mate and I went around to see her, all a bit of a nightmare, as she lives next door to my dear Dads old house, that being a heart and gut wrenching experience in its self.
I was greeted with the passion of a long-lost friend, having known her for almost fifty years. Her male companion of even longer was there also, but, somehow, I felt she had things to say but couldn’t in his presence. Enquiring of her health, she shunned it off by shoving a Tupperware box full of rock buns and sweet sugar fruit cake onto me, I asked her to promise to call me. We said goodbye with a huge warm hug and a kiss, all very awkward, and at eighty-one years young and a spinster of the parish, somethings were just still awkward. Five days later she was taken, returned to her maker, marked unopened and still oozing the charm and love she always gave to people, not necessarily for anything in return, I guess she probably was as much surprised as we were, as to how quickly she had gone.
I left early the morning of the funeral, oddly, in her church, she laid North to South in her solid Oak overcoat, adorned with a small posy of pinks from her cousin, the only surviving family member. Behind stood a lectern and yet no sign of an Altar. Inquisitively I’ve done some research since, and as her chosen faith often not furnish a table, however, they do tend to have both podium and lectern instead. Some Ministers walk around wearing Madonna style headsets and microphones. The one who officiated this particular service did not. He had the bad habit of continually tapping the microphone head, it became similar to a routine often performed by a comedian in a Northern Working Mens Club. Most annoying. Of course, during, he reminded us all that everyone had a specific memory about her.
I couldn’t but help the time I first heard her swear, shockingly, just like a trooper I might add. I was only 12 years old and she had no ideas on how to reverse the car into her garage, her driving was appalling, something she admitted to. Often she would just aim it, the car that is, and pray, but still suffered the same problem getting out. The many times we use to hear the car scrape the wrought iron gate all became part of daily life, same routine, get out to inspect it and mutter the same words of “FCUK IT” quite loud. Often I would hang around in the front garden most evenings waiting for her to park the car. When she caught sight I had heard her, she just said “Silvia doesnt swear” and would smile wryly. She was good at that, then simply disappear indoors and return and toss me a fruit cupcake, still warm, in a pleated paper cup, simple. The elephant would be there the same time the next day, without fail.
It was a good idea to get a seat early, as the church was heaving with mourners. As for the wake, it was held in the communal rooms next door. Fresh tea and coffee were served in the finest china, some slight chipping and staining was noticed. I had a modest silent snigger as I helped myself to a good few items of food. A wonderful choice of Ham, then Cheese, and Egg with Cress sandwiches, Sausage rolls, fruit cake amongst other things and of course, a staple of any perfect get together, the famous foil wrapped potato hedgehog with cheese and pineapple sticks. Most of the culinary delights were probably made by Silvia herself and deep frozen as she was a commercial cook, even right up to her last few days, she would laugh at that I am sure.
And a damn good one at that.
This Christmas I shall be one card short. RIP dear friend. x