Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Into the wild west

As I mentioned in a recent post, we have recently lost our Aunt Elaine to what turned out at post-mortem to be an advanced but undiagnosed cancer. I duly loaded Djangolina, myself and some sombre clothing into the new car for the drive to Cornwall for the funeral.

We agreed with various family members to meet up at the pub next to the church in Aunt Elaine's home village, way down into West Cornwall. We parked, and walked into a curiously empty pub.

"Good afternoon" I said to the diminutive lady behind the bar. "Are you serving lunch?"

Had the place not already been silent, it would have fallen so. She looked at me as if I had just asked the way to Castle Dracula.

"Ooh no m'dear, we bain't servin' vooood t'day. But you can get a pasty at the shop next door."

That sounded fair enough, so that's what we did. After eating through negligible proportions of two enormous pasties, we returned to the pub to get a drink and await the arrival of sundry Byards. As I took a couple of J2Os and turned from the bar, I heard the landlady inform one of the few regulars now arrayed around the bar in wellies and woollies "Thart do be the man what arsked fer vooooood!", followed by murmurs of disbelief and - presumably - suggestions that pitchforks be fetched and torches lit. We then retired to the loos to don mourning clothes.

When we emerged the atmosphere changed dramatically. "Are you here for Elaine?" one of the regulars asked. We assured him that we were. Thus - and I hold this entirely to Elaine's credit - we were suddenly welcome. Before long the pub was fairly full of awkward people in black, looking forlornly out of the window at the driving rain. We had been asked not to sit in the church but to walk behind with the family, which is undoubtedly an honour but on this occasion a rather wet one. The church was packed, a tribute to Elaine's sociability and wide circle of acquaintance.

We heard 'The Helston Furry Dance" (in the original town band version, not the twee popular arrangement - it makes quite diginifed funeral music in fact, in a manner not dissimilar to the opening of Purcell's Funeral Music for Queen Mary) and then The Song of the Western Men. Let nobody say it was not a "prarper job" of a funeral.