The accidental finding

By woodpeckers

Fourscore years and ten

My former landlady, JB, was 92 when she died. Her funeral was held today, in what is now her son's garden.

A hot, hot day it was, and on arrival at the Scout Hut gate we were directed to wait in the shade. Chairs and water had been provided. The 'audience' was mainly made up of women of a certain age (omg, I'm one of them now) wearing flowing colourful cotton garments. I recognised former friends from several decades ago. Others were not there: maybe the heat was too intense, or the deceased lady's departure from the Quakers had upset some. I don't know.

We were summoned at last to the the garden* (when I was a lodger, this served as the vegetable plot tended assiduously by the old man, J's husband, who died 18 years ago). There we found that a grave had been dug and JB's body was tightly wrapped in a shroud (for shroud, read tartan travelling rug and other coverings) placed on a willow pallet over the grave. I have not seen a burial without a coffin before. I was surprised and moved to see how small the human body becomes after life has ebbed from it. Even swaddled, it was tiny.

We shared some words of memories of J, after a Quakerish silence. Then J's body was lowered, with assistance from the funeral directors, and we all had a chance to scatter a handful of earth and some roses into the grave. I found this ritual simple and profound. J's husband E was buried in the same garden 18 years ago, and his grave is marked. Although I did not attend that burial, I went his memorial the same day at the Quaker meeting house in Nailsworth, during a similar heatwave. Now the two of them lie side by side in the garden near the house and larger garden where they were shappy for many years.

Afterwards, there was tea on the Scout Hut lawn, and more memory-sharing in a formal circle of chairs. By this time, I'd been adopted by the former Mayor of Stroud, an octogenarian green called JM, who is an anti-vaxxer. He is deaf and had mistaken me for a kindly person who could translate for him. We ended up taking sandwiches together, sitting on the bank. His considerably younger wife had left, and instructed him not to get into an argument with someone that he believed shouldn't have been there. I also feared this other guy, because he was briefly one of my two Stroud stalkers (yes, I meet the crazy guys). Anyway, I stayed with JM and tried to keep him off the subject of the disliked man ( did JM call him.a Nonce or a Ponce? I can't remember, but strong words were used). JM is very interesting, even though I don't agree with all he says. He has never been jabbed in his life, he claims. I'm of the post war generation that was jabbed routinely. I walked JM to the beginning of his street, and took myself home, wilting.

* This garden is geographically separated from the garden of the house that J and E used to live in, and belongs to their sons now. It will never be sold on to anyone who does not know that two old and independent-minded people are buried there.

Before the funeral, I'd already had to spend the morning cleaning the nursery with my workmates but chose to spend a lot of time working alone as I know I am tired and will get angry if criticised for doing something 'the wrong way'. (There are too many chiefs in my workplace, and one of them loves to rearrange the furniture on the last day. Even the day before national lockdown last March no kidding, she was at it!)

Talking of lockdown, one of my small charges is now self isolating, so I didn't have to go to my afternoon job today. I found out that I've also been near a person, for several minutes, at another job, who has now tested positive for C19. She was wearing a mask, and we were outside, but it's a worry. I shall do daily tests, and stay away from the childminding job the one where the five year old is self-isolating, until after the weekend markets. Fortunately the parents will still pay me. The cracks are beginning to show in our new found freedom. Don't say 'I told you so'.

I already have.

Oh, and I did a little experiment at work. Mentioned Dominic Cummings and his recent revelations about BJ's seeming willingness last October to let the over-80s die. I was only testing the water, but I might as well have lit the Trueblue touch paper! I retired unscathed but in need of a drink of water Thank goodness for a break from colleagues. Give me a sporting young thing or an old doddering politician any day of the week. I don't do Daily Mail.

Oh, and the image? It's a wild teasel. I couldn't take a snap of the home burial, much as I would have liked to. It wouldn't have been appropriate at all. I've tried to capture the flavour of the event in words, instead.

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