If the Pope ever came on the television, Auntie Bridie would immediately get down on her knees and cross herself. She also muttered something under her breath which I took to be a blessing, rather than a curse. Although hurling herself up off her knees after this little demonstration probably did necessitate a curse or two, albeit in a stage whisper and with another prayer for forgiveness next. As far as I know she carried on this way, along with her sister, both of whom remain unmarried to this day, right up until the time of her death. In fact one could cite the fact that she was on her hands and knees, again, when she stumbled backwards and broke her hip. The broken hip called for a stay in hospital which, really, was the end of her
The funeral was always going to be surreal. We had to fly from Stansted with Ryanair. I looked around the plane and without exaggeration I would say that we must have taken up two thirds of the ( small) plane. Yes, Mourners a plenty and all on their way to Knock Airport. A few had already started the Wake and ordered a double whiskey. The Hostie was in two minds whether to hand them out or not and couldn’t decide whether to say” no” and risk a small riot or just hand them out and hope they weren’t going to drive afterwards
My cousin, a rather nervous and somewhat lapsed Catholic had brought her fellow who although a Protestant was still a splendid chap. He was going to be called upon to help carry the coffin. Him and a few others……as Bridie was certainly a popular lady. Thing is, he doesn’t know the first thing about a Catholic Funeral and secondly, his height is 6ft 5 which means that if he does end up carrying the coffin, he shouldn’t be at the back if it goes down hill as it may well topple over.
Fast forward to the ” meet and greet” of Milo’s Mini Buses and we all piled into three of them. However somewhere along the line we seem to have got the wrong time, ( well us and the rest of the mourners on the plane) and just as we were pulling into the village we saw the Hearse pulling out. I tried to gesticulate from Row 4 in the Mini Bus to Milo the Driver but he had pulled up at traffic lights. ” FORGET THE LIGHTS!” I shouted “and just follow that coffin” and all of a sudden Milo and his entourage of drivers was scaling through the gears and catching up the main funeral cortege.
How did we get it so wrong?
Milo being a splendid chap and always up for ” a crac” thought that he would try to overtake on some rather serious bends. I closed my eyes and did a fair few Hail Marys whilst the others in the mini bus just encouraged him to go faster. Milo turned and beamed and seemed to like this encouragement but still no sign of the coffin. F.F.S. how fast can a hearse go on country roads, some of them not even made up.
“We’ve lost them” I exclaimed in horror ” Can we go straight to the church?”
“To be sure, I can ” said Milo ( I promise you he really does speak like that) ” but I need to know which Church it is, sure now, I do!”
We all turned and looked at one another. In all of the faffing around, no one had actually found out which church it was. We were doomed. We pulled over to the side of the road and waited for the other mini buses to turn up. Milo got out and had a cigarette and a Pee. Most of us averted our eyes. Aunty Terry didn’t!
Suddenly and from out of nowhere we saw a hearse again. For some reason it had come from another direction. Maybe old Milo had taken the short cut and we had headed them off at the Pass. Milo , ever ready for yet another challenge shot back into the drivers seat and steamed off after them. The plan now, other than there was ” no plan” was to take up our position behind the Hearse and just slip into the Church as if we didn’t know anything. Cousin’s fella who was supposed to be carrying the coffin would hang around outside and see if someone else had taken his place. If not he would take up positions accordingly and if they had he would slip in somewhere at the back. All good!
“It would appear I’m not needed” said Cousins fella. There are already 4 with the coffin so I shall go and sit inside.
In we all shuffled.
Heads down as we didn’t want to be seen to be late and disrespectful and if you recall, there were 3 mini buses of us so its not like we could slip in quietly and those in Mini Bus Number three appeared to have imbibed of the grape, or rather grain, too much already and were singling lamenting Irish Ballard’s to themselves and to anyone else who would listen. Simply a case of ” another sherry Mother Griffin?”
As we walked into the Church there was much incense; wailing ( oh such a lot of wailing) black lace veils and a coffin at the end of the aisle.
However, one thing struck me and then another in the party and then another. Perched on top of the coffin was a picture. I know its not a normal commonplace British thing but something the Irish seem to have copied from the Yanks ( on this occasion, Thank the Lord) And the picture on the coffin was certainly not of Auntie Bridie. Not by a long shot. Not on a good day and in fact not at all. It would appear we had turned up at the wrong funeral!!
Now how on earth could we get out of this funeral without anyone knowing. We also had to ask, yet again, Milo to step on it and get us to the right funeral… this time? We didnt have a clue, but in the meantime, we found a little Bar and planned our next move…