No blogging in July, a holiday month but a busy month.
And I'm glad that the rain was not this Argyll monsoon two days ago, as some of the Swift side of the family gathered in St Helens, Lancashire, to bury my father's ashes in a family plot in the catholic graveyard in Sutton. The priest who celebrated the requiem mass said in his reflection,
"He went from Scotland to heaven via Sutton."
The bald simplicity of that was rather shocking, and wasn't something that I would find myself ever saying in that sort of context, but then I'm not a catholic priest. On a facetious level, a Scot would also observe that such a theologically distilled journey was also a very long detour to get back so close to home, etc. etc.
The whole occasion was quite striking. I have never been to St Helens before, even though this was the place of my father's childhood and adolescence, and he always had a rosy, soft focus perspective of the eighteen years that he spent there, eighteen years that ended with his departure for university (nearby, in Manchester) and also the death of his mother and his entry into orphanhood.
Well, now he has joined Charles and Sarah Swift, both dead in their fifties in the fifties.
Even that was complicated. I suppose I have developed a clergy antenna for 'things-that-could-wrong-at-funerals' and it was twitching like mad as I arrived. After the Scottish party had had dinner with my aunt and uncle, I slipped over to the graveyard to make sure all was well. We had a muckle big wooden casket, about a foot long, which, it transpired, my mother and sister really, really wanted to have buried. I had rather supposed that we would get away with infusing ashes into the grave, pouring them from the urn into a hole. I was used to a fair sized hole for this pouring process. But if the casket was to go in, it might well have to be a bit deeper.
In Lancashire, or in Sutton anyway, it seems that a hole about the size of a tin of beans is sufficient for the resting place of the cremated faithful. Quick call to the priest, then a quick call to B&Q for a shovel, and I dug out a hole in the iron-hard urban earth to take the casket. A couple of inches deeper in the morning (thanks to George my brother-in-law) and it looked OK. All rather Father Mackenzie from the Beatles track 'Eleanor Rigby', I walked away from the grave wiping the dirt from my hands.
All went well, the thurible was swung a little, the asperge did its thing. The priest coped with no questions or preparation beforehand whatsoever with great aplomb and style. The slight oddity of Scottish cords attached to the casket was rather useful, as the family members were able to lower the casket into the rather deep hole with grace and no scrabbling on the ground.
We then retired to Widnes for Marks and Spencer sausage rolls and cups of strong tea.
And it was mercifully dry, in Lancashire, returning a man to his home.
Dr Bernard Christopher Swift, Chevalier de l'Order des Palmes Academique, Requiescat in pace.