Sunday, 22 June 2014

Closure by cake

You might have seen my obituary for an old friend in the Examiner a couple of weeks back (see ). No, I have no gig there, I just sent it in because it was starting to look like Bernard's life would not be celebrated the way it should be.
But last Monday I was squeezed on a pew at the very back of a Peel Cathedral packed with both his friends and the island's self-selecting elite for his funeral. Maybe the latter really wanted to pay respect to a genuine Manx giant, or maybe I shamed them into taking a couple of hours out of their pointless lives. Either way, they were there - which mattered to his family and many genuine friends and might have tickled Bernard if only he could have seen it.
I rarely go to funerals. Mostly of necessity, as I have to work, but also because I find the religious variant in particular unsatisfying. When the religious are so keen to stress that death is not the end, just the terminus where the faithful get their tickets stamped for Heaven, you might think they would make more effort with the send off.
For all the pomp and loving use of the Manx language and culture to whose revival Bernard devoted his life, this one just made me glad I am neither a Christian nor a pillar of the community. I am sure it was a moving experience and satisfactory farewell for others there. But to use that awful pseudo-therapeutic vernacular, I did not get closure and could not move on.
It took yesterday and a family day out in Peel to do that. This allowed me to retrace a routine Bernard and I had throughout our shared time on the local papers and magazines – walking out of the office and 100 yards or so up the street to a modest home bakery for cakes, fresh air and mischief.
At 12 noon daily you could have set your clocks by the pair of us ambling amicably up Market Street, trading banter with the bakery staff, then back down to 14 Douglas Street, stopping to look in every window or swapping skeet with everyone Bernard knew, which was pretty much the entire town.
So I did that one last time; some buns from the bakery, then a detour into a charity shop where, any Saturday after we stopped working together and Bernard retired, I could inevitably find him around noon on a chair in the basement perusing the books. Finally, popping my head into a few of the emporiums which officially sell antiquities, Manx historical tomes, local trivia …...or just junk, but unofficially are little more than an excuse for ageing Govags to gossip. In over 25 years I doubt if either Bernard or I spent more than £5 in total in such retail disasters, though I have to admit they did provide a steady stream of leads on obscure local historical topics.
So that was my day. Sunshine, home made food, charity shop finds and sore feet. Less than £10 spent in total but memories recalled of time with Bernard which are beyond price.
A happy era reminisced on, summed up, and finally laid to rest.
Now I really am  ready to move on.

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