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the graveyard shift

15 December 2011

My wife’s gran, Dorothy, died last week. Sitting in bed, drinking a cup of tea, at the age of 91.

On a list of ways to go, it beats getting burned to death in a blazing inferno caused by a volcanic eruption, being inadvertently strangled during a butt-naked sex game, plummeting to your death thanks to a faulty parachute while sky-diving off the top of the Burj Khalifa during the course of your Mission Impossible type duties, or a fatal attack by killer penguins while filming Frozen Planet.

(On that list, Dorothy was really only likely ever to die while drinking a cup of tea.)

At the funeral in the north of Scotland this week I was one of the chaps tasked with lowering the coffin into the grave. It was my first ever coffin-lowering assignment. There were eight of us holding cords. In a ‘How TV Ruined Your Life’ kind of a way, I expected the minister to be saying some stuff about God or whatever as we lowered the coffin, so anticipating being in for the long haul I surgically wrapped the cord around my hand.

As a consequence, when the Incredible Captain Grave Master immediately instructed us to start lowering the coffin, I was caught somewhat off-guard, the very future of my hand very much attached to Dorothy’s future. As the coffin dropped I had to bend down along with it. Outwardly I remained the perfect picture of a composed and responsible adult, a letting-a-coffin-down mature type bloke. Inwardly I was screaming holy mother of suffering fucktoid! and could see myself plunging into the grave after Dorothy, possibly taking at least two or three of the other chaps with me.

As far as I knew there was no one filming the event, but generally in life it’s best to work on the basis that someone, somewhere is filming, so it was inevitable that there was at the very least a phone trained on me at that moment. I envisioned myself on You’ve Been Framed or Harry Hill’s Whatever It Is, laughed at by millions, a main news item on Yahoo under the headline Watch As Total Doofus Fucks Up Ceremony in Hilarious Grave Plunge, and generally held up to the opprobrium and ridicule of billions of people around the world.

And then I managed to untangle my hand and was able to straighten up. I never did plunge into the grave.

No one noticed. And when I say ‘no one noticed’, the only person I mentioned it to was my wife and she had noticed. So, in fact, 100% of those polled had noticed.

Maybe the other seven were all thinking, ‘Shit, he’s bending down… are we supposed to be bending down… maybe I should bend down…’ More likely they were thinking, ‘Rookie error, what an idiot. Tell you what though, I’m adding him to the list for my burial, it’d be flippin’ hilarious if he fell in. Wonder who he is.’

If I’m ever asked to lower a coffin into a grave again I’ll be ready, although I may already have failed the audition.

Everybody dies, but getting to 91 and having the end come when you’re sitting comfortably in bed with a cup of PG Tips is a pretty damned good way to go. She was mad as a box of frogs Dorothy, and now there’s one less Scottish person in the world who regularly uses words like ‘muckle’ and ‘fleckit’ and who talks about doing ‘wee jobbies in the garden’.

Today, in her honour, we should all go and do a wee jobby in the garden.

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