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Joining the Harp and Halo Club

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In his weekly Ward's World column, John Ward discusses attending funerals...

As I started to scribble away on this very thought provoking masterpiece you are about to read, although you may have your own opinion on that assumption of course, the phone warbled into action as news has come that somebody I knew has now taken out full and unplanned membership to join the ‘Harp and Halo Club’ as my mum, of the people for the people, would say.

Slightly shocked that he passed away after ‘a short illness’ I am told, although I was not aware he had been ill as he never mentioned it in recent dispatches but that was him anyway, as everybody else might be ill, not him of course.

Columnist John Ward (56301219)
Columnist John Ward (56301219)

With being so recent, details for the funeral service will follow soon once known as is in keeping with such events.

In bringing my mum’s observation out as it were, she herself together with her friend Jean over many years attended various funerals although in some cases, she or rather they, perhaps didn’t really know the person who had joined the HHC (Harp and Halo Club) as they either lived in their area or were friends of friends but showed they cared. I did take them to one such event as I was on a sort of holiday from work, or had some time owing to me, hence my doing my chauffeur routine as it was a few miles away but in this instance they knew the person as they had moved away from their area a short while beforehand.

Jean explained that the lady’s passing, or rather the timing, was in mere months apparently and I quote here: “It was really surprising and totally out of character for her to do anything like that as she was quite an organised person - she was the secretary of the local cribbage club that met on Wednesdays,” she outlined with a complete straight face.

Both mum and I kept a straight face too on hearing that although mum later said that even being the secretary of the local cribbage club didn’t make you exempt from this inevitable process but I said personally I preferred a game of darts, given a choice. On this occasion being silly enough to act as their driver, on getting to the church for the service I said I would wait in the car, having taken a book along to read but no, I was told there “was room inside for one more” (I assumed she just meant the church) so I slowly followed on but, however, I still had a ‘black tie’ in the car from a previous event which I put on before entering.

I sat in a pew behind mum and Jean – better safe than sorry was my thinking – based on knowing that when they got together anything could, or might, happen in the silly stakes as even funeral services were not considered to be a ‘safe zone’ based on past form with them.

We were slightly early or rather we were among the first of the mourners there as they began slowly arriving as Jean filled us in on who was who as they filed in as she sounded like a whispering, muffled sports commentator at a horse racing meeting.

“That’s her from Regent Street – you know the one, the house with the bay window that is falling down.Her husband works at the carpet shop and drives their van - but to be honest, with his eyesight it’s a wonder he can see the road in front of him, never mind a house number for delivering a rug to,” but did we want to know that? Next up was mum spotting a couple who she knew but not by their name, only by sight, who shopped in the local Co-op branch that she used but Jean thought that the husband had “passed away a few years back” but mum replied if he “wanted to catch up” on the process he was in the right place to get things sorted and best to have a word with the vicar afterwards.

By now the place was filling out with pews and beginning to look like the stands at the local football club on match day but in this case there was no evidence of the aroma of hot meat pies or plastic cups of tea so far.

One person attracted Jean’s eye as she leaned over to whisper in mum’s ear – I knew she was whispering as I could hear it quite plainly a pew away – as she explained who the person was who had just arrived and was surprised to see her there, but why was not gone into.

The lady was well known as her husband worked at the council, doing what or why was not really known but it was rumoured he might never retire due to his workload as he knew, it was said, “where all the bodies were buried” so it was assumed he must work in the local cemetery filing or records department but was so dedicated enough to do his best while being there.

Jean added if he was “caught by surprise” as he also joined the HHC before he had completed his work down here, he would be a handy asset “up there” with his filing skills at knowing where the bodies, celestial or otherwise, were or might be.

However, why he was not there with her was hinted at with the reply he would be hard at work of course or if not most probably “in a meeting” as anybody whoever rang to speak to him during working hours was given this explanation each time as his work in the cemetery department went on relentlessly.It was said he worked hours over and above anybody else there.

Next the guest of honour arrived on the shoulders of four pallbearers as Jean said she would have been thrilled to know what a good turnout she was having with all those there to mourn her, with mum adding perhaps the man who knew “where all the bodies were buried” might be able to get word to her in due course, assuming he was not held up in a meeting of course.

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