Wednesday, 21 August 2013

WE SAID GOODBYE to George today. Donning my ancient shiny suit, which hadn't seen service since the last funeral, I tried to remember how to tie a Windsor knot. Retirement has many challenges, but doing the simple repetitive motions which were second nature for every day of forty years of casting artificial pearls before real swine, now has to be thought about. Tie knotted, wife dressed, perfumed and complimented we set off for Friday Bridge. For non-Wisbech folk, there is no bridge, and no-one knows where the Friday comes from, but be that as it may, it has an amazing Victorian church, which sits at an alarming angle, as it appears be sinking slowly into the Fen. Were it in Italy, it would be surrounded by Japanese tourists and the subject of a thousand postcards. Joking aside, there was a poignant symmetry, because it was in this very church that June and George were married in 1965.

The church was full of folk, mostly of 'a certain age', but there were also grateful former pupils, some now with children of their own. The sun shone through the clear glass windows, and a captive butterfly fluttered against one of the diamond panes. Then came the family, and George himself, but from the congregation there were more smiles than tears, because after the organist had worked her way through the usual funeral fare, we heard the unmistakeable strains of The Harry Lime Theme, from The Third Man. George was having a final chuckle, and made sure that at least some of our sadness was blown away by his enduring sense of humour.

We sang Crimond, and All Things Bright And Beautiful, and joined in with prayers and invocations which were lucid and full of meaning, but reassuringly traditional. To the long forgotten strains of 'You Are My Heart's Delight' George was borne away by the pall-bearers and his family, and we emerged into the mid-day sunshine to chat, gossip and catch up with old acquaintances. A fine man had passed from us, but there was an unspoken agreement his that here was a man who, by his compassion, decency and good humour, left the world in a better state than when he came into it.