Doesn’t time fly? It only seems a couple of weeks ago when I was 40 and running around Manchester, at the height of my powers, worried about nothing and scared of no-one. Happily married with at that time four children and starting to realize that there was still a long way to go in life. As I said that seems only a couple of weeks ago when I was 40. This week I am 64, still happily married thank God, but with an extra two children to manage and three and a half grandchildren to consider but not now at the height of my powers, worried about everything and scared of a few and starting to realize that if those 24 years went so quickly, I should probably be dead by the time March comes along, having lived to a very grand 88 years of age. Doesn’t time fly? My first 18 years felt as though it was a tortoise propelling me, the next 46 was by Concorde.
I am telling you this because I just wanted to warn all you thrusting 40 year olds out there that you have only just got two weeks to go before retirement, so if there is anything in your life that needs improvement, get out this afternoon and start the process. The Queen (or possibly King by then) and her £200 per week is nigh, prepare yourself for a humbling experience. For you people have possibly noticed how the population prostrates themselves before you, in two weeks time they will be spitting at you and kicking your arse.
Here is me making plans for you vibrant ones and what I should be really doing is making plans for myself because that chronological equation tells me that I have only two weeks myself. So what do I want to happen to the former me in that first week of March.
Well for a start I do not want some hole in some dauby hillside, I want to be as free as a bird, I want to be able to fly like I did in my twenties, I want to be scared of nothing, I want to feel the sun on my back and the wind in my hair. I want to be cremated. A much more civilized and a much older way of saying goodbye, than a hole in the ground. The folk round here were burning their lifeless ones 5000 years ago so it is not a passing fancy. Also I am remembering the words of the old Tipperary priest, Fr. Denis Maher I think is name was, parish priest of St. Paul’s in Hyde, Cheshire, who speaking after Dr. Harold Shipman’s life sentence was passed in 2000, said that if grieving relatives could see the condition of their loved ones after a year in the ground, nobody would be buried. Harold Shipman was the good doctor who murdered his patients. The authorities proved by exhumation and scientific examination that he had killed 218 of these people, with the big possibility that there was another 200 as well. By a requirement of law Fr. Maher had to attend about half these exhumations and was horrified by the state of decay he witnessed. Just as a passing thought my Aunty Betty, a stout hearted farming lady, was thrown off her horse when she was about 70 and damaged her hip and eventually had to have a hip replacement. If it was not for her agricultural heritage of trusting her vet, who looked after her both before and after her operation, she might have been dead now as Shipman was her doctor.
So to get back on course and with this in mind it is the crematoriam for me. Of course I would love a funeral pyre on the top of some high mountain with the gathered multitude singing Nearer My God To Thee, but practicality was always a subject close to my heart therefore some holocaustic oven in a Dublin back street will have to do. From whence my gathered dust, having first of all been placed in a suitable container, will be taken up onto the Speckled Mountains or the Bricklieves as they call them round here, handily situated in South Sligo and 50% of my remains will be thrown into the air and let wander down the mountain, wafted by a warm westerly breeze in the direction of Lough Arrow and let mingle and blend with the myths and legends of this astounding place. Our ancestors certainly knew how to let go.
The other 50% of my clinker I want taken to another calm place, the graveyard of Eastersnow, high up on the plains of Boyle and etched on my memory by John McGahern’s book Amongst Women. It is to this place he brought his mother in this work of fiction walking her coffin from Cootehall Church to this graveyard. His real mother was buried in Aughawillan in Leitrim but he must have found something beautiful about the name and place of this quiet graveyard with it’s centuries old ruined chuch. After this second scattering my life’s purpose will be over and condemned to distant memory.
By the way before you do any of the above give me a kick, if I flinch you will know that I am not quite ready for the oven.