Picture credit –  Hannah Tobin.

Part 16 – Ben’s funeral

Lame sat on the bench seat, looking out of the window at the back gardens of the rows of houses, musing that this was the view of people’s houses that you didn’t normally see. The train glided smoothly over the continuous rails, none of that ‘clickety-clack that he remembered so well from his childhood, the telegraph wires swooping along in smooth catenaries from pole to pole. His new wife, Janet, gazed fondly at him  thinking how lucky she was to be married to such a caring man this late in her life. Lame glanced up at her and smiled fondly, ‘What are you thinking about,’ he asked.

‘Oh, nothing,’ she said, wanting to keep her thoughts to herself.

They were travelling from London to Ferret on Trent to attend the funeral of his friend, Ben.

A couple of months ago, Lame’s life had been very different from what it was now. He now had a new wife, had resigned from being an MP and was looking forward to their new life together in a small market town. They had taken a decision to move out of London to be closer to and get involved in rural village life. Seven or so weeks ago Lame had been feeling desperately depressed and lonely. He had thought of turning to the church and becoming a hermit but he reluctantly decided that the eremitic life was not for him. He enjoyed the company of others too much.

His last function as an MP was to attend the Young Farmers Ball in Badgersett. There he met Janet. That meeting was set to change both their lives. Once they saw each other, they knew they would be together. They both explored and found new purposes to their lives. They would live in Ferret on Trent as soon as they could arrange it and get involved in the life of the village community. Lame already had a small cottage there but it would need enlarging to easily cope with the two of them and their many interests. He had no experience of building work so he would find an architect and a project manager to carry out the work to their ideas.

The train slowed down and then stopped at Ferret Parkway. They got off and managed to find a taxi to take them to Ferret on Trent. They had arranged to meet Jack at the Strangled Ferret site office so that Jack could show Lame the progress since he had left with conversion of the pub.

‘Good to see you agains, Lame. We have been very worried about you.’

‘Yes, good to be back, Jack. Allow me to introduce you to my wife. This is Mrs Faulks-Hatt.’

‘Please to meet you,’ said Jack’

‘Lame has told me a lot about you, so I have been looking forward to finally meeting you. Please call me Janet, by the way.’

‘OK, Janet. We now have to get down to the job of organising Ben’s funeral. Do you have any idea what type of ceremony he would have wanted, Lame?’

‘I have no idea, but I know a man who would know.’

‘Who’s that?’

‘It’s George, of course. Him and Ben used to have long philosophical discussion weekdays in the Ferret when there were no other customers. If we have a chat with George, I’m sure he’ll have a very good idea of what Ben would have wanted.’

*****

Jack, Lame and George assembled in the Ferret Project Office the next evening after five so there was no one left working on the site.

‘What’s all this about,’ asked George.

‘Lame, here, thought you might have a good idea about what sort of ceremony Ben would have wanted. He thinks that Ben and your self used to talk about all sorts of things, philosophy and religion for example so can you tell us what Ben thought about these things? asked Jack.

‘Yes, we had many interesting discussions. I think it was mainly because we had a completely different view of science and religion. I am, as you know a convinced Christian – a Welsh Tobacconist – while Ben was an atheist – a humanist in fact. He was convinced that, when he died, that was the end of him so he wanted his eventual funeral to be a celebration of his life and to be done with the minimum of environmental pollution. He wanted a cardboard coffin and to be cremated in the open air and his ashes then scattered in the woods with no memorial to mark his life or passing. He always said that he didn’t believe in heaven but, if there was one, then there were a lot of people there that he wouldn’t want to meet again and spend eternity with.’

‘Did he ever write his wishes down anywhere?’ asked Lame.

‘Yes, as he wasn’t married, he wrote everything down and gave me a copy so that when, the time came, there would be someone who knew what he wanted. He was convinced that he would not lie to an old age so he thought that i would probably outlive him, long enough to carry out his wishes – and that is what has happened.’ explained George.

‘Ok then, if we go through the list and try to carry out Ben’s wishes as best we can.’ said Jack.

‘There is one thing,’ said George. ‘I am happy with calling one bar in the Ferret, “Ben’s Bar.” but I don’t think, bearing in mind the cause of Ben’s death, that calling the other bar, “The Two Lemons,” is very tactful.’

‘Yes, you’re right, of course. How about remembering the other pub and call it “The Bald Badger Bar”? That way we remember the old pub and keep the village together. We could then refer to it as the “3B” for short.’

The three of them agreed and agreed that each would have a different job to arrange the funeral for Ben.

George would collect Ben, in the cardboard coffin from the undertakers and carry him on a trailer drawn by his favourite John Deere to the pub where he would be given a send off by all the regulars. George would then drive up to the coppice in his five acre field for the open air cremation that had been allowed after lengthy negotiations between Lame and the local Bagersett Council. Ben’s family and his closest friends were invited.

Jack was responsible for arranging the combination opening ceremony of the Strangled Ferret after its conversion into a village amenity pub and a Dwile Flonking match to inaugurate the combination car park / Dwile Flonking court.

It all went according to plan, the cremation ceremony was officiated by a celebrant from the Humanist Association, the ashes were collected and scattered in the woodland by Ben’s family and then everyone repaired to the Strangled Ferret which was officially opened by Lame. After which the match started. As usual, there was no clear winner and all agreed that it had been a good send off for Ben and it was good to have the ‘Ferret up and running again, albeit in its new identity. Even the MD of Turgid Brewery turned up and seemed to let his hair down – what he had left of it.

Ben’s Bar was crowded and Colin Bertram managed to slice all the lemons with no problem, using the new ventilated lemon slicer. The other bar, “3B’ was also crowded and there were good sales of beer, which pleased the man from Turgid.

© Richard Kefford                                                                                                        Eorðdraca

*****

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