“Hold my hand, I think I know the way” – Stephen King
Hello there girls and boys, I hope you’re well.
A funeral brings up perhaps the biggest fear we have, that of death. When I was a wee girl, yes, I was afraid of dying. I didn’t have night sweats thinking about it, but I can recall being afraid of churchyards. Then when I was ten I was at a funeral of a neighbour of mum and dad1, and seeing the coffin having the curtain slid around in order for the cremation process to begin made me think, perhaps for the first time, that this had happened to my parents. I cried for them as well as the person who was being cremated.
From then on though, death has had no fear for me. We played in the local graveyard in the summer, hide and seek, picnics amongst the gravestones. We made games of finding the oldest marker, and tidying up long-forgotten graves. This is something I still do today, along with a few others. We by now know the council department we have to seek out in order to have the permission to do it. I’m pleased to see so many graves are tended to, but as a culture we have yet to reach the levels of Mexico or the Philippines, where days of the dead are happy occasions.
With the council cutbacks, cheers tories, many older churchyards which are not in use are overgrown. This is nothing a mower and strimmer doesn’t sort out though. We’ve invested in a big petrol version, as the modern battery versions are not up to the job, even if they are lighter. Once the summer arrives in earnest we’ll be out doing this again. We’ve seen some beautiful churchyards, and when we’ve finished we leave jar candles lit at every gravestone in them. There are sites where memorials have either fallen over, due to the subsidence caused when the coffin rots away, or made to fall by the absolute cunts that think toppling one over is fun. Wouldn’t it be a shame if one of these fell onto a miscreant? I often take a shortcut home through the churchyard near me, in the dark, my only worry if I can get to the chippy before it closes. I’m not scared of dying, having mentioned before about the times I’ve thought that I could just fade away, although I may be scared of the pain old age could bring before death.
A few years ago I had been chatting to an undertaker at a charity event. I had mentioned that the cremation process interested me as that’s how I want to be shuffle of my own mortal coil. A grave, lying there while somebody with a bloody petrol mower runs around on the earth above me? I’m trying have my rest!
He offered to show me his work. Oh the times I’ve heard that, (I’ve some puppies that you might like to see.. I have my own, thanks), but went along the next week before the crematorium opened. It was surprisingly high tech, the “emissions” being tightly controlled by local authorities. Now I’m not squeamish, girls and boys. I’ll happily stitch up a skull that’s been broken in an accident if I absolutely must, and I’ve seen enough gashes at the beach, don’t laugh, that it’s near enough normal. When he asked if I would like to see what happens, live as it were, with a real coffin, how could I say no?
We went for breakfast with the others on the team, then back to watch them set up for an actual cremation. A door opened and the coffin slid through onto a roller table, the flowers on top were removed, and sent round to the back of the crem for the family to see. A card is checked against the name on the coffin, if there is one, and this card is kept in a slot next to the particular cremator the coffin will be entering. Then the oven door was opened, the coffin slid in respectfully, and the door closed. I was offered the chance to see the coffin begin to burn but I felt that was disrespectful, but the undertaker did as it has to be done. I’d heard tales of three coffins being put into the cremator at one time, so that you can’t be sure your ashes are the items collected, but here there were four individual ovens. The process of cremating a body takes anything up to three hours. I had left long before this had finished, as this is their place of work and I would be in the way, but not before I was shown the cremulator, a box which contains big metal balls which crush anything remaining such as the hip bone that the heat hasn’t destroyed.
None of this I thought in any way ghoulish but only strengthened my resolve to have my body disposed of this way. The next week Ellie and I visited the undertakers and paid for our funerals. Weird? Not at all, the cost of these things can be huge and by paying now it means the people left behind have no worries about it.
So by now, after reading the first part of this, you’ll be asking, “But Anna, what does scare you?
Dentists… A totally irrational fear. As mentioned previously, my dentist is lovely. I’ve never had a bad experience there in the 25 years I’ve been going. We get on well, and share an interest in what his assistant and now wife wears.. you know, these…
Standing next to a train when it’s leaving a platform. It’s just the noise, but what can possibly happen to me? I shudder to think of my memories of awaiting a train in India where there were no platforms. I love a night tenpin bowling, but that moment when the ball appears from the dark hole upon it’s return? Makes my skin crawl. That’s not actual fear, mind you, just something bordering on revulsion. I don’t go as far as having a panic attack on any of these occasions, but my hands clench and legs strain. BUT I don’t run away screaming, so that’s a good thing! Flying is one that comes and goes. Takeoff and the rest is fine, but sometimes the landing can be worrisome. I never spend the whole flight thinking about it, in fact love to see the ground getting closer and closer, but the moment the wheels hit, my heart can be all of a flutter. Anyone sitting next to me will find me groping for their hand, and it’s never been refused. I’ve a slight thing about spiders but as they are just the most amazing things that’s easily overcome…but then we don’t have any that can kill you. I can pick up even a large house version and let it go outside, no problem.
Someone being afraid of his or her partner must be scary, the constant threat of being shouted at, or hit, must be emotionally draining. Thankfully this is something I have no experience of, although volunteering for the Samaritans taught me that it’s extremely common, sadly. My original thought process had been, if a partner hit me, I’d just leave, after slapping them back, of course. Not so easy if you have children, though. Still, why anybody that is just starting out in a relationship would put up with verbal, physical or mental abuse, I cant comprehend. We’d hear women, and sometimes men, telling us their partner was beating them, sometimes bordering on torture. “But I love them”. Love is a two way thing, and it seems that this is forgotten the world over on a daily basis. The same people would call every week. This was why I left after a few months, my own anger at them for not moving on was matched by my anger at their partners. A good Samaritan I did not make.
Then we have the saying, “I’m afraid to”… For instance, “I’m afraid to” log on to a site then be pounced within five seconds, even though you’ve only gone there to check your settings and not for a chat or collaboration for a website. So I’ve deleted two accounts this week, I cant be arsed with people jumping in and expecting me to chat or add something to a project before I’ve settled down, had a look about, and done what I have to do. All I wanted to do was have a mooch about, add my thoughts on a proposal, arrange a meeting with the people, but no, it was like they’d been awaiting my log on. “Hi, I noticed you were on and would like to ask your opinions…” Christ, let me at least get the website up and running! If you are one of the people that are wondering why I’m not on certain sites, well.. sorry, I did tell you!
Then we have… I’m afraid you’ve been turned down, I’m afraid we cant offer you that post, I’m afraid you wont be needed, I’m afraid you cant see your loved one. The OED says “I’m afraid” in this context can mean “I regret to say,” “I apologetically report,” “I suspect,” “I am inclined to think,” and so on and has done since the 1600’s (or around 4 o’clock). “I’m afraid that if you open that door to the vampire, we’ll be afraid”. You can see why non-native speakers of the language are confused by it. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to make love to you all over again”, is a favourite. “Oh no no, the horror, I can’t look, but…really, well…if you must…”
I’ve been afraid to update the firmware on my printer. Will it interfere with the Macs and their AirPrint technology? Will Abby be able to print stuff from her phone when she pops over? Will it stop that insufferable beeping whenever it wants some more paper? Time will tell….
As I was finishing this, I had an email from one of my followers on the Twitter. (Hi Daisy). Yes, this would definitely be spooky in your garden. Especially when she lifts up her head and smiles at you, one dark stormy night..
As ever, thanks for reading, and don’t have nightmares.