Attitudes to undertakers

Charles Cowling

There’s a very interesting blog developing over at Funerary Ramblings. If you’ve not been there, pop across.

Today’s ramblings take an amble through attitudes to undertakers. It’s very good.

So here’s to you, Funerary Rambler. You’ve probably not come across our Jake Thackray.

Here are the words:
I am a grave-digger, a digger of graves. I know my clay.
I know in my water, I know in my blood, I know in my bones
That you will never believe in the things I am going to say
Till you are listening in to a funeral all of your own.

There are uncles and aunties and nieces and nephews and sisters-in-law.
A family swarms with them; they teem; they are thicker than flies.
Sisters and brothers and cousins and aunties and daughters galore,
The only time when all of them meet is when one of them dies.

At the grave, at the grave, at the family, family grave,
The putting of the people in the ground.
There are days, days when I shake my shovel at the sky.
Oh there are days, there are days it gets you down, down, down;
Shovel at the sky . . . gets you down.

I see many different fashions of mourning, both fancy and plain.
There are those who go very white and stand there aghast and just gawp;
They cannot manage to cry – and there’s others who cannot refrain:
Willy-nilly they bellow and howl at the drop of a corpse.

They sit in the chapel and whisper and meditate over the stiff.
They never speak ill of him – especially if he was close –
But: “What a good family man, and a wonderful friend,” even if
He was a palpable pain in the arse and he died of a dose!

At the grave, at the grave, at the family, family grave,
The putting of the people in the ground.
Some with no one there – at least, just a policeman and a priest.
There are days, oh there are days it gets you down, down, down;
Policeman and a priest . . . gets you down.

Then there are those of course who turn up and can then hardly wait
For the vicar to stop and the coffin to drop and the sobbing subside.
And then they are barely a blur as they sprint for the cemetery gates
To go get their hands on the money, the food, or the widow’s backside.

There are one or two “do”s turn out disappointingly in the extreme,
Where the booze is rough and the grub is duff and no flowers at all,
And the mother embarrasses you with a sudden hysterical scream,
Where the coffin you came to see off is pathetically small.

At the grave, at the grave, at the family, family grave,
The putting of the people in the ground.
In a whisper often I say “Good luck, my friend. Goodbye”
There are days, oh there are days it gets you down, down, down.
“Good luck, my friend. Goodbye.” It gets you down.

They do the round of the family faces and pay their respects
“We’ll have to be going.” “How nice.” “How sad.” And “Thanking you.”
They are studying form and weighing up who it is going to be next
To go under the slab. Whose turn to pay for the very next “do”.

I am a grave-digger, a digger of graves. I know my clay.
I know in my water, I know in my blood, I know in my bones
That you will never believe in the things I am going to say
Till you are listening in to a funeral all of your own.

At the grave, at the grave, at the family, family grave,
The putting of the people in the ground.
There are days, days when I shake my shovel at the sky.
Oh there are days, oh there are days it gets you down, down, down;
Shovel at the sky . . . gets you down.

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