The Good Funeral Guide Blog

The, er, whatchamacallit

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

If there’s any ordinary person worse off than yourself, you’ll find them in the problem pages of newspapers and magazines. Do you seek comfort in problem pages? A prurient frisson? An incredulous giggle? Much depends probably on the demographic catered for by the publication. The further downmarket you go, the juicier, sexier and more exotically sordid the emotional quagmire. You get none of that on the problem page of the establishment Spectator magazine. The problems which most baffle our upper echelons concern, it seems, delicate matters of etiquette. Problem solver Mary shows her petitioners how to extricate themselves from invidious social situations in ways which would have drawn gasps from old man Machiavelli himself.

When I was convalescing last month, sitting around idly reading magazines and sipping iced water, I experienced a whim and wrote to the Spectator’s Mary about a problem which exercises many funeral hosts and readers of this blog: what to call the ‘do’ afterwards. This is what I (mendaciously) wrote:

Dear Mary,

My  mother  is presently succumbing to old age and an attendant cancer. She is fortified by serene courage and cheered by the arrangements she is making for the party after her funeral; every day brings fresh finishing touches. But what to call it? We observed that you recently acceded without demur to the term ‘wake’. Inasmuch as this applies to a vigil held over a body before a funeral, we have rejected it, along with everything else we can think of including, of course, the intolerable ‘reception’ and the unbearable ‘refreshments’, leaving us only with the unobjectionable if inadequate ‘do’.  With time fast running out, can you gallop to our rescue?

My letter was published (to my inordinate pride), and received this reply, which I think helpful:

Why not refer to the event as a ‘remembrance party’? This has a bittersweet poignancy and is perfectly dignified. Readers are welcome to submit rival suggestions.

To date, no Speccie reader has submitted anything better.

Can you?

13 comments on “The, er, whatchamacallit

  1. Liz Mowatt

    Sunday 17th July 2011 at 8:34 am

    I’m going to plump for farewell reception – I think it has a nice ring to it.

    Remembrance party? The remembrance bit is nice but I don’t think people want to think that they are attending a party when they might be feeling shocked hurt and angry rather than feeling like ‘celebrating the life’.

    A one word alternative to ‘wake’ should be ‘made up’ by someone – I’m sure it could take off!

    Great blog entry Charles – sorry to read that you were unwell last year.


  2. Tuesday 12th July 2011 at 7:45 pm

    A prurient frisson – incredulous giggle -emotional quagmire – upper echelons – extricate themselves from invidious social situations – Machiavelli himself – This is what I (mendaciously) wrote “Holy crap!! are you FrenGlish in your inordinate pride?? Ey up lad, I’m a strait talker, as oour 4 year old said “You make me confused and my ears go crumbly”

  3. Tuesday 12th July 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Perhaps, in an age of individualised funerals, we have no need for a fixed term. Each to their own. Tootle-oo do for me!

  4. Tuesday 12th July 2011 at 12:21 pm

    I think I like “The Farewell Reception” or “The Farewell Party” best. Weddings have “receptions” and planning funerals is what we do so why don’t we herald in some new terminology?

  5. Thursday 26th August 2010 at 10:12 am

    Corking, Jonathan. Does it have the yess! factor? I think it may.

  6. Jonathan

    Wednesday 25th August 2010 at 9:50 pm

    P.S: just read the article, ‘Blogledegook’, where the writer (did I say writer?) refers to a phenomenon known as a ‘Phrarty’.

    “The family would like to invite you all back to the Bull and Bush, to hold a phrarty over the beloved’s memory.”

    He (it) may be on to something!

  7. Jonathan

    Wednesday 25th August 2010 at 9:39 pm

    ‘Remembrance party’? Yuck! Forgettance party is more like the reality, with everyone just relieved to stop being so solemn and talk rubbish and be themselves again at last.

    Piss-up? No, they’ve all got to drive home. How about Half-Edible Sandwiches at the Pub Down the Road? Not respectful enough.

    What’s it for? That may give us a clue. It’s to let go of the awful tension that’s been dogging everything for the last ten days. To be polite to the people who’ve come to support you in your time of desperate crisis, without embarrassing them by referring any more to the human dimension called ‘death’. To avoid the starkness of saying a last goodbye to everyone on the crem terrace before the next lot shove you out of the way.

    ‘Do’. That says it for me.

  8. Friday 20th August 2010 at 2:22 pm

    Never come across an after party (very long ‘a’ on aaaaaafter, presumably). It’s got something about it, for sure. Interesting how difficult it is to find a name which makes everyone go Yesss! It’s like that difficulty Rupert and Claire were having finding an alternative to chapel of rest.

  9. Thursday 19th August 2010 at 11:15 pm

    party of a life time, farewell party, celebration of life, and for the media types…The After Party (Daaarling)!

  10. gloriamundi

    Thursday 19th August 2010 at 8:58 pm

    Absolutely – “refreshments” sound as though it’s entirely about food and drink and not about a person at all, “do” is vague (could be a firm’s dinner-dance) wake is, as you say, inaccurate in the extreme, so I’m with Kathryn, rememberance party is best so far. It might remind people to actually talk about your mother, instead of talking about traffic on the M25 and the weather for the weekend, and it might encourage people to actually have a bit of a party.
    And I’m sorry to hear about your mother, but cheered to hear of her serenity and fortitude.

  11. Kathryn Edwards

    Thursday 19th August 2010 at 8:42 pm

    I’m liking Remembrance Party!

    It’s got more of a directional push than either the ‘do’ or the somewhat-missing-the-point ‘refreshments’. Ideally the funeral itself would provide more catharsis, so that we could then roll up the carpet and dance, but remembrance + party is an excellent indicator of a healthy vibe.

  12. Thursday 19th August 2010 at 4:51 pm

    I was bored, yes, but also weak, dizzy, disorientated, depressed, distressed and at times disembodied. This is how illness afflicts real men. Women are so much less sensitive to it.

    I think the Speccie’s Mary has, actually, come up with a pretty good name, yes? Well, I like it.

  13. Thursday 19th August 2010 at 1:44 pm

    Bloddy hell, Charles, you must have been bored.
    Good to have you back.

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