Thoughts of a funeral-goer

Charles Cowling


Posted by Lyra Mollington


Editor’s note: before reading Lyra’s latest thoughts, it may be helpful to read last week’s Thoughts of a funeral-goer.

Whilst everyone else was making their way to the cloisters to look at the flowers, I popped back to have a chat with the young lady chapel attendant. I pretended that I had left my reading glasses behind. As we approached the pew, I apologised. Silly me – they were in my bag all the time!

Before she could lead me out, I asked her if she had a busy day ahead. She told me that it had been fairly quiet recently and there were only five services that day. Which was interesting, because Joyce’s family had been told by their funeral director that the crematorium was ‘chocker’. Perhaps he was worried that if he told the family the truth – that he was having trouble fitting them in to his tight schedule – they would look elsewhere. Although I doubt it. Who wants to go ‘shopping around’ for a funeral? Apart from me of course.

I casually mentioned that the lady vicar had seemed to be in a hurry. Was there a family emergency? The chapel attendant’s lips were sealed. Well almost. She smiled and asked me if everything had been all right. I was about to say yes, apart from the vicar bolting for the door like a greyhound released from her trap, but before I could speak, a voice boomed from the balcony. I had completely forgotten about the organist. Unlike the chapel attendant, he was not at all discreet. But he was extremely charming.

‘Ha!’ he boomed. ‘She was panicking from the moment she arrived!’ He was now leaning over the balcony. ‘She’s doing a service at Randall’s Park in half an hour and the traffic between here and Leatherhead can be a nightmare. And there’s been a road closure. Squeaky bottom time methinks!’

And with that he sat down and started playing his organ in the style of Eric Morecambe! The chapel attendant tried not to smile.



Interestingly, one my favourite comedians used to be a crematorium organist – Bill Bailey. Perhaps they’re all comedians. Perhaps they have to be.

I digress. I wasn’t going to get any more information out of the chapel attendant and the organist was off to ‘powder his nose’ so I left to join the rest of the family.

Is there any sight more forlorn than smartly dressed bereaved people silently looking at flowers? In this case, even more so because Joyce’s family had requested ‘no flowers’.

I put on my solemn face. Inwardly I was smiling. Joyce wouldn’t have liked the vicar… but she would have loved the organist.

6 thoughts on “Thoughts of a funeral-goer

  1. Charles Cowling
    Belinda Forbes

    Love it! Eric Morecambe, ‘I’m playing all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order.’
    Organists (indeed all funeral professionals) like the one Lyra describes are priceless. Extremely professional but with a wonderful sense of humour.

    Charles Cowling
  2. Charles Cowling

    Lovely Lyra – you capture those little moments that could so easily be missed!
    I love that organist – what a job, sitting day after day in the gallery at Woking Crem watching and hearing and participating in the final farewells of the great and the good… and the frankly not so good from time to time.

    Sweetpea – I think I’ve met the cheese and onion crisp eater too – and I have sympathy for the sesame seed sucking ritual. Having missed lunch, I once scoffed a handful off pecan nuts just before a service… as I began to speak the tiny fragments, hidden about my dental cavities, worked their way to the front of my mouth with alarming (to me) results…

    Ah happy days and memories – triggered by Lovely Lyra once more – thanks Lyra – rather liking you true colours picture as well Mrs Mollington – you seem far too feisty for a Miss Marple.

    Charles Cowling
  3. Charles Cowling

    Thank you Charles for finding the brilliant Eric Morecambe. If you start the television clip at 5:05, this is the piece that the organist played for me!

    Charles Cowling
  4. Charles Cowling

    Thank you Lyra! Delightful.

    Next year, could we have a GFG Award for Organist of the Year? You know, someone who doesn’t play Abide with Me as if they are just about to drop off edge themselves, or without consultation with the celebrant play Hammer House of Horror music when the curtain closes, or eat their egg sandwiches and cheese and onion crisps during the Moment for Quiet Contemplation, noisily snapping their Tupperware box shut and sucking their teeth to expel those troublesome sesame seeds from the rolls Mrs Organist delights in providing?

    Charles Cowling
    1. Charles Cowling

      Oh dear! Some of those organists you describe sound dreadful. However, if Mr M were organising a cremation service, he would insist on having Hammer House of Horror Music for the curtains closing!
      Thank you for reminding me about the GFG Awards – I keep meaning to find out more about those. If you funeral folk have them again next year I would love to nominate ‘my’ organist if I’m allowed.

      Charles Cowling
  5. Charles Cowling

    This wonderful Lyra – I can just picture it all. You’ve made my day already.
    Thank you for your wonderful Alan Bennett style insights of the odd goings on in funeral world.

    Charles Cowling

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