Last week, in the narrative Never A Crossword, yours truly relayed observations of an affable bunch of pensioners whose behaviour I witnessed while sitting on the adjacent cafe table.

Footnote – I’m unaware if the word bunch is the correct collective noun to describe a group of old aged pensioners (OAPs). Personally, I’d like to think it’d be something more fun and descriptive, for instance a ‘Darby & Joan of pensioners’, or even a ‘Steradent of OAPs’. However, I’d wager those desired epiphanies bear no basic in fact, therefore I’ll stick with bunch.

Amongst last week’s homage to this group in their dotage, I remissly omitted to include what was possibly one of the most curious comments heard emanating through their denture infused whistles. This query being “Are you going to a funeral tomorrow, Eric?”

In the context delivered it seemed to me an incredibly arbitrary question. The old chap beside me not asking his equally elderly aged chum “Are you going to Eric’s funeral?“, his enquiry specifically “Are you going to a funeral tomorrow, Eric?”

A query making me ponder if elderly people, so used to attending end of life services and committals, on a daily basis question their peers to see if there’s an upcoming funeral.

I know in the acclaimed HBO drama series The Sopranos, the once head of ‘family’ Junior Soprano, when under house arrest, scoured local newspaper obituaries seeking a funeral to attend; a strategy allowing brief respite from being housebound. I’d venture, though, that kind of mob skullduggery wasn’t behind the question of “Are you going to a funeral tomorrow, Eric?”

I’d like to make clear at this point this narratives motive isn’t to mock funerals or elderly people. When penning whimsically about these dreadfully sad events, I do realise there’s a very fine line to navigate, and would be mortified (excuse the pun) if I offended anyone with my dark observations.

Despite only being in middle-age, since my own dad’s funeral in November 2017 I’ve personally attended eight further burial/cremations. In fact, on two occasions last year, after a heart attack in January and gastric haemorrhage in April, I nearly attended my own.

These services and committals all dreadfully melancholic events. Occasions when telling the bereaved “I’m so sorry for your loss!”, no matter how genuinely felt and delivered, always seems such an utterly futile proffering to grieving mourners.

Worryingly, if the prevailing coronavirus pandemic keeps evolving at it’s current alacrity then the undertaking, grave digging and cremation industry may get to a juncture where they become boom industries. The sight of an undertakers black top hats becoming as common a daily sight as uniform caps adorned by employees of fast food restaurants.

Incidents like the following medieval scene from Monty Python’ Holy Grail playing out amongst global avenues and alleyways:-

A man comes out with a dead-looking old man in a nightshirst slung over his
shoulder. He starts to put the old man on the cart.

Man: Here’s one-
Cart-master: Ninepence.
Old Man: (feebly) I’m not dead!
Cart-master: (suprised) What?
Man: Nothing! Here’s your ninepence….
Old Man: I’m not dead!
Cart-master: ‘Ere! ‘E says ‘e’s not dead!
Man: Yes he is.
Old Man: I’m not!
Cart-master: ‘E isn’t?
Man: Well… he will be soon– he’s very ill…
Old Man: I’m getting better!
Man: No you’re not, you’ll be stone dead in a moment.
Cart-master: I can’t take ‘im like that! It’s against regulations!
Old Man: I don’t want to go on the cart….
Man: Oh, don’t be such a baby.
Cart-master: I can’t take ‘im….
Old Man: I feel fine!
Man: Well, do us a favor…
Cart-master: I can’t!
Man: Can you hang around a couple of minutes? He won’t be long…
Cart-master: No, gotta get to Robinson’s, they lost nine today.
Man: Well, when’s your next round?
Cart-master: Thursday.
Old Man: I think I’ll go for a walk….
Man: You’re not fooling anyone, you know–
(to Cart-master) Look, isn’t there something you can do…?

(they both look around)

Old Man: I feel happy! I feel happy!

(the Cart-master deals the old man a swift blow to the head with his wooden
spoon. The old man goes limp.)

Man: (throwing the old man onto the cart) Ah. thanks very much.
Cart-master: Not at all. See you on Thursday!