Friday, 5 October 2012

Cherchez la femme

Or, to be more accurate, cherchez le corpse.

Had somebody told me beforehand that I would spend part of yesterday morning looking for a corpse, I would never have believed them.  But that is what I did; I drove around town trying to find a dead body.  It was one particular dead body I was looking for, not just any old cadaver.

A near neighbour died a couple of weeks back and her funeral was to be held yesterday.  Or so her husband told me.  In fact, he also gave the details to the Old Bat, details identical to what he had told me.  And he told me twice, on two different days.  Thursday, 4th October, 11.45am at one of the two crematoria in Brighton.  So yesterday morning we swapped our regular casual morning attire for something a little more appropriate to the occasion - a black, roll-neck sweater with black trousers and a very dark green coat for her ladyship, grey trousers and a darkish check jacket for me with a lilac (very pale purple, a funereal colour) shirt and a black tie.  (Had it been a close friend or a relative I would have dug out the dark grey suit and a white shirt, but this was a neighbour so I felt something a little less formal would be in order.)  We set off in time to arrive at the crematorium about ten minutes before the ceremony was due to begin.  I did think it a little odd that the husband and other mourners were still at the house, one with a mug of coffee in his hand, but assumed they knew what they were doing.  My plan worked perfectly and we arrived almost on the dot of 11.35.  I parked right outside the chapels - there are two - in a blue badge space and went to see in which chapel the funeral service would be held.  The first chapel had no name outside and the second had a completely different name.  I double checked.  Nope.  Still the wrong name at one chapel and no name at the other.

I went in search of a member of staff and found a couple just walking away from the office back to their car.  On inquiring, I was informed that the other couple were looking for the same corpse as me and, like them, I was told that there was no 11.45 funeral and the name of the deceased was completely unknown to the crematorium staff.  The man I was talking to had phoned the other crematorium and been told that there was no funeral scheduled there for 11.45 either and they had no knowledge of the corpse I was looking for.  He rang them again just to make sure and was given the same answer. 

By now there were only about two or three minutes before the service was due to start so there was no time to drive back home and ask the neighbour what was going on.  I chatted some more to the helpful gentleman and told him I was a neighbour of the deceased, whereupon he asked where I lived.  That gave him a clue.  Most funerals from my area are handled by one firm and the gentleman rang them.  As I was a neighbour who had been, it was assumed, invited to attend the funeral, the undertakers confirmed that the service was to take place at the other crematorium at 12.15, not 11.45.  For some reason, the husband had asked for secrecy concerning the funeral arrangements.  But why he gave both my wife and me the wrong information I shall never know.

Oh yes, we did get to find the corpse.  In fact, as the two crematoria are next door to each other, we were about 25 minutes early for the service.


Off to France tomorrow morning to top up the wine cellar etc etc.  Even though the medication I will be starting this weekend doesn't like alcohol, the consultant assured me that a glass and a half of wine with my dinner will be of no account.  But I'm afraid the Scotch  I take very, very occasionally as a nightcap will be a thing of the past.  Anyway, I have left a few posts scheduled for while I am away - more stories of Les Lavandes.  Most of the events I describe did actually occur.  Do remember, though, that I have occasionally exaggerated or embroidered the facts - just a little.


Yesterday was the first sunny day since last Sunday and it was very pleasant walking in Withdean Park after breakfast in the early morning sun.  I will confess that I didn't take this picture yesterday but this is very much how it was.