Friday, 13 December 2013

When's the funeral?

I have lived through some harrowing cremation services - and one burial - from the all singing, sobbing variety to the quietest, quickest stranger led service. I am haunted by the sight of a funeral manager pressing what to me looked like the "next" button at my father's funeral. I think the allocated time was twenty minutes in this busy south London crematorium. So when my partner announced that he and his family were opting for an unwitnessed cremation for his mother I didn't need much persuading that they were opting for the right thing. She was a woman with no religious views, no close friends, away from her place of origin and uncomfortable at social occasions. She would have approved of this approach. But people have been so caught up in the psycho babble around "closure" that they have convinced themselves that seeing a coffin in a room [including that symbolic movement of it to another place during the service - the tear jerking moment] and getting some stranger to spout your words about them helps them come to terms with their death. This has been so evident this week as  I have been responding to the automatic "When's the funeral?" and - when I have the energy - talking  about unwitnessed cremations. Quite a shock to people who have never considered this. And the idea of closure is firmly embedded. It is the next thought they have once they recover from the idea of not having this ceremony.

In the same way that our lives have been hi jacked to celebrate a commercial Christmas or halloween our deaths have been hijacked by the marketing - oh so subtly - of this witnessed ceremony and all the trimmings. Funeral companies are geared up in every sense for the big event. It takes some determination to actually find that there is a small and hopefully growing demand for something much simpler.

A blogger writing last year has researched the whole closure issue more academically and directs us to articles that examine it

Personally I do not want my last act on earth to be a polluting one so will opt for a woodland burial - but I would like it to be unwitnessed too. To wish for anything else would be self indulgence now that I know there is an alternative!

Monday, 25 November 2013

A litter picker's tale

One of  my big hates is litter. Some years ago I joined a local environment group and have volunteered to pick up the litter in three streets. Every time I go out I think about how I am feeling and wish I could record it for a blog but it is not easy to capture the mood and that bit of sweet wrapper at the same time.

I was interested to read a blog which recorded people's feelings on picking up litter and I can relate to all of them. But I find it is much more complex than that.

Let me tell you about my patch - it is three streets of  terraced housing that includes a Chinese Takeaway, a paper shop and a circular seated area and small "flower" bed. Pictured is a typical Saturday night/Sunday morning scene.

And what I find so difficult is that  every piece of litter that I see dropped has behind it a person with so little interest in the world around them and so little insight into the effect of their actions that when I look at it it seems to throb with indignation. And then there is the wry knowledge that the tomato sauce sachet won't be alone - it will be followed by its mates - the cup, its lid and the straw, and then the napkin, the foam box and some of the uneatable contents - we have other takeaways within walking distance and one major offender a short drive away. Plastic spoons are the worst - when they have been walked on repeatedly and splintered into tiny intrusive shards.

It is interesting to observe the psychology of all this on others when I am out litter picking. I am always pleased when people speak to me - especially as they have to make an effort to engage me as I am usually focusing on getting that picker to clasp a cigarette end [don't get me started] or something that needs head down and concentration. Apart from the cheery quip "Doing community service then?" I have noticed though that less people want to have eye contact with me than if I was just walking along. Do people just see a little eccentric old lady and nothing else? Is it a collective guilt? A few do speak admittedly but those with children most don't use the opportunity to tell them - and they are clearly interested - why someone is picking up litter in their street and there is a distinct scurrying. I find it hard to be assertive because it feels accusative. One lovely resident brought out tea and scones though for a group effort around this bench and its flower bed and that was a great feeling.

I get a sense of satisfaction out of recycling. I always collect recyclables separately while I litter  pick and make sure that those drink cans [funny how you get a sixth sense about them being full still] and glass bottles and plastics get to my recycling bin. That alone makes me feel that it is all worthwhile and apart from bad days like the takeaway above the litter is - I think - reduced. In the mean time we work on other strategies to stop it being dropped in the first place.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Goodbye to all that

There is a reason for the dearth of posts and absence from blogging land and it is a four letter word that I may well have given up for good! WORK!
Farewell to my workplace - time to move on!
The focus of my blogs for the next few months will be about making adjustments to a new way of life following a long period of change and then three months learning a new job and heavy commuting. The fateful day of the big decision has come and gone and now here I am keen to enter a new phase in my life.

So will I be able to focus on all the things I have imagined for so many years that I would do as I entered by later years free from the 9-5 drudgery? Will I finally be able to use all the arts and crafts materials taking up a whole cupboard, all the fabric scraps lining my wardrobe waiting for textile projects, read all the books - the big hardbacks no good for the train - that I have collected together over 40 years? Do some serious baking again?

Every time I go for a walk I want to find out more about what I can see about me. Fungi and lichens fascinate me and the fabulous patterns in plants and I love to photograph them.
Common Puffball

I want to sing more than one evening a week and have the time to practice. I want to give more time to my local environment group and perhaps inspire people to bin their litter if nothing else. I want to get more into "guerilla gardening" too.

Then there is family and friends - quality time with family and friends - a grand tour perhaps. We'll this is the plan and I will be watching this space to see how I have been getting on!

Wish me luck...

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

There are bag pipes

Having been in that barren blog free land since September I have, today, decided to take up my ..keyboard. Two prompts - a comment on my last blog jogged me and an hour later I found in the pocket of my trousers a piece of paper with eight words on it - Bag pipes. There are some pipers in kilts.

handwritten note
This note goes some way to explaining the sudden drop off in my blogs after 16 months. The note was passed to my Mother in law who was sitting by her bed on a rehab ward in hospital after a fall that fractured her hip and arm. She fell not long after my own Mother had had a nasty bout of pneumonia.

It was not the mobility problems that ensued after the fall, or the problems with dressing or even the delicate dressing and bathroom arrangements that caused the most was her hearing. Before the fall she had been very deaf and stubbornly refusing to have any investigations with a view to seeing if there was anything that could be done. This meant that specialist services for deaf people were also not part of the picture too. She had once been told as a girl not to let anyone touch her ear ...yah ..yah and she just turned up the TV a bit louder very week.

But after the fall she went completely deaf. Not even yelling one inch from her ear would get through.  We have resorted to writing everything down. The bonus is that we all know what has been said and she can keep messages with times and dates on them. This message was to tell her that just outside her door two men in full Scottish dress were playing bagpipes - and was it loud. [actually it was acquired taste are bag pipes!] She had no idea. It was then we realised the extent of the problem and when we moved into full message mode. She is just about to start on an investigation 2013 style so let us hope she can get some of it back as she is getting mighty  weary of subtitled TV..even if the neighbours are having a quieter time!