Monday, 11 October 2021


Last week I went to a funeral…another funeral. My life seems to have comprised a succession of funerals. They are nearly always stimulating, thoughtful and important. A pause at a moment in time; a chance to remember; a positive moment when we recall the best of a person.

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 Life is a film which, when it ends, is edited with all the dull moments hitting the cutting room floor. Most of us hope to end up like Hugh Grant in “Love Actually”. As a  hero, kind, a high-achiever, funny but clever…exceptionally talented. A star.

Hugh Grant's career regret: 'I should've made interesting decisions'

It was the absence of proper funerals during lockdown that was especially sad for many. Death became a furtive transaction with a crematorium rather than a celebration of a life well-lived.

Joe Orton, genius playwright, wrote “Funeral Games” for the BBC in 1968. I recall a line in it “We set off for the funeral in high spirits” which I always loved. Those high spirits were dampened when the car bearing the coffin ran out on control down the hill spilling all inside. Orton could always see the funny side of things with immortal lines like these:

Truscott: Why aren't you both at the funeral? I thought you were mourners. 

Fay: We decided not to go. We were afraid we might break down. 

Truscott: That's a selfish attitude to take. The dead can't bury themselves; you know. “

Joe Orton Gallery

or this about privilege:

Hal: That's typical of your upbringing …. Every luxury was lavished on you - atheism, breast-feeding, circumcision. I had to make my own way.

Like Death itself Orton’s writing constantly takes you by surprise, but I think he’d have liked this story last week:

Increases in the size and weight of Dutch people are forcing the country’s funeral industry to introduce bigger coffins, more pallbearers, wider crematoria ovens and longer cremation times. A study by the NRC Handelsblad newspaper has found that the Dutch funeral is changing as people in the Netherlands get fatter.

Almost half of Dutch people are overweight – DutchReview


Poor cat. Blame their Gouda 


Moving north but remaining morbid, the Swedes believe in something called döstädning” which means “death cleaning.” It originated in the urge to remove the misery of clearing up after someone dies, all those old letters, birthday cards, books, photographs. An artist, Margareta Magnusson, who had to clear up after her parents and her husband has written a book, no doubt, with a sense of frustration The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family From a Lifetime of Clutter”.

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your  Family from a Lifetime of Clutter: Magnusson, Margareta:  9781501173240: Books

I’ve been thinking about this and am planning to do the following:

  • Reduce the huge number of books – I’m obsessed by the need to have a “library” but what I need are paper books that inform and need referring to – history books, biographies, books on philosophy, art, politics and poetry. I reckon about 200 is enough. Nearly all the works of fiction can go on my Kindle which I’m going to upgrade.
  • Photographs – reduce to the emotional few. How many pictures of the Zattere can anyone want?
  • Clothes – I’m Dutch-like tubby following the lockdown so a lot of my clothes don’t fit me (sorry, I don’t fit my clothes). So they’re going to the Salvation Army.
  • Stuff one keeps because it’s perfectly OK – like clocks, scissors, old spectacles, cufflinks, shoes, biros, pencils – but are redundant. “sorry shoes, I’m  downsizing so I’m afraid we’ll have to let you go.” 

It sounds so easy on paper. I think it might be quite hard to do: In fact, it could be the death of me.

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