I set out from home this morning (or just after noon actually) thinking to myself “I have a rare midweek day off work and I’m heading back to Essex for all the wrong reasons” and immediately decided that if I ever wrote a novel that would be the opening line.
But I was heading back to Essex and it wasn’t for a reason I would have wanted at all, but for a family funeral. As with many families we only all get together at funerals, weddings and maybe christenings. Funerals are my least favourite, especially when the deceased was only in their early 60s.
When I was very young I was a bit scared of John. I really don’t know why, but it didn’t last. He was practically the living embodiment of the word ‘avuncular’. A long time ago he moved to a small village on the Essex marshes so we never saw him as much as we could have done, but it was always a pleasure.
John is responsible for, or shared in several of the funniest moments of my life. Silly things that fall into the you-had-to-be-there category but his laughter was infectious whether it was at one of my jokes, one of his, or something on the TV.
My favourite was surely the time we were at my Mum’s. There was me, John and my sister’s ex, Neil. We had all had a few beers at some family function and John told Neil not to worry about something. He quickly followed it up with “Neil desparandum!” which I thought was clever and funny, Neil didn’t get it but John thought was the funniest thing he had ever heard to the extent he was helpless with laughter, barely able to repeat the phrase, which would set him off again.
John was also responsible for me meeting my first wife when he took me along to a New Years party, full of him and his friends where I got off with the only other teenager there. The rest is history, but I’ll forgive him that: “Neil desperandum” trumps all.
Yet again, I was immensely proud of his son Robert (my godson for what its worth) who spoke at the service, which I could not have done at my Dad’s funeral.