The funeral was enormous. We arrived half an hour before time, and had to queue to turn off the main road into the lane leading to the church because cars were stacked up nose to tail all the way down the lane to the farmyard that had been co-opted for overflow parking. There was somebody on car park duty, and we were relieved to be given a spot that felt as though there was something reasonably solid underneath the mud.
When one of the neighbours told us that there was going to be a marquee at the church I didn't quite believe him, but there was, and even then there was not room for everybody to sit down and there were people standing all around the edges of the marquee. We watched the service relayed to two screens by the same firm that does the sound system for the Tendring Show every year. It was a good service. There is something rather poignant about hearing about the early life of someone you only knew when they were old. Our late neighbour used to play hockey as a young man, and I'd never have guessed that, or imagined him as tall and as thin as he was when he got married, several years before I was born.
Although the funeral service was held in the local church where he used to be a church warden the commital was held in the crematorium at Colchester, for family only, which gave us a breathing space to go home and dish out the cats' lunch. As we turned up the track to our house we could see somebody down on the farm in a high visibility jacket frantically waving to us to let us know we were heading in the wrong direction and funeral parking was over here. We gave it half an hour before walking down to the second marquee in our late neighbour's garden, and it was another hour before the family arrived.
At a big country funeral you see how different strands of life tie together. We met another of the local beekeepers and his mother who did the teas when he hosted beekeepers' meetings in his garden. The treasurer of my music society came with his wife. There were a couple of ladies from my ladies' group, and the owner of the lettuce farm. Even the caterer was a familiar face because he did the drinks and nibbles for the Dedham party we went to only three weeks ago, at which point our neighbour was still alive and comparatively well. Our late neighbour was a sociable man who after his wife died went to a lot of trouble hosting lunch parties, including the odd gathering for the locals, and he continued the tradition even in death as we met the couple who live in another of the houses on the farm. Tucked away down our separate tracks we don't bump into each other very often.
In the afternoon we performed a second social duty and went to help take down the stage in the church left from yesterday's concert. There were four of us including the guardian of the stage who is eighty-six and has just had an operation for carpal tunnel syndrome so was not supposed to be lifting anything but seemed very keen to carry things anyway in his one good hand, and the stage came down pretty easily. I persuaded the Systems Administrator to come and help in case we needed the extra muscle power or technical input from a person who was technically competent, since I and my fellow volunteer who writes the programme notes will both cheerfully admit that we are no good with machinery. It was certainly faster with all of us, but we could have done it without the SA's help if we'd had to. The chairman, who is forbidden to lift anything at the moment following a cataract operation, appeared just as we were finishing with the offer of tea.
It rained all day, so it's not as if I missed any gardening. The cats were bored stiff.