Sunday, 20 November 2016

A day in Bristol

Yesterday was one of those days which seemed to go on forever. In retrospect, it did go on forever. 

We woke up at 6am. It was a genuine privilege to be up so early. A really intense light was making the horse chestnut trees on Southwood Lane glow in bright, metallic colours. I rarely get to see the magic hour in the morning.

We drove to Bristol, Abbie, Nathan and I, where Andras' life was being celebrated in a really beautiful woodland cemetery. What was very special about the service was that we weren't being rushed out of the building by the next funeral in line. We had the entire place to ourselves all day, and, more perfectly, the wake took place within the same complex of buildings, so instead of feeling like we were being engulfed by a conveyor belt of grief, there was a sense of everyone being in it together, and able to contemplate, grieve, share and laugh at our own pace.

I was hugely impressed by the service. It was dignified, appropriate, deeply moving and, at times, rather magical. It was overseen by an old family friend of Llio and Silvia's called, Pad, and, whilst he made his address, just as he started to talk about the warmth and beauty of the sun, the sun outside suddenly burned through the rain cloud which had been sitting over the chapel since we'd arrived. It got brighter and brighter and more and more dazzling. It felt rather mystical.

The service was devoid of all religious content, which I appreciated immensely. It set out to be a service about love - and very much succeeded. At the end, Pad recited an ancient Celtic blessing: "Deep peace of the running wave to you. Deep peace of the flowing air to you. Deep peace of the quiet earth to you. Deep peace of the shining stars to you. Deep peace of the infinite peace to you." It made more sense to me than any prayer ever has. There was also a fair amount of Welsh being spoken in the service, which was music to my ears, and reminded me of my own Nana's funeral, where I remember my uncles reading, probably from the bible, in Welsh.

We listened to a lot of music. And we listened to it properly. So often with these ceremonies, things get faded in and out willy-nilly, but this way we were introduced to music we'd not heard before. I had no idea, for example, that the music to Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was originally an epic track by the Eagles. We were also introduced to a fabulous piece of music by an Icelandic artist, which I must track down. It's called Vor i Vasgaglogi by Kaleo and it's utterly haunting. All the music was music which Andras had found powerful or inspiring in his lifetime, and his gift to us was that music.

There was so much love for Andras in the room. I have seldom heard such vociferous and effusive praise for a person. I only met him once, but I now wish I'd known him a great deal better. Almost everyone talked about him as a man who literally seemed to glow. Brave, witty, beautiful, deeply intelligent.

Silvia and Llio spoke beautifully and bravely. I genuinely don't know how you move on from something like that. I certainly don't think you ever get over it as such. Abbie said something insightful, which had been said to her when she lost her father, namely that grief is like getting used to wearing glasses. The way you see things is never quite the same again, and it's absolutely horrible to begin with, but eventually it becomes something you learn to live with.

We drove home in driving rain and sticky traffic on the M4. Abbie and I had a quiz to do in the evening in Dulwich which was a barrel of laughs. One of the competitors got hammered, came up onto the stage and, all weird and coquettishly, started inappropriately draping herself onto the other assistant, trying to get him to mark her team more leniently. It was all a little uncomfortable, but we dealt with it as best we could. It did, however, make me think about how the occurrence would have been perceived had the boot been on the other foot. If a 40-year old man had walked onto the stage, and started touching up a 22-year old girl, he would almost certainly have been escorted from the premises. There are certainly a huge amount of double standards in society.

By the time I'd dropped Abbie home and crawled my way home across London, it was midnight. A long old day...

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