I was way on Friday for the funeral of my friend Matthew - engineering designer, fencing coach and nerd extraordinaire. A lot of people turned up, most of them in cheerful clothes, as requested. We took our seats to the strains of Brubeck's 'Take Five'.
So we had a fairly dignified, cool start. I knew it would go well when the giggling started, as soon as the coffin made its appearance.
Having been let down by Leon Paul, makers of fencing equipment, Matthew's plan to be cremated in an extra-large fencing wheely-bag to be ceremonially bounced down some steps (as is traditional in fencing), we instead had to settle for a coffin printed to look like a large bar of chocolate, on of his addictions. On being congratulated for major weight loss once, he explained that he'd given up beer, cheese and chocolate. When his interlocutor asked why he didn't look very happy, he replied that it was because he'd given up beer, cheese and chocolate.
My friend Jenny then gave a warm, witty account of her friendship with Matthew, the multiple ways in which he'd been a lovely man, and explained the peculiar nature of his memorial. Then his brother and sisters staged a joint call-and-response piece about what he'd been like as a brother, before we had Peter Sellers' Shakespearian/Olivier version of the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night, which you have to see to believe:
Believe it or not, as well as being funny, I found this really sad: it's a melancholic song stripped of the cheery music! After this, I did my bit, which I think went OK. I started with a joke about the funeral being less long, drawn-out and miserable than your average epee match (I'm primarily a foilist) and went on from there. Then some serious music, after which it was time to open the envelopes handed to everyone at the door. Inside were the lyrics to one of Matthew's favourite songs, one rarely heard at funerals:
It worked brilliantly: even those in the congregation old enough to know it well couldn't keep up, because it's designed to be impossible to sing. A perfect way of preventing too much sadness.
Of course Matthew needed to top the absurdism with a final macabre joke: The 'Ying Ting Song' was interrupted by this:
Yes. He loved the Carry On films and, meeting his end in a crematorium, couldn't resist 'Frying Tonight'… He certainly went out in the style he lived.