I Want “Cheese Lover and Wine Connaisseur” In My Eulogy

01e820bca18fe83260bc6c121631447a.jpgThe old man and I went on a mini-break to a farmstead in the south of Sydney a few weeks ago. Due to the risks posed by Australian wildlife – wallabies, wild horses, spiders and no doubt brown snakes, waiting for me in every corner – we left The Princess at home with close friends.

I packed her case – her favorite food, her blankie, a couple of toys, some treats – and then in a moment of separation anxiety, I texted our friends a few pointers about her habits in case she had any problems vocalizing them.

Doesn’t play nicely with other dogs

Zero road sense

Needs lots of water

Loves cheese

Scared of men

One of the friends we went to the homestead with is a celebrant, who conducts weddings all over Sydney. One morning – in our search of the best hot chocolate in what was apparently a town – we bumped into a fellow celebrant, and the two of them got into a lengthy discussion about funerals and the underlying pressure they feel to write the perfect eulogy. The other celebrant admitted to us, that in view of the terrible eulogies she had witnessed, she has already written her own.

At the mention of speeches, I am always transported back to the scarring memory of the old man’s speech at my fiftieth birthday. Although my therapist has told me to bury it in the past and move forward, each time I go to a friend’s birthday and I have to listen to their husbands’ loving, glowing speeches about their wives, it is like a dagger straight through my heart. As a result of my PTSD, planning my own cremation and writing my own eulogy is something I have had to consider quite seriously if I don’t want a very sad affair with a minimal amount of planning and thought, and which only my husband and two children are likely to know anything about. Because my idea of a funeral is like the one at the beginning of Love Actually or a Viking sea burial, or at the very least a group of gospel singers. And rather than risk a Target two-for-one special, I have given the responsibility of making sure I get a worm-proof coffin to Kurt, who understands anxiety.

BTW, kids, there are “death of parent” playlists on Pinterest.

However, after giving it some thought, I have decided that retribution will be served best by leaving everything to the old man. After all, surely a eulogy is something other people need to make up about your achievements and not even he can ignore my achievements with cheese and wine? But if I should need to provide the man that I have known for most of my adult life and the father to my children and The Princess with a few pointers, it turns out that my eulogy would look a lot like the list I gave to our friends, who were looking after our dog: 

Doesn’t play nicely with others

No road sense

Needs lots of wine

Loves cheese

Scared of men

What would be on your list?

 

 

Anxiety, Stupidity, And Why The Next Time I Leave The House Will Be In A Casket

After what feels like an interminable period of drought, Sydney has been hampered by the kind of rains we usually only see on Christmas Day, at birthday parties or weddings over the past few days. Unlike my British alter-ego, I have come to enjoy the rain here – a few precious days when I can’t fry eggs on my cheeks and sleep peacefully at night. However, as in most over-populated cities of the world, rain and public transport become an interesting partnership.

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I thought I’d come to terms with the fact that it’s better that I don’t leave the house, so call it whimsy or plain stupidity, it was nevertheless an unusual decision to visit the city for an exhibition yesterday, on one of the aforementioned rainy days.

 

Okay – so it might have had something to do with work.

 

Fortunately, my confidence was buoyed by a brand new bus system, recently installed from Forgottensville to the Big Smoke. Thanks to another government incentive to blow our taxes on worthless pieces of shit ensure that us country folk get to work on time, we now have canary-yellow, double-decker buses (that scream “poor”) and drive at breakneck speed down our bus lanes – until, inevitably,  something gets in their way. So, in contrast to the old horse and cart days, the journey now takes around an hour and nine minutes, rather than the previous hour and ten.

 

I’m certain that when that government official in transport drew up the plan and came up with the innovative idea of limited stops, the fact that there is only one main arterial road into the city from our neck of the beach must have slipped his mind – although the USB points are a nice touch. And as I sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic, avoiding knee contact with the hot guy next to me, and waving along the selfish pricks in cars ahead of us in the bus lane, (unnecessarily polluting the atmosphere with their 4x4s), only a game of Watching Weird People On Buses kept me sane.

 

To cut a very long (and I fear, tedious) story short, no one informed me that the bells on these new-wave buses with limited stops, actually serve a purpose. I had made the foolish assumption that the bus would stop at each limited stop, and as we sailed past my stop, (and the agreed location for the pick up for the next stage of my mammoth trek), I might have panicked a little – a panic that I was conscious of not allowing my fellow passengers to witness. I mean, how could I publicly demonstrate the rarity with which I use this outdated and highly inefficient mode of transport? That would be owning up to my own private guilt for billowing gallons of the cheapest fuel into our atmosphere in my own 4×4; worse, it would highlight my stupidity.

 

For it has come to my attention, that since I turned fifty, I am indeed becoming more stupid, in rather pitiful, doolally, blonde, kind of way.

 

To make matters worse, in my rush to get off the bus first, I had scrambled out of my seat embarrassingly prematurely so as not to miss my stop, which meant that EVERYONE knew that I was stupid. And I couldn’t shout across the fifty or so miserable Monday morning faces in front of me to accuse the driver  – I say, young man, but I think you missed my stop – because bus drivers, like medical receptionists, are an inherently grumpy breed, borne of coping with fare dodgers, drunks, and hypochondriacs every day – although I hasten to add that I have never dodged a fare.

 

Dumped at the next stop in the rain with the self-acceptance that I am not safe to leave the house again – or indeed be left on my own at any time again – and with no clue where I was, I drowned my sorrow in a surprisingly tasty Maccas coffee. And as I sat there, berating myself for my limited understanding of both Google maps and Uber, (whilst privately congratulating myself that I have the apps on the home page (?) of my phone), I reached a life-changing decision. The next time I leave the house will be in a casket.

Far Too Many Chardonnays and a Funeral

Don’t mock me but I’ve been planning my own funeral arrangements for a while now. It’s not necessarily a middle-age thing, you just do stuff like that when you get exposed to death at an early age; you hyper-focus  on your own mortality. It’s not that I’ve become de-sensitized to death either, I just don’t want to get caught out, be without a voice to say what I really want, should the time come and I suddenly drop dead without warning.

After twenty years of marriage, I also have an acute understanding of my husband’s talents (and limitations), and party planning isn’t one of them. If I want some Woolies ‘entertaining platters’, mini pies, and cheap wine and Genesis, he’s the main man.

I don’t.

My funeral has to say something about who I was. I want it to be more of a celestial extravaganza, with a LMFAO vibe.

I honestly don’t think it’s being morbid, (and I know I refer to Brownie Wisdom quite often in my blog), it’s just ‘being prepared’.

I’ll admit freely that the symbolisation I’ve chosen to depict my life’s journey in my funeral arrangements has not emanated from some deep inner reflection, rather it’s been plaguerised from some fantastic movie funerals. And yes, I do realise that these films are purely fictional and some people might consider it unwise (bordering crass) to support my passing with what might be considered ‘tasteless frivolity’, but hey, it’s my party and I will, after all, be dead, so do you really expect me to care about the repercussions?

If I were pitching this funeral, I’d set the mood from the opening scene of ‘The Big Chill’ with ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’. We’d then move swiftly into the surprise element, something like in Love Actually where the two best moments are, 1. when Keira (turn her sideways and you miss her) Knightley is getting married to the hot black guy and all their mates and token gospel singers orchestrate this awesome wedding march with their own version of ‘All You Need Is Love’, or 2.  at the funeral where the friend/mum/wife chooses The Bay City Rollers ‘Bye Bye Baby’ accompanied by schmaltzy, tear rendering photos to say her final farewell.  Sod the bratty love-struck kid or Hugh Grant’s dancing as PM, those were the ‘moments’, of joy, of pathos, the bits that get you in the back of the throat every time (although I do also get choked by Colin Firth too, who I have wanted to be physically chained to since I saw Pride and Prejudice).

Imagine a deserted beach. Sand strewn with flickering white paper lanterns, (think the Lilydale advert if you’re not visual), a tangerine sun setting in the background, guests in shades of white to make it really ethereal-like. Granted, the whole cremation thing might be a bit tricky in Sydney, with the limitations imposed by the local councils because of the risk of bush fires, but in reality that’s just semantics. A pyre would be nice, nothing too in-your-face, along the lines of Ghandi’s maybe or the funeral pyre in Game of Thrones, when the dragon eggs hatched – something fairly low-key.

The scene is set.

 So here’s my order of service with stage directions:

White petals are thrown (local schoolchildren @ $10 per hour – does that qualify as child labour?); sand is also blown (irritatingly) by a north-easterly (which always bugger up any dusk beach celebration) and in the background, a local indigenous gospel group sings an A cappella version of :

Goodbye Michael Michelle It’s Hard to Die (Seasons In The Sun) – Terry Jacks

The congregation are seated and the old man comes to the front to generally extol my virtues. He mentions my ironing, spending and nagging prowess, the fact that I always tried in cooking, basically to remind himself everyone what a wonderful person I was, what I have left as my legacy.

He then looks out to sea and sings a rendition of:

My Heart Will Go On – Celine Dion

The children join him at the front to pay their last respects too, and, accompanied by a harpist, they sing a special adagissimo version of:

Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead – The Fifth Estate

And if there is still a dry eye on the beach, there will follow a medley of songs by the great James Taylor to emancipate any tear ducts that might need a prod, during which time several vats of Scarborough Chardonnay will be served, chilled to perfection, (and the old man will refrain from commenting on the cost (how much?) or reminding the congregation to ‘not get too used to it as it is a treat’).

The combination of fine wine and the old man footing the bill will promote feelings of hope and optimism amongst my family and friends; it will be a true celebration of my life, and the whole congregation will come together for:

My Way – Frank Sinatra

There will be lots of hooliganesque fist-punching and singing at full throttle, joyfully, as Frank builds to his climax and finishes with ‘and did it my…….way!

And on that note it will be time for me to say goodbye, time for me to meet my maker and for the old man to find a younger model. 

As the funeral pyre is set alight (assuming that the old man has remembered the BBQ lighters this time), the choir will burst forth with:

Light My Fire – The Doors

Life is, after all, about moments.

Beach Lantern courtesy of Bill Ng at www.flickr.com