At the other end of the telephone she was sighing mostly with relief. Stephen and Margaret had meant a lot to Angus, particularly as underwriters of some of his schemes although Audrey was unaware of this, and she didn’t want his passing to go without them. She had the solution in a flash of fateful inspiration. The idea to bring the funeral to them caused some minor consternation, but overall seemed a reasonable idea. “Can you do that?” wondered Margaret, “is it legal?” Stephen asked, but for Audrey there was no question. The ashes had been in the boot since she’d collected them from the crematorium. They and she would be on their way to Great Leigh on Saturday morning. They would spend a delightful weekend together and then Audrey would return home to begin her new life, a life where she would strive to overcome the Angus shaped hole he had left for her. There were many other, different shaped holes that, unbeknownst to Audrey, were waiting for her to tumble into.
The second funeral at Great Leigh would be her final act of mourning Audrey decided. Then she would focus on what Angus had instructed when he whispered through paper dry lips: “get the cash, turn it all into cash, fast”. And then he had wheezed and coughed, his eyes swimming blue and steely alive through his tears until the steel softened and the sparkled blue turned flat and empty.
At Turzel House they all agreed it was a lovely gesture for Audrey to bring a version of the funeral to them. It was unfortunate it was so very wet, on the day of the private service. A persistent rain and ragged wind bullied them into a formless damp and aged huddle. They stood visibly shivering on the wet weed riddled gravel, unable to move for fear of intrusive crunching, turning slowly blue, their limbs approaching the tenor of marble. It was an incongruous little crew, umbrellas in icycled hands, looking sad and listening with earnest patience to Audrey as she read out the address in her best church voice. When it came to the singing (always the best part Stephen had whispered to his wife), they perked up and three of them managed a credible rendition of Jerusalem. Deidrie sang the tune from Andy Pandy, followed by brief snatches of the Sailor’s Hornpipe which she remembered she was fond of, possibly from Blue Peter.
All in all it was a suitably miserable and damp affair bringing more tears to Audrey’s worn out eyes. The rest of her weekend did likewise as Deirdre pestered her with questions about the box mistaking it for a surprise present for her, and explaining that her parents were training to run in the Tunbridge Wells marathon. “I shall be cheering from the sidelines as my knees are too bad for the hills. It’s going to be very exciting.” “But Deirdre dear, your parents are nearly one hundred years old, don’t you think it might be a bit much for them, even with the training?” Audrey said. “Oh no,” Deirdre replied, “they have the advantage of experience you see.”
Experience was the answer to most of Deirdre’s rare challenges to her parents decisions and instructions. “Why?” she might ask, and her parents would gently explain “because we have the experience my dear”. Audrey considered it but decided not to bother explain that experience was one thing, when it resulted from decades of socialising and diplomatic activities all over the world. But it wouldn’t really help with a 26 mile run through hilly Tunbridge Wells and surrounds, especially if one is in one’s midnineties. Audrey resigned herself sadly to the thought that she should let this line of conversation drop and that she should make the most of her time with her decaying Godparents and their child. She should also start thinking about what should happen to Deirdre once Angus welcomed Stephen and Margaret to his world. Angus was an equally unsuitable candidate for a marathon even in his fleeting preflab prime. The thought of the three marathoning somewhere in the far beyond brought a sad smile to Audrey’s face and tears to hover too close, so she switched off her brain and joined her friends to stare at the television. She had soon joined them in a little snooze before Deirdre landed in her lap after yet another failed pirouette. Thus progressed the evening until it was time to take the dogs for their evening walk.
The next morning it was clear the excitement of the on demand funeral had been a bit too much for them all, because everyone overslept. Even Alistair who had inadvertently spent much of the evening out in the rain, having studiously ignored calls to come in from the pretelevision stroll and wee session. Audrey had intended to make an early start back to town and woke with alarm to hear Deirdre banging an ancient tin drum in the hall outside her door, and calling them all to breakfast. Her parents had wisely removed their hearing aids the evening before, but for Audrey the wake up call crashed into a particularly harrowing dream about a cascade of tomato soup tins falling on her as she perused the canned goods in Asda. “Dear, dear, Deirdre please do stop, I’m awake. I’m getting up. Let them sleep”. Deirdre ignored her and tried for a bit of rhythm with the ladle she was wielding, going from the rim to the sides of the drum and back to the middle. It wasn’t long before she dealt herself a sharp blow across her fingers and dropped the drum and ladle, and started crying pathetically, dramatically kicking the drum until it bounced away down the stairs landing close to the kitchen in the perfect spot for someone to trip over it later.
Deidre made herself small, and whimpering and crouched on the floor of the mostly lightless hall, managing to conceal herself almost completely. Coming out of her room, wrestling ineffectually with her dressing gown and slippers determined to get themselves onto the wrong feet, Audrey stumbled over the hunched form and barely managed to catch a stray frond of artificial pot plant in an effort to rebalance. Not having much weight the fake plant flew with her into the banister before going solo to follow the drum down the stairs. The pot plant lacked the weight and bounce of the drum, so it landed lightly at the foot of the stairs on the aging Labrador. He in terror, regained youth’s long forgotten nimbleness just long enough to gurgle a yelp and scrabble a few precious inches along the floor to where the plant had landed, its plastic leaves within chewing range. Such was his age Bertie’s chewing days were long behind him. Instead he mashed his head down onto a new makeshift if slightly spikey pillow. “Sorry” Deirdre mumbled, nursing her bruised hand and then squeezing at it to see if there was blood. There wasn’t. Audrey, having regained her balance if not her poise, reached down to help Deirdre up. Thus began a fateful day.
It wasn’t until midafternoon that the morning’s dramas had settled and the usual routine of a Sunday at Turzel House reasserted itself, minus lunch. By the time Stephen and Margaret were roused and Deirdre had lovingly dressed them according to the ingrained and ancient pattern, it was noon. And by the time a complex breakfast involving reheated fish pie, baked beans and cakes was consumed and cleared away, and after Deirdre had sung her new favourite song for them, it was late in the afternoon. Her departure imminent and a familiar very hot bath fantasy shimmering at the back of her mind, Audrey was in good spirits. They were generous and kind spirits, spirits of magnanimous generosity, but the spirits were unaware that the delicious hot bath, with its scented candles, warm towels and chilled Chardonnay would be postponed for quite some time.