Tonight I’m showing ‘Death at a Funeral’ (2007), the mostly-English one. It features so many great actors, it would be wrong to single them out for praise.
So here goes: I think Peter Dinklage is amazing, in everything he does. Peter Vaughan was wonderful. Two such great actors, to rediscover them both in Game of Thrones was like a revelation.
I never do this, and I hesitate to do it now: I won’t enjoy the film I’m showing tonight. There have been plenty of times I’ve shown a film that I don’t really have the audience for. As previously reported, swearing, violence, adult scenes and vomit do nothing for my people. The reason I don’t really like ‘Death at a Funeral’ is that it is strangely reminiscent of my grandmother’s funeral.
Funerals are generally heart-shredding affairs. All told, I’ve attended two weddings and seventeen funerals. I’ve been to so many, perhaps I fancy myself as something of an expert.
When we got to Hertfordshire: a disaster in itself, as my uncles refused to stop and ask directions, and I was racking my brain trying to remember the quickest route to the house from the awkward vantage point of the back seat behind the tallest uncle, and for whatever reason, they’d gone and shut down Wimpy, so I had no focal point; we were all shattered. I had found every excuse to stop at various points on the road. My uncles must have thought I had a urinary tract infection. Actually, I had a very real need for nicotine, and forty cigarettes hidden in the bottom of my borrowed handbag.
My uncles took turns driving us up to Hertfordshire. My best friend from school came with me. It had been a harrowing few years, so I was glad of the support. My mother was too ill to come with us. When we got to the house, a cousin of my father’s came to the door in a housecoat with her hair up in curlers. My friend asked if she was the cleaner. Looking back, that was indicative of how the day was going to go.
Photographs of myself and my parents had been moved. My grandmother wore her perfume even in hospital, but the house didn’t smell like her anymore. It was unfamiliar, uncomfortable.
Horribly, a distant relation who had some problem with me (I won’t begin to guess what, as I was only fifteen at the time. I hadn’t had chance to be truly offensive yet) made a point of telling me to go up and see her room. Said distant someone had put a whole heap of photographs of my dad, who I was missing quite badly, on my grandmother’s bed. In the photos he was smiling back, with a decent couple of dozen girlfriends, of many different eras in his bachelorhood. I have no doubt that action was designed to hurt me. If anything, I felt quite proud.
So many of us start out imagining we’ll have many dozens of torrid love affairs, and wind up marrying the first person we meet out of college. I’m sure it was all very innocent, it was a different time, but I’m glad my dad was appreciated.
Going to the church, there came a long discussion of who should go in the car from the funeral home. People sputtered about how important they were to my grandmother, while I sunk into the kerb, and waited to be put somewhere.
One of my uncles was religiously disinclined to come into the church, and the other decided that as his brother was technically in England on holiday, he should stay outside with him.
There was a tacky pale-peach rose stencilled on the foot end of my grandmother’s casket. The hymns leaned towards the painful side of the spectrum. The Day Thou Gavest and Abide With Me, were definitely among them.
The vicar looked about twelve. He had a terrible head-cold, and sneezed his way through All Things Bright And Beautiful.
During the service he told us that: “May (my gran) and Florrie (her sister) could turn quite a few heads in their day.”
By this point, they were both dead. This felt like a rather bloodless statement.
Also: “May’s only vice was that from time to time, she would smoke a single cigarette. At parties. But she wouldn’t inhale.”
How that even counts as a vice, rather than a waste, I have no idea.
I sobbed my way through the service.
My uncles stood, redundantly, outside.
My friend was uncomfortable. Half my family was dead. It was the hardest day I had ever had. It’s still top five. Thinking about it is both sharp and painful.
The wake was traditionally English: phone numbers were passed over the cheese dip. Anaemic sausage rolls and weak tea. Everybody slightly hoping to choke to death on the vegetarian quiche to avoid the embarrassment of not knowing whether to shake hands or kiss on leaving. And if it’s a kiss, is it one? Two? French would surely be inappropriate, wouldn’t it?
So, no. I’m not looking forward to a film about embarrassment and awkwardness at a funeral. I may have to lean very heavily on the joyous availability and glorious affordability of the alcohol I have behind the bar.
I’ll enjoy seeing Peter Dinklage again, though.