My Aunt Bertha: The last of Ten

 My aunt was the last of ten children and she was the last to die. Her funeral was on Friday at St Martin's Church, Cambridge: a few streets from the home she lived in for most of her life. She was married in 1948 to "Uncle Mac" who died in 1995.

She had four children, two girls and two boys. The boys never married and one lived just around the corner from his mother. The two girls had numerous children. One daughter has three children, all of whom have PhDs in Physics. The other daughter's children are doctors. That's no surprise: my Aunt was as bright as a button almost to her end.

Her coffin was woven out of willow carried in by four pall bearers who looked like they'd been recruited from Peterborough jail. Unfortunately we sat next to the out of tune organ which drowned out our piteous attempts at following the hymns my aunt had chosen. And what a tuneless lot they were! The priest was great. He gave a lovely, up beat and funny account of her life. The church was packed with family, friends and members of the church of which my aunt had been such an active member.

Afterwards there was tea and cake and quite a bit of catching up. Most of my cousins there I hadn't seen in years. One cousin we spent most time with, was the spitting image  of her mother and had to same Hampshire burr and speed of delivery as her. It was magical. I hadn't thought about my mum for years - she died 38 years ago. Memories cascaded as my cousin recounted stories of my mother and her mum and the table tennis marathons my mother subjected all visitors to - she was badly crippled with arthritis and she claimed table tennis was good for that.

Lesley and I felt old there. Many of the moaners were well into the twilight of their lives and that reminded us of our own age. We exchanged e-mail addresses and then made the short walk to Cambridge Station.

I'd booked the rail tickets a month ago. With my senior card the return for the two of us cost £24. We caught the 11:40 from Tottenham Hale and arrived about an hour later. The funeral was at 2pm. We bought takeout  tea and coffee from Costa and sat in the station square to eat the sandwiches Lesley had prepared. Just like the picnics I had as a child.

We left the church at around half four: our return train wasn't until 7:20 pm. We thought we'd get an earlier train but on being told it would cost an extra £34 we decided to wait!...and went to the Old Ticket Office (OTO) bar/restaurant. Cambridge is a fairly well off city: that's the impression you get from the customers at the OTO. We had two half pints of gluten free beer. As it was 8% proof the bar man suggested a pint would be ill advised. The two halves cost £10, but was extremely tasty. We found a seat after some time and then decided to have a meal. We ended up talking to the retired Director of the London Philharmonic who proudly showed us a letter he had published in that day's "Times". He was comparing the new 800 million Euros Elbe Philharmonic Hall with the current state of concert halls in the UK. We chatted about Brexit and the state of the parties as he and his mate finished a nice bottle of white and we drank water.

And so back to Walthamstow. A painless journey there and back to Cambridge and a thought and emotion provoking funeral.    


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