A final farewell

Sometimes you see a scene enacted before you and you just know that sooner or later it’s going to appear, modified in various ways, in something you write. This happened this morning. Husband was having his booster jab and the area around the jab-centre was completely full of cars so I drove round the corner to an area – I can’t really call it a car park as such, but I found a place to wait. There’s a block which has a gym, offices, a martial arts studio and various other businesses, and an L-shaped carpark which is rarely full. Our dog rendezvous’s with his chums there to go to his twice-weekly playschool. They are picked up in what might be called the playschool bus but is actually a van with cosy individual carpeted travel cages. It’s on a road which has houses on either side at one end, various businesses, the rugby club, the back entrance to the station and the Sea Cadets premises.

I was parked in the little carpark, opposite the rugby club when I noticed that there was an empty, horse-drawn hearse opposite , waiting, either for an occupant or to return to its stable. There was a very smart woman funeral director, dressed in black with a top hat and tail coat, black gloves, black stockings and a patient expression. There were various people just inside the rugby club gates but I couldn’t make them out – whether they were anything to do with the hearse or not. There was a big wagon/lorry which I realised was a horse box as two immaculate and gleaming completely black horses were led out. Their coats shone, their hooves gleamed, the straps and harnesses and other paraphernalia were polished to brilliance and they themselves were stately and calm.

They stood waiting, the hearse, the funeral director, the man with the horses’ reins in hand, the horses themselves. Nothing much happened, but the sun beamed down. The man moved away and the woman took the reins and stood nose to nose with the fine beasts, apparently having a quiet conversation, and received a gentle kiss from one. There was another woman funeral director, equally smart, top-hatted, black-suited, shiny shoes, and then the man reappeared with black straps and white squares, like small horse-rugs which he draped over the horses’s backs, while the woman affixed blue plumes to their head-dresses. 

A motorised hearse appeared with a coffin covered in what appeared to be blue rosettes – the rugby colours are blue, so maybe the departed was an ex-member. Cars drew up and people got out, variously dressed appropriate to the occasion. They were respectful, but clearly wanting to celebrate the life of their loved one and they greeted each other, men and women, waiting for the coffin to be transferred to the horse-drawn hearse. Some of the men were in white shirts, no jackets, and braces holding up their trousers, a cap on their heads. A bottle of whisky was produced and shot glasses and toasts were made and the bottle put away. Meanwhile the coffin was transferred and the congregation returned to their cars, and slowly the magnificent horses set off followed by the mourners in their vehicles.

I have no idea who the departed was, but it was a grand, dignified and yet very warm-hearted procession to their final farewell.


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