Friday, 22 August 2014

Eulogy For Mum

It's my mum's funeral service today at Wilford Hill, which is a nice place to have a funeral service. Mum - Patricia, for those of you who are not sons and daughters - will be laid to rest in the Garden of Rest behind the chapel. 

Although we never discussed it (her passing was completely unexpected, mum a victim of a complex combination of malignant medical conditions, one or two that I can't even pronounce), I know she would want to be cremated. 

No way would mum would want to rot for eternity in a freezing hole: She'd want to go out in a blaze of glory.

I'd like to thank everyone around the world on my various walls and lines for their support in the last fortnight. I have bought three bunches of flowers on behalf of a) all of you, b) some of you, and c) a special Posy from three of you who have been with me every day as I have struggled against the tidal wave of emotion that the sea of bereavement brings.

I visited mum twice per week in her residential care home and we would sit looking at my laptop - as well as listening to the racing on Betfair Radio and watching stupid videos - and I would try to explain social networking; Facebook and Twitter. 

While she loved listening to the patter and explanations, I am sure she didn't have the faintest clue what I was going on about! 

Mum referred to my laptop as "that game you bring". Born foursquare in that generation that can remember the War (in fact, she was born in October 1940, towards the fag end of the Battle of Britain, the Spitfires and Hurricanes soaring high above the munitions factories of Nottingham), you can understand her for not fully comprehending our world, a world where we can form and maintain interactions, friendships and love affairs with people we may never meet. 

She just couldn't get it. 

Mum spoke to her neighbours. That she could understand.

I often see memes on my line about Personal Development. Exhortations to do this. Invocations to do that. Homespun homilies, inspirational quotes. Mum lived PD without ever realising it, or accepting the label. 

She lived her life exactly as she wanted to. Independently and without compromise. There wasn't a man who could control her, nor a political or religious system she believed in. 

She liked to have fun, she liked to laugh and she liked to get dressed up and go out with her companion of thirty five years. That was mum.

Cookbooks bought for Christmas would be in the charity shop by New Years Day. Steam irons were hidden in deep cupboards still in the box. I never saw her wheel a vacuum cleaner, despite her protestations to the contrary. It was all too boring for her. 

What she really liked to do at home was sit there, with a packet of Embassy, an endless mug of tea, read, and listen to music. Sixties, mostly. 

Orbison. Hendrix. Jefferson Airplane. Beatles. Procul Harum. The house echoed to the sounds of the best era the world of music has ever had to offer and there was always a new album on the turntable. 

While I may not know how to cook, iron or vacuum a carpet, I can tell you the line up of the Yardbirds in 1967, and what the best album ever produced by The Animals was, and for that I will always be grateful.

The house was always full of kids too. Snooker tournaments. Darts. Cake eating contests (that mum supplied, straight from the supermarket), and parties. 

In my short novel Ultra Violence, I describe a night where friends come round to watch Horror films on an ITV series called Appointment With Fear. Dracula. Frankenstein. Cushing. Lee, those old Hammer films that took over the world. 

No way would my ten year old friends be allowed to watch this at home, but they queued up for a sleepover on a Friday night at our house. Mum would sit and watch the films with us, her constant fag, her bottomless tea. 

Every now and again, you would hear her chortle in that way of hers, as if she'd seen something very silly indeed. 

And there was no rush to go to bed either. We didn't have bedtimes at our house. What we had was anarchy and I loved it.

When my brother and I left for Uni, mum sold up the big house on the hill and moved into a flat. Minimum maintenance, maximum enjoyment. 

And every Wednesday and Saturday, she and her companion would go out to the pub. 

When she was committed to residential care after a series of accidents which left her left leg dangerously weak, I said to her that dressmakers, make-up manufacturers, pub landlords, taxi drivers, jukebox owners and cigarette companies around the world would be in mourning. 

She just laughed and winked at me. "I'll find a way out," she grinned, the minx, the rascal to the end.

Mum couldn't handle tears or self pity so the service today will be a celebration. I remember when the chief social worker at Queens Medical Centre told her that she would have to move into residential care. I promptly burst into tears, aware that it was all over, mum's irresponsible, uncompromising, never-ending party, and she looked at me as if I was crackers. 

I'll never forget that look. 

It was one of the most derisive looks I have ever seen. That War generation are rock hard. You only cry when it's warranted and you do it behind closed doors. 

Laugh, instead. Smile. Enjoy.

And that was mum. She'd catch the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and throw them straight back at the Fates with a big grin on her face. 

Until those vengeful Fates got her last week - painlessly, without fuss - I thought my mother was indestructible and immortal. 

Then I realised that she is. As I write this, I can see her, perched on her cloud, with Roy Orbison and Mario Lanza and all her mates from the Monday Club in the sky, a glass of Guinness in one hand and a SuperKing in the other. 

A smile on her face and one of her cheeky putdowns from the ancient land of Banter - a world fast disappearing in a swamp of scared politeness.


Mum, in all the years I knew you, I never heard you say anything bad about anyone and you are the only person in the world that I can say that about. It never occurred to you to do so. It just wasn't in you. You lived your life your way and you asked for no consideration. You wasted nothing. Not a second. 

You were Thoroughly Modern Millie (Remember that?) 

You knew that people were people and did people things and so did you and you expected nothing else. You never judged and you treated the judgement of others with the disdain it deserved. And you lived your life each day to the maximum extent.

In fact, you were ahead of your time by twenty years.

So, it's goodbye. Finally. Well,it will be this afternoon. I shall miss you and I know my brother will. Tony, your lifetime companion will. Your ex-husband - my father - will, you pair of battling young Basford rascals. 

Let's face it - everyone will miss you. 

You were the best. You are irreplacable. And you are loved.

Goodbye Mum,



  1. Beautiful Marky - she sounds fabulous and I wish I'd known her - be strong and keep smiling - you've done good! Gxx

  2. My deepest sympathies; praying for everyone; God Bless.

  3. Your mum sounds like such a beautiful person, take care xx

  4. I truly loved every word of this. You're an amazing person, Mark. Rest well, beautiful angel. xx

  5. My heart goes out to you. What you wrote was so touching. It's so difficult to lose your mom (mum). I wish we could bring her back but she must be in a better place. You have such a good heart. I am certain you made her very very proud Mark! xx

  6. This is very touching. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

  7. This made me cry. Your mum was wonderful and you were so, so lucky to have her. xx