“Good morning, it’s the undertaker here…..”
Good Friday is one of those days on the calendar that conjures up memories from the past, of death, darkness and decay. With good reason, as Good Friday afternoons were usually spent as a family, sat sitting in a decaying, mouldy, dank, village church, the younger among us bemoaning the fact that we were off from school yet were subjected to having to perch on a dusty pew and behave, in our Sunday-best clothes. The village church was always dark. Dark wood, dark walls, dark floor. Dark hymns about a dark death and loss. A dark message from a dark pulpit where an old man wearing dark robes droned on relentlessly about dark matters. It was a dark, dark afternoon.
At one point during the proceedings, they brought round a dark coloured velvet purse with two dark wooden handles, stained dark from the ingrained dirt from countless dark and weathered farming hands, to enable passing from one person to another along the dark pews. They wanted payment for this dark message! My bright and shiny shilling weekly allowance remained firmly in my pocket. Mother or father pressed a coin into our hands for placement into the bag instead. A relief to all concerned. Can I palm my shilling for the larger, more valuable coin that I’ve been given? After all, last Sunday was Palm Sunday….I had been listening.
Following the dark and morbid service which ended in darkened sky, death and a dark tomb burial, I recall the older parishioners eating flesh and drinking blood. They all hung their heads and closed their eyes in shame at such a performance. Little wonder, as the practice was somewhat bizarre to the likes of us children, forced to sit still and ‘observe’. Anyway, the flesh looked like a loaf of bread and the blood, I swear, was Ribena or Summer Berries Robinson’s squash! Maybe their shame was due to all the old people going along and believing what the berobed old man up the front was telling them. At one point the ghoulish-like withered figure in the flailing robes declared there would be wailing and gnashing of teeth. A tiny lad, forced to sit in the front by his mother, possibly for bad behaviour, said he hadn’t got any teeth, showing off a gummy grin to us all for good measure. ‘Teeth sonny will be provided’ roared back the answer!
When the service concluded and just when we thought it was all over, for good behaviour, we each received a white carton. On opening, it revealed certain warm comestibles of a dubious nature. Fish paste, or spam sandwiches and a bun, or rock cake. Cake, but dried to the texture and resemblance of a rock. Like the ones your ageing Aunt brought out on a china plate last month and the month before that too, suggesting a spread of butter might aid the digestion! There might have been something else, but my memory and horror at the stench of moist, warm, fish paste sandwiches, lightly sweating in an enclosed space, has wiped everything else away. The redolent aroma, wafting about the humid halls of my mind, is etched forever on my childhood memory. The older people had a cup of lukewarm brown liquid to wash these particular offerings down. Tea they called it. From father’s grimace, it wasn’t to his usual standard or liking either.
Meanwhile, outside, the sun was shining, fluffy white clouds dotted the azure blue spring sky, daffodils swung about, nodding their heads in time to the passing breeze and we wanted to do nothing more than go newting down the local pond with a net and jar, a catapult rammed into a back pocket for good measure.
What a waste of an afternoon. Almost as bad as the coming Sunday where we would have to attend church twice for our sins. Attend or atone, it all amounted to the same thing as again we were wearing our cleanest clothes and polished shoes having to sit on a pew until we were allowed to escape. I’d better not scuff them up between now and then or else, on Saturday night, I’d be on the kitchen floor again with the brushes and polish.
Good Friday? There was precious little ‘good’ about it! It was to be endured. A grinding few hours of boring captivity. A dark, dark day.
So now, as time has educated and expounded on the reasons for the event, the modern generation would probably refer to this particular day as Sick Friday. Well Sick….
“Good morning, it’s the undertaker here to enquire how you are this Good Friday….How’s the family? How are you coping with the lockdown? Do you have enough of everything? Is there anything I can do or get for you?”
Being prefaced by my profession, all of the above is quite rightly overshadowed by a reticence to hear from me now, or at any time. No one really wants to see me, hear from me or be attended to by me.
I will have to change my opening gambit. Instead of using my profession in the opening salutation, maybe limit it to just my name. You still know who I am and if you have to check your pulse, if it’s quickened by my call, then at least it is still there! Still beating. And while it beats, there is life and where there’s life, there’s hope. Hope for a brighter day tomorrow and then Sunday. Sunday being that day in the Gregorian Calendar where our thoughts are on eggs,
Renewal of body and mind as well as the hope of things to come. Spiritually and physically, we hope for brighter days and renewed strength to…
Carry on regardless