I went to a funeral yesterday. I never met the man but to all of his large family, including my wife, he was simply 'Ar' Billy.
Funerals are funny things - not the most apposite adjective of course - but you know what I mean. People do 'funny' things at funerals and are affected in 'funny' ways.
It's also strange that funerals are the only occasions where the main character is missing...at christenings we have a baby, at weddings we have a happy couple but at funerals all we have is........well ... a box.
Billy was a poet and songwriter so his box was painted white and decorated with guitars and musical notes - in fact the family called it "The Music Box" as Billy loved his music even more than his beer and fags. The music played was written by Billy himself and performed by his younger brother Steve. It was very moving and very cool at the same time.
After the committal we drove twenty miles to Billy's favourite watering hole - East End Park Working Mens Club. The booze flowed freely and the buffet was good. Everybody told the compulsory funny story about Billy and as the afternoon progressed I realised that I was wrong.
Billy was not missing - in fact he was more 'present' than he had probably ever been. He was the thread that connected this large gathering and each time they mentioned him, he was there. I hope the family keep him present for a long time - he must have been a nice guy.
Of course funerals are times to show emotions. Now my family do not make an open show of emotion and I was not brought up to do so.. which brings me nicely to the subject of hugs.
What are your thoughts about hugging?
I'm hopeless. My wife tells me that my hands are extremely warm. She admits that this is quite nice in some situations but that is another story and we have a licence.
It's the people I don't have a licence for that cause me problems.
Living in Yorkshire the idea of 'man' hugging seldom arises. We make do with a 'manly' handshake or in extreme circumstances (usually the result of some female insistence) it is a quick hug with minimum contact, perhaps a perfunctory pat on the shoulder, soon over and done with.
But it's the females who cause the hugging problems. Where do I put these red hot hands - on her shoulders,on her back, lower down or what? What about eye contact? Do I give her a peck on the cheek or offer mine to her? It's a minefield and that is just the younger women. What about the older ones, the ones who crush you in a breathless grip - it's very tricky to know what to do.
I say this because I was observing my lovely wife yesterday moving among her family dispensing hugs with such warmth, so naturally and so gracefully that people were genuinely touched.
It made me think of all the times I wished I had hugged her and told her that I loved her - but didn't..a bit sad this keeping your emotions in check.
So I will now put this right. Merice - this is for all the opportunities that were missed - here's a big hug and "I love you.".
There I told you that funerals make you do 'funny' things..so get a grip man - tighten those shoulders, straighten that back, keep calm and carry on as normal!