Saturday, July 21, 2007


That's the best adjective for yesterday.
It looked so innocent when I contemplated my diary in the morning

1.30 Funeral
5.00 Festival in a Field

OK, so the odd alarm bell might have rung at those last 3 words, since the weather forecast wasn’t too promising but still…only 2 items there in black and white. Easy.

Except that the rain began mid morning and didn’t stop.
At 12.50 I opened the front door and instantly rejected my normal bike ride to church in favour of the car. Emerging from Privet Drive, I found Church Street in chaos, with water covering the road at the lowest point and traffic backed right up past the primary school. No option but to stay with the car, though, so I negotiated the waters carefully and eventually reached church having taken 25 minutes to do a 3 minute journey.
This was partly because the cars for the funeral were stopping any and everywhere:
St M’s sits on a sort of island surrounded by a 1 way system, so it doesn’t take much to clog things up, and believe me they were well and truly clogged. Nor was it better inside the church , where every pew was long since filled and people were being shoe-horned into the choir stalls, the chapel, anywhere really…Meanwhile, there was confusion over the CD the family had provided ; they’d burned the tracks they wanted, but not so that any CD player could actually read them. Brief and casual conversation with the organist, who told me what he planned as a substitute, presuming we couldn’t get the CD sorted in time. We couldn’t. Definitely. It was beginning to be almost impossible to move in the church. Transepts jammed. Crowds around the doors. Though it was still pouring, WonderfulVicar and I decided, it being 1.30, that we’d make a dash round the outside of the building to meet the mourners and the coffin at the west door. Only as we stepped out, I heard the organist begin the music he’d mentioned to me. I dashed back to the other door, and seeing the congregation had risen, we dropped the umbrellas and entered with as much dignity as we could, negotiating the crowd in order to meet the coffin at the chancel steps.Clearly the bearers had seen a gap in the crowds and just gone for it. Who could blame them?

The service itself, for a much loved resident of the village, was amazing. T’s brother gave a tribute that was an extraordinary expression of love, pride and much humour…a real celebration of a life that clearly meant alot to the crowds there. When he finished his eulogy he invited the congregation to give 3 cheers. We did, and in the silence that followed, T’s beloved dog gave one single, sharp bark.After that, there seemed very little for WonderfulVicar and I to do…He preached the Gospel, I lead the prayers and we all stood as we commended T to God’s care. Then we made our way down the aisle, past the guard of honour and out into the downpour -only to realise that nobody could actually reach the magic button, to alert the bell ringers to the fact that the service was over and their celebration ringing should begin. Praying they’d left the door at the foot of the tower unlocked, I pelted round the outside of the church, and did indeed find it open, so that I could call up to them. Moments later the bells rang out, and I made my way back to the vestry – my surplice clinging to me in soggy folds.
It took a good while for the congregation to find their way out of church, - and by the time I got into the car it was well gone 3.00 and the water levels were still rising. Again, there was no option but to keep going, but I was praying fervently that Hattie Gandhi had abandoned her plan to drive over in the baby car to visit a friend…Fire engines were outside my neighbour’s house, pumping; they’d been hit in the last lot of flooding – and now this. Their presence, adding to the end of school collection traffic made for another interesting drive…half an hour door to door this time.
HG was safe at home, but we couldn’t stay there. Remember that second entry in the diary??
to be continued

1 comment:

Cal said...

Oh my goodness. I've been listening to the news on the radio but today was the first time in a couple of days that I put the TV news on - and I've just seen the flooding in Gloucestershire. Wow.

It did seem surreal over the weekend hearing all about it when it was actually quite sunny here (the irony is I went swimming for the first time in months and months!) but it's even stranger seeing it.

You poor things. Prayers.