For someone of my age (32) , I've been to a lot of funerals. Going on twenty at the last count in fact. Of course a couple of these were for elderly relatives, who had lived full and happy lives to a ripe old age; but an upsetting proportion were for friends whose time was cut short prematurely. Some were close contemporaries who I still think about a lot - what they might be up to now if the big 'C' hadn't raised its ugly head. When I remember their funerals though, I think how blessed they were to have been so well-loved and respected during their lives, and what a shame it was that they couldn't have been there to witness the standing-room-only theatrical affairs in which they were despatched from this world.
There's nothing more depressing than a quiet funeral, and I have been to a couple of those too. We'd all like to hope, I'm sure, for a full-house, a rousing chorus or two (it helps to be part of the am-dram community to ensure this), and a passionately delivered eulogy with a few affectionately humorous anecdotes. I'll never forget the shocked faces of some of the more respectable attendees at my own grandmother's funeral, when the vicar (also a family friend) recounted the time he shared a spliff with her in my mum's back garden. I'm sure Granny would have been amused, though. And of course, everyone knows the famously scathing memorial speech in which John Cleese proclaimed "Good riddance to him, the freeloading bastard! I hope he fries" of his friend and fellow Python, Graham Chapman. This level of sarcasm wouldn't be welcome or appropriate for everyone, but personally I would be more than happy to think of someone getting a laugh at my expense as part of the proceedings.
Being both a consummate party-thrower and self-confessed control freak, I struggle with the idea of someone else organising my funeral, and actually give a worrying amount of thought to what instructions I will leave to ensure a suitably dramatic send-off. My friend Neel (incidentally listed in the Brighton Cheeky Guide as a local eccentric) was so concerned about missing his own funeral, that he decided to throw one while he was still alive to arrange and appreciate it. Some might think this a rather sick idea, but I can understand where he was coming from. I'm obviously hoping that own my plans won't be needed for some years to come, but I do already know exactly what music will be played at which parts of the ceremony, and what pictures will be shown on the tear-jerking slideshow, to be played during the cremation. I even made a friend promise recently (sorry Tim) that he will lead a chorus of 'Ding Dong the Witch is Dead' should I die before him. But this is the only detail I'm giving away, as the rest, of course, should be a surprise.
Top left: Craig Rees (with me, in The Pajama Game), RIP 2005
Bottom right: Paula Dollar, RIP 1999
Also fondly remembered: Angie Whimpenny, Michael Carpenter, Barbara Woodcock, Hilda Stanfield, Pauline Sands, Ron & Gill Wickins, Marc Meader, Geoff Fuggle, David & Pam Williams, Paul Shingler, Jean Coleman, David Harmer, and not forgetting all the creatures.