Thursday, 1 July 2010

Funeral for a Friend

This sunny London morning, in a narrow Soho street, two magnificent dusky horses with black ostrich plumes on their heads stand harnessed to a glass carriage. The horses snort softly and occasionally toss their flowing manes. A quiet crowd is gathered here, mostly dressed in black with the occasional flash of scarlet or hot pink. We chat in subdued tones. Inside the carriage my friend lies in his coffin. The coffin is made of cardboard, covered with red sparkly paper, decorated with ruby crystals and paper flowers. An outlandishly huge, black top hat wobbles on the roof of the carriage.

The funeral cortège sets off and the crowd fall in behind. Following the carriage, we process slowly around the streets of Soho for about an hour in our high heels until our feet nearly drop off. Eventually we arrive at St James’s church, Piccadilly. The church is already packed to the rafters. After everyone has squeezed onto a pew the coffin is carried in. The service is moving, joyful and elegant. Everything about the funeral is perfect: the glass carriage; the sunflowers; the readings and tributes; the press photographers; the eye-catching outfits; the circus atmosphere. Of course the one person who would have enjoyed it the most is not here to share the experience. At the end my friend’s coffin is carried out to the music of his beloved Marc Bolan singing 20th Century Boy.

It is unutterably sad to see a coffin carried away for the last time and to know that a kind, infuriating, contrary, funny, morose, witty, messed-up, sweet human lies inside it, his body about to be burned to ashes.

The mourners regroup in the churchyard for drinks. Later the wake moves to a club in Soho where there is more chatting and the showing of a funny and touching film.

At five p.m. the wake is still going strong but I have to leave. I have an appointment with my therapist.

I sit on the therapist’s couch and cry for an hour. My friend wasn’t my lover, or my brother. He was not the most important person in my life, nor I in his. But he was my friend, for better or worse. His death is yet another loss.

My friend didn’t please everybody in this world. He didn’t try to. What I can say for certain is this: for all his foibles, he was loved.


thequarefella said...

Really nice, sincere and touchingly readable piece.