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I went to a funeral tonight. Well, actually, I went to the removal.

It always surprises me how many people from outside Ireland visit here, so perhaps I should explain. We have a custom where a person who has died lies in state at the undertaker’s premises, and all his friends, and the friends of the family, come to commiserate with the bereaved. Usually, what happens is that you walk into the place, and the departed is laid out in the coffin, and all the relatives are there, the men standing up and the women sitting down, and you file past them shaking hands with them. This is called the removal, because when everybody is finished shaking hands, the deceased is removed to the church for a brief religious ceremony, to be followed by another ceremony tomorrow, followed by a burial. (Unless you’re having a cremation, when you just send the deceased off in a taxi, and everybody goes straight to the pub).

Now, I have always had a problem with this hand-shaking business. I don’t like shaking hands with teenagers I’ve never met in my life. You don’t know where their hands have been, or actually, you do. Sorry for your troubles? Most of my life is given over to screaming at teenagers. Put that thing fukken down!! It’ll go into someone’s eye!!!

I also don’t like commiserating with the idiot brothers-in-law who never liked the deceased but are standing there anyway, and you have to walk up to them and shake their fucking hand and tell them you’re sorry for their troubles. Troubles? What troubles? They hated the fucker. In reality, all you want to do is walk over, knee them in the crotch, head-butt them as they collapse and say That’s for behaving like a prick at the christening, ya cunt. Not that you can do that at a funeral, you understand, but you’d like to.

So no. I don’t really like the hand-shaking thing at removals.

A few years ago I came up with an alternative. When I walk in, I approach the first teenager, and I say Well? Did you see the match? With any luck, the teenager recoils in horror, along with his cousins, and I move on to the seated women. Ah, Jaysus, Nuala, is it yourself? I might remark to the grieving widow. Christ, you’re gone very old-lookin’. That gets me past the women without too much trouble, even if it does provoke a fresh outbreak of crying.

The standing men can be a problem if you don’t handle it right.

I used to say Well, that about wraps it up. Your man is dead. Pint?

But that earned me a flattened nose and a slight limp, so now what I do is this. I negotiated a deal with a local lap-dancing club. I simply hand out a card to each of the lads: Post-funeral special offer. Very sympathetic Latvian hookers.

Call up there after the burial, I tell them. Great place. Take your mind off the whole thing.

It’s great, and I collect a commission as well, so everyone’s a winner.

kick it on


Wirey strikes again

I bumped into one of the Gerrys during the week. I hadn’t seen him since we buried Wirey.

Well, Gerry. Did you enjoy the funeral?

He shrugged. Yeah. It was ok.

I didn’t like his tone. Jesus, Gerry, that doesn’t sound like you. If I recall right, you always enjoyed a good funeral.

Gerry shuffled his feet and looked a bit sheepish.

Come on, I said. Out with it. What happened?

Well, said Gerry, I went up to the church with the other Gerry. He had a guitar and I brought a bodhrán and tin whistle. We wanted to play a few of Wirey’s favourite songs.

I know, I said. I heard you planning it in the pub the night before.

Yeah, he said. So we went up to the church, and to be honest with you, now, I don’t know one end of a church from the other.

No more than the rest of us, I assured him. Sure that church was full of fuckers that never said a prayer in their lives.

Anyway, says Gerry, we struck up a few tunes during the ceremony, any time we thought there was a bit of a break in the praying, you know?

I nodded. Very good.

Yeah, he said. We played Snowblind Friend. And then we played Purple Haze.

Excellent choice, I agreed.

Then, he said, we were just getting into the second verse of Plastic Jesus, when the priest stopped all the hubba-hubba stuff he was going on with, and he walked off the altar, straight down the aisle to where we were sitting at the back of the church.

Christ, I said, that was a strange thing to do.

That’s not the half of it. What the fuck do you think you’re doing? says the priest. I looked at the other Gerry, he looked back at me. We’re playing a few songs for Wirey, we told the priest.

Wirey? said the priest. Who the fuck is Wirey?

The guy you’re burying, we told him.

This ceremony is for Mrs O’Toole, said the priest. Now get the fuck out of here.

Gerry took a deep breath and scratched his head. We felt like right fuckin eejits, I can tell you.

I’ll bet you did, I sympathised.

Yeah, he said. It took all the good out of Wirey’s funeral.

kick it on

Food & Drink Religion

The Holy Wormhole

I went to Part One of a funeral tonight: The Removal. I rarely go to Part Two, unless it’s someone big from Work, when maybe it would be important to be seen there, considering you got the day off to somehow cope with your grief. In those situations, I go along for the Saluting, which is the bit after the religious ceremony, where everybody mingles coming out of the church, and nobody can say for sure if you bothered your arse or not to turn up in time.

How’s it goin’ there. Tom!

Good man, Mikey!

Howya, Bridie!

That kind of thing.

This evening was a bit different, as it was somebody I kind of knew. A friend of the extended family. You know these guys; they all wear tackies and arse around Kilkee for the summer catching mackerel and drinking Guinness with the Older People. Of which group, I think I’m now a part, but sin scéal eile, mar a deirtear.

Anyway, I did the usual saluting, and was about to fuck off: I never go to the church if I can avoid it. I actually cycled down, so I had the bike ready, because my next plan was to skedaddle into town to watch the France -vs- Portugal game, so I obviously didn’t want to get caught up in a load of prayers and shit like that.

It must be to do with getting older, and it must be somehow that my finely-tuned senses are becoming blunted, because, as I turned to get my bike, a voice came over some hidden speaker beside the hearse, and some fucker started saying the rosary. A priest. I could tell it was a priest because they all have the same stupid accent, and away the fucker went with his fuckin rosary. Haily Holy Moly Mary over and over and over and over and over and over and over and these fuckers laugh at other religions for having mantras. I always lose count. Was that nine? It was. And we’ll be finished after this. But no. It isn’t nine. It’s fucking ONE!!

It’s a strange strange time distortion, this Rosary thing, and if the scientists had any sense at all, they’d study its properties to see how to make a worm-hole. To an external observer, a decade of the Rosary goes on for about, what? – four minutes? But to a non-believer, accidentally sucked into its vortex, it goes on for about a million years. And then there’s that bollix next to you, who you know for a fact is also a complete heathen, and there he is making the sign of the cross and mouthing the prayers like he does this kind of shit all the fuckin time and you’re thinking hypocrite fucker, I’ll get you yet you bastard making me look like a fucking fool.

I found myself standing beside a guy who, for years, has believed I’m a Ninja. This is because at a drunken house-warming party years ago, he jumped on my back while I was clearing the records off the floor (that’s how long ago it was) and I somehow managed to get him in a stranglehold causing him to pass out, thank fuck, because he’s about fifty times stronger than me and would have killed me otherwise. So he thinks I’m a Ninja. Long may he continue. The gobshite.

I don’t know how it happened, but some force broke open the Holy Wormhole, and I was flung free, ending up in The Bank, in front of a big screen, alonga Jimmy the Wop and the Duke of Leinster, who was pissed as an Earl.

As you know, France won with a dodgy penalty, and now we have the prospect of an Italy-France final. Come on Zizou!!