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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.

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