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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Death and Co

Beloved is a man of many bags - up to twenty of all shapes and sizes, most of them black. This makes for certain confusion....'Where's X, Beloved?' 'In my bag.' 'Which bag?' 'I'm not sure...' etc. One black bag, however, that rolls out rather than opens with a flap or clasp is quite unmistakable; it contains a cleaver, a hammer, and a number of lethal looking knives, all of them made of stainless steel. These are Beloved's butchering tools; at the moment they are laid out on the table - yet another poor little lambie has met its end. Yesterday it was gamboling happily, today its corpse lies ready for the knives, cleaver, hammer, very soon it will be dismembered, wrapped, labelled and in the freezer. It is organic lamb, reared and killed half an hour's ride away. Granny and Beloved may eat very little meat - Granny doesn't like it much. But what they eat - mostly when friends are round - is good.

One way and another death seems to be all round Granny just now - it always is, she guesses, but it isn't always so brutally forced upon her notice. Last week, despite her cold, she went to dear old friend's memorial service and as usual after such things was left wondering about the many things she had not known about that friend revealed in the various eulogies. 'I must ask her about X'.... comes to mind in distracted moments; followed by instant realisation that short of an effective medium - if such people exist - which Granny doubts - her friend is no longer available for such questions.

The next day Granny and her friend with breast cancer - doing very well, thankyou - are sitting together with another friend, making three out of four of their still tight-knit university group. The telephone goes - it is, coincidentally, the one missing member of their group reporting that her long-ill husband has died. This husband is the last of the four men their group met and married out of university: all of them - ex-husbands in two cases - now dead of cancer, none at much over 70. (Granny discovered, via an obituary, something she did not know about this dead man too; that he was in his youth a whizz dancer - think Fred Astaire.) The women, on the other hand, remain in pretty rude health, give or take a rogue tumour or two. Granny admits she would miss these women even more than their husbands - perhaps even more than her own ex-husband; but she wishes they hadn't all found themselves so prematurely - a bit prematurely - mourning. Other men survive happily to eighty odd and more. Why none of theirs?

The day after that, Granny plus very good haircut, is walking down Marylebone High Street when her mobile rings. It is beloved Australian sister: their brother with lung cancer is going downhill fast, much faster than expected. The upshot of this, several days and many phone calls later, is that on Monday week Granny will be joining beloved Ozzie sister in Malaga to spend time with their dying brother. One sad consequence of sisters living continents apart is that they tend to meet over or subsequent to deathbeds -this is the fourth. Granny loves her Ozzie sister a lot, she'd love to see much more of her, she does so wish it wasn't like that.

Meantime she is preparing for the visit of a cousin and his family. She has only met this cousin three times - twice, guess what, at funerals- but she is sure it will all go well. What with that, what with grief - surprising grief given how poles apart, she and her brother were, are, how little they saw of each other - what with mourning all this dead and dying past, it doesn't leave much time to sorrow for the poor little lambie being dismembered behind her; no funeral for it. No worms get to to eat it either. The still-living humans make sure of that. Life goes on, all too brutally, doesn't it? How it does go on.

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