As the Priest applied the mustard…

Warning – written hastily, never proof read. Now, hunt the for the errors.

A friend returned from a religious funeral and told me that, during the wake, conversation had turned to how annoyed I would be if I was given a religious burial. Actually, I wouldn’t care. I would have spent my last days being furious that I was dying when there still so many books I wanted to read and probably infuriated that my death would hamper me from seeing a melodramatic eclipse or meteor shower that was scheduled for a month or so after the allotted time that I was likely to shut down. My non-existence at the time of my funeral should hamper my fury at a turgid rendition of Abide with Me, or someone in purple waving a pot of incense over my rotting skin and offal.

Though do put a mirror to my mouth a few moments before I go into the incinerator or Soylent Green machine, just to check my non-existence. I don’t want any of that Edgar Allan Poe “scratching at the coffin lid” stuff. A funeral is for the living, not the dead. If I did make arrangements for my funeral, I am not sure anyone would carry them out and there may be legal problems. “He wants to be thrown to the wolves while Nick Cave’s Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry is raucously sung by an Elvis impersonator in a flamenco dress? Then the excretions of the wolves most be carefully collected over the following days and fashioned into a poo sculpture of him. Charles Saatchi is forced to first purchase the reeking effigy, and then eat it inside a glass case while screaming, ‘but is this art? but is this art?’ ” I will ask Werner Herzog to film it.

When I was younger, and without personal responsibility, save for avoiding rebuke and shame, I would ponder the usefulness of dying in your sleep. It would avoid all the bother and pain of watching your friends and family die if you go first, and you wouldn’t even know about it. You would go to sleep well and be quite unaware that you stopped existing somewhere between 1and 5am (or thereabouts). It was a very selfish fantasy, imagined due to the morbid frame of mind that dogged me from the age of eight or so. Recently, I heard a boy in the park, probably younger than eight, explaining that he wanted children in later life, but was worried that he must never get married as either he or his wife would die first, and leave the other one sad. Don’t they grow morbid young these days.

From the age of eight, I was obsessed with horror films. Here was a way of pondering death with a pounding orchestral score and Peter Cushing dressed in velvet. I like my horror to have an element of the fantastical, I was never one for the glamourising of realistic slaughter and torture, and now even less so. I will watch Stake Land many times, but Hostel was a mistake made only once. By the time I was reading about real genocide, Hollywood rollercoaster, “scream if you want see more slaughter” movies started to lose their escapist value. I like my Kensington gore to seep through the ruffled short of a false fanged Shakespearian, slumming it in the film industry while waiting for a call from Stratford (RSC or Joan Littlewood).

My interest in horror flicks drew me to Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon books, the real horror of Hollywood. Here were the gin warts on WC Fields nose and exploitative pictures of Joan Crawford, taking those undignified first nude casting couch steps to Johnny Guitar and Baby Jane. The death that stayed with me from Hollywood Babylon 2 was that of Lupe Velez, the Mexican Spitfire. Unhappy, her career stalling, she decided to eat her favourite meal (Chilli Con Carne I think), poison herself, and then lie, god-like and splendid on her bed, her Chihuahua’s at her feet, to be found the next day by those who would whisper, “did a Pharaoh ever leave life so splendidly?” (or words to that effect). Sadly, while lying there, she started to retch, ran to her bathroom vomiting, and ended up cracking her skull open when she slid in her own vomit. A miserable tale, I think I’ll try to keep going for a while yet if I may, but I better start working out where the most convenient wolf enclosure is.

My endless tour will end one day, but for now I am off to Swindon, Reading, Hay, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, York, Hull, Worcester and on and on. Details HERE

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3 Responses to As the Priest applied the mustard…

  1. JD says:

    The Lupe Velez story was – brilliantly – recounted in an episode of “Frasier”. As for funeral music, I’ve requested “Worms” by the Pogues.

  2. SaltireUK says:

    ‘I was never won’ -> one 😉 please remove my comment, I only remark because you asked at the start 🙂

  3. SaltireUK says:

    The common theme to all religious funerals I’ve been to (Christian) is that throughout they are determined to make everyone cry. I guess if that is by design, then there is a cathartic benefit, but I’m not sure that’s the case. Otherwise it is the exact opposite of a stand-up show, understandable given the loss of a loved one, and I watch the speaker thinking “well done, you’re really good at making people cry, how about you try cheering us up instead?”

    Do please keep going, I hope to catch you on your some time 🙂

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