South Africa Tour 2009/10

Modern crematoriums do not seem to be able to cope with popular people

The Snow Queen had been hard at work for Big Al's funeral. In fact I reckon the frigid bitch had pulled in some helpers from somewhere to wreak havoc in Luton. Inches of snow and every living thing deep frozen, including the 200+ souls that had turned up to pay their last respects.

Modern crematoriums do not seem to be able to cope with popular people and the chapel was brim full of his family and friends. Not only were we all standing in the aisles but there were hoardes outside in the cold. I reckon that local authorities need to come to terms with social networking - word of someone's demise spreads fast these days and I reckon that there's going to be an increase in the average attendance at funerals. It's a guaranteed consequence of modern communication. Unless, of course, everybody f*****g hates you.

Maybe it's just the apostates I know but the last couple of funerals I'd been to had been humanist ones. Al's was not and a vicar had turned up to conduct the service. The difference I find is that our religiously-minded funeral officiators are good at the mystery and symbolism but not so great at the personal touch.

The previous funeral I had been too involved the person conducting it going off for a chat with my friend Gill before she died. She insisted on it. You have to admire anybody who wants to make sure that there are no cock-ups at their sending off and that the facts are verified. A sort of double-check of the body-check.

Back at Big Al's ceremony the Vicar was struggling a bit remembering the family's names in the correct order and made a real faux pas on his nickname. Al was known as 'The Rock' in boule-playing circles because he was someone you could really rely upon when the going got tough. Somehow in the mind of the Vicar, this got turned into 'The Brick'. Have you ever met anybody with 'The Brick' as a nickname for f**k's sake? Maybe if you were a flying ace in the First World War - Algy 'The Brick' Ponsoby-Smythe.

There was more to come at the end as the Vicar prepared us for the last goodbye, announcing that the end of the last hymn would signal the closing of the curtains around Al's coffin. The music stopped just like a somewhat macabre form of musical chairs but the curtains stayed open. I will never be able to say "Yep and it's curtains for Tottenham's Europe chances" ever again after that. Good job Al had a wicked sense of humour and quite frankly he would have loved the mishaps.

The wake was out of the question as time was short to get to Heathrow for the flight to South Africa with Qatar Airways, the self-proclaimed '5 Star Airline'. As the roads were f****d, it was time to try the 37 stop trip on the Piccadilly Line otherwise known as the journey to hell. It seems barely possible to make an hour and three quarters tube journey, but that is the way to do it in some style. They should try it at Guantanamo Bay, "Tell us where Bin Laden is or you are on that f*****g train from Oakwood, my friend".

First impressions of the '5 Star Airline' were good, but I soon came to realise that in Economy your face didn't fit. After all, if you think that you are the mut's nuts of an airline, you are bound to look down your nose at the cattle class riff-raff. It was like turning up at Fortnum and Mason and asking for some Bernard Matthew's turkey twizzlers.


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