The woman with the packet of crisps

Tributes and tribulations.

Enteroctopus dofleini/Great Pacific octopus at the New England Aquarium.

Enteroctopus dofleini/Great Pacific octopus at the New England Aquarium. Image: Bill Butcher/USFWS.

Years ago in the Netherlands, in a bar after a funeral, a vernacular poet improvised some kitsch advice for eulogists, which was Anglicised along these lines:

Something old and something new,
Listen to them and they’ll listen to you,
Make them laugh and make them cry,
That’s the way we live and die.

The other day my admittedly feeble attempts to follow the Dutchman’s advice came under assault from someone who opposed the use of anecdotes and images showing the reality of the man’s distinguished, but often grubby, career. So, as was her right, she sat before me and winced and groaned demonstratively at each solecism.

I felt for her, but I was also reminded joyously of several music festivals many years ago. I was pitted against a lad whose mum feared was not good enough, and so she would sit in the front row and fix his rivals with a withering glare whilst noisily consuming packets of crisps.

This had all passed from my mind when, a decade or so later, I bumped into the son again. He was now conducting another brass band at a contest, and when it was our turn and we came on stage, there waiting for us in the front row was his mum, now a couple of dress sizes larger and with a Moby Dick grin, slurping theatrically at a pork pie and a shandy.

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