Blog 9 Funerals and Soap

Hello dears, how are we all? It has been a strange kind of week. I have heard from my sister Elizabeth in Italy who can’t sleep since lockdown has eased and face masks are in place. I don’t think she is drinking enough wine, I tell her. Drink more. This might help. And sister Rebecca has decided that instead of buying a poodle she wants to be a cowgirl. A cowgirl I ask her, I am intrigued? How do you do that? “You go for a week to Texas herding cattle with real cowboys, do you fancy it?” I think I do, although not sure how happy husband would feel if I take off for a week of horses and cowboy boots when not long ago I came back from New York New York. (More about this later) But who wants to travel anywhere soon, anyway? I think of Rebecca skilfully swinging a lasso above a rhinestone studded powder blue stetson mounted on a white stallion – its tail swishing as she clings on with her slim denim thighs. I try to think of myself on a horse behind her but I don’t have the same vision. My hair is in my face and my stetson has fallen off, my horse is stumpy and has poop at its rump, and probably some foam at the bitt. She is lean and sparkling and I am untidy and wobbly and bumping up and down. I question how much I might get out of herding cattle in Texas, apart from saddle sore. Rebecca probably wants to fall in love, again, I think. With a cowboy. Not a bad idea. Send me a link, I say. I will ask Oliver.

And the AHHH – or rather the ‘R’ which Boris has come up with is not worth the power point it is printed on as according to a skilled mathematician I heard on the radio, ‘R’ doesn’t really exist. Ahhh, that is such a shame! And to think that the Rolling letter that can be delivered with such exprrressive spit is unrrrreliable when deciding who is greatly threatened by Covid-19 next? It’s not funny. But it is still in place. I watch with trrrrepidation.


I talk to my beloved godson Henry. He is my personal young doctor practicing in the Midlands – he calls to find out how I am doing. We talk about breathlessness, coughing fits and time. He thinks I should go for an X-ray but when I tell him that the doctor just keeps telling me on the phone to give it time though she can’t say how much time as we don’t know enough about the virus and its aftermath. Henry declares the doctor is naughty. I can think of another word to describe the doctor but don’t share it with him, as I take my godmotherly duties seriously. We waltz around the conversation again about coughing, bricks in my chest and time and come to the same conclusion about X-rays and naughty doctors for not sending me for a scan. On our last turn with the same words and this time laughter I realise, I may never find the answer to the question, am I ever going to feel ‘normal’ again? You will Mary, but it can take ages, he reassures me. We decide the breathlessness can also be attributed to anxiety at not knowing when I will feel normal again. It appears I am in a vicious cycle. The next day, I can breathe freely. Covid recovery is lengthy, annoying and worrying and it makes you really sad. I am now an expert in tears.

As well as being busy with anxiety and coughing I have began to covet my neighbours pizza oven even though the good book says that I shalt not! It’s the stuff of dreams. Rustic and built with reclaimed sleepers and some horse poo, a bit of field and found bricks. I love it. I socially distance my way up to see Stuart and his beloved wife Rachel who live atop a hill surrounded by musical notes and butterflies. Stuart was the one who built the oven – a beautiful clay dome on legs and we discuss the challenges of slicing into ancient railway sleepers. We admire the space where once the timber was attached to a rail track and I think of people travelling freely, in a distant steam filled decade, well dressed and deserved of the finer things in life – like potted shrimps and the freedom to travel in carriages above railway lines. I admire Stuart’s legs – he screwed them together himself. Not that long ago I tasted the goodness that came out of this pizza oven and to have one in our own garden makes perfect mozzarella sense. Delicious hot pizza. Ahh.

I brake the good news to Oliver who is elated to find that he can now, once again, go to the river to fish. I am going to build a pizza oven, do you want to help me? Not today my darling honey bunny he says, I am going fishing. When are you going I ask? Five o’clock, he says tightening his rod with the face of a 12 year old looking at a new BMX. That’s wonderful I say, please can you bring me some clay from the river bed. He looks at me. Que? For the pizza oven, I remind him. I need to mix clay with sand and poo and stuff, you find it in the river. Blank look again. It’s for the pizza oven, I say. The one I have been coveting, remember? Sure he remembers, and on his way out he forgets to take the bucket for the clay. Rrrrrr!

As well as chasing sleepers online I have been busy with making soap and bath bombs for my charity. We can’t get away from the fact that although this virus restricts movement, hinders hugs, instills fear and rattles teacher unions, it is still killing people. A lot of people. And this is the sombre reality. Many more people are still very ill and may not make it.

This week I took a service for a friend whose lovely mum went to hospital for a hip replacement and was swept away by the disgusting covid. Her recovery was ripped away along with her life. What keeps ringing in my ears during this pandemic apart from the words ‘daily death toll’ is ‘underlying health conditions‘. And it makes me mad. No one is ever ready to die, and especially no one is ever ready to lose a mother, no matter what the underlying health conditions might be. There were still days to be lived, lessons to be taught and learned, words to be spoken and hands to be held, no matter how thin the skin or how many underlying health conditions someone might live with. Lives are still worth living and saving.

Claire had a beautiful coffin laden with spring colours and flowers and we said goodbye to her under the sunlight accompanied by birdsong. I knew Claire, and she was funny and feisty and underlying health conditions or not, she was taken too soon and without warning. She has left a silence in what was once her home and a void in the lives of her husband and family. So very sad.

As we came away from the natural burial sight the funeral director Adam showed me his leg. He pulled up his trouser, it was black and blue after he had been butted by his billy goat. That might learn him. He then showed me the far section of the burial ground which was lush with trees that mark each resting places. I would like to be buried somewhere like this, I said. ‘Ahh yes’, he said ‘and we will know which plot is yours won’t we Mary, it will be the one with the little stall at the end of it selling soaps and bath bombs.’ “Haaaaarrr, you are so funny, Adam”, I say. He agreed with me.

On the drive home I think of the new fragrances which have been delivered – lime, basil and mandarin, ahhhh, and parma violet. Grapefruit and honeysuckle, ahhhhh! And once home, I get to down to some proper work. Mixing oils and luscious ingredients and forming shapes, moulding, bagging, tying, pricing and driving down to the isolation soap station at the bottom of the road to lay them in their places for sales. A ten pound note waits for me. Ahhhhh wow! I am building up a customer base. I consider selling them online.

That night I get a call from my twin friends. Sarah and Paula. They are in lockdown in Dubai and we have missed each other since our trip to New York New York in January. We are on zoom together and reminisce about the city that never sleeps that is still being crippled by the covid curse. We talk about the workers in the diners, the tour busses and the theatre who will all now be out of work. The hotel we partied in will now be deserted. The roads will be quiet, the vodka bottle that filled our glasses will be sat covered with dust in a shuttered bar on 5th Avenue. The waiters that served us in Central Park will be out of pocket, the streets empty, the people silenced, the viral fear hovering above everyone. How we took for granted the freedom to walk amongst the locals and hum Paul Simon songs as we trod the pavements that hosted tall and beautiful buildings. As we drink our Zoom spritzers we laugh about Paula suffering from alcohol indulgence and my midnight wanderings in search of rooftop discos so that I could dance, but I could never find. We ‘ahh’ at the perfect burger we ate that time, and the stillness of the Twin Towers Memorial park where there were little pockets of snow in the flower beds. We talk about how one day, we will see each other again after the covid curse is lifted and begin to make plans to once again walk some city streets, probably Liverpool in October. Paula sings Coco Cabana through the phone screen to my daughter and we giggle like children. We are all still children, I decide.

After making one last batch of grapefruit and orange zest bath bombs yesterday I speak with another lady whose husband has passed away. She tells me through her tears, there was no one like him, he was such a gentleman. He was taken too soon and I couldn’t be with him at the end. All his life he made me happy. and I couldn’t be with him at the end. I feel so awful she says, he was the most wonderful man. I believe her. After the service next week I hope to introduce her to the idea of getting together with others going through the same pain. I shall tell her about the Alison Bereavement Society and hope that this might shine a little bit of light at the end of her dark tunnel of sadness.

Until next time darlings, thank you for reading, thank you for donating and thank you for caring. I have now raised £5845 which is pretty amazing! Just £1155 to go! I am sure we can get there. Please share this blog and keep alert, keep your face masks on whatever you do don’t stand or sit next to anyone who is coughing, like I did!!!!!

Lots of love,