Last Friday, Whizz, Milo-the-dog and I climbed aboard Gus (Gazzler) and proceeded, in the rain, towards my mum’s house on the outskirts of Whitstable. The forecast assured us of sunshine from tomorrow and that kept our spirits up, even though our first stop was to be at the Crematorium to collect my dad’s ashes. This would be a stark reminder of my dad’s passing and the prospect was weird – I am normally quite good with words, but weird is the best I can manage. Weird to think of my Dad condensed into an urn.
To distract myself on the journey, I texted Steve Wright on Radio 2. As usual, he ignored me. It seemed others had more interesting things to say in their requests for Serious-Jockin’-Without-an-‘E’. Let’s face it, I was hardly likely to say Off to collect my dad’s ashes. Serious smokin’.
The rain had abated to a light drizzle when we drew up in the car park of The Garden of England Crematorium. I worried I was too cheerfully garbed in my bright red coat, but I had no alternative, so with my hood flipped over my eyes, I followed the gleaming path to the reception area.
The urn arrived neatly boxed and in a carrier bag so, apart from the label, marked with REMAINS OF and my dad’s name and date on which he went up in smoke, I could have imagined it to be anything. It weighed more than I was expecting, about as much as four volumes of Encyclopaedia Britannica.
The analogy to E.B. is reliable. I have humped piles of the encyclopaedia from one place to another, several times since we decided to get rid of them, along with about 1000 books and the bookshelves upon which they were arrayed. The week before this crematorium stop, Whizz and I travelled, once again in Gus, to Lancashire with the complete set, which included at least half a dozen Year Books. They would form part of Horace’s living room design, and she had even restored a charity shop candelabra and purchased cherry-coloured candles to match them. I was glad Horace wanted them. I was reluctant to take them to the tip. The destruction of books is anathema to me, and these particular books were collected in the 50s my my Grandfather, David, who nurtured my childhood love of reading and taught me to respect books. He taught me to turn pages without damaging them, and provided a constant supply of reading material. After my mother, Grandpa was my strongest influence in the matter of books.
Anyway, I digress. Regardless of the purpose of our trips, Whizz can be relied upon to crack his sometimes groan-worthy and occasionally laugh-out-loud-funny quips. I may have mentioned that we both enjoy playing with words (Like Gus Gazzler the car), so many of Whizz’s jokes – and mine for that matter – spring into our minds simultaneously. In those cases, whoever voices them elicits only a polite snort in response. But occasionally, one of us will surprise the other and draw forth a hoot. Sad. I know.
While in Lancashire, Whizz excelled himself when Horace asked him, at breakfast, how he would like his eggs. ‘I don’t mind,’ he responded, ‘I’m eggnostic.’ Hoot hooty hoot hoot.
We usually leave Milo at home when we go away. Our lodger, Beamish, is happy to dog sit. But on the occasion of our Whitstable trip, Beamish was away and so the old fellow (with youthful spirit) accompanied us, lying uncomplaining in the back for a good couple of hours. Because he was with us, Whizz and I were able to walk him. There is a lovely route near my mum’s house that runs from the end of Tankerton towards Hearne Bay. On the Sunday, we set out before 9am, to ensure we were on time for a later visit to my brother at 11am. Our route led us between salt marshes, in bloom with flowers very different from those in the chalk meadow at home.
Soon we were dodging joggers and cyclists on the promenade, realising we were not early enough for the peaceful stroll we had envisaged.
To our left, the Whitstable beach, divided by wooden groynes, was covered in pebbles and shells, including many oyster shells. These, I suspect, although originally from the deep, had more recently occupied the plates of diners in one of the many seafood restaurants in Whitstable. I could be wrong of course. Or perhaps they came from a bankrupted oyster company. Bankrupted because, thanks to Brexit, now, oysters and all other shellfish must now be scrubbed and prepared before they can be explorted to Europe.
As usual on our dog walks, we took a ball. Milo is ball obsessed (the spherical rubber variety. He has no memory of his reproductive versions, although keen to ignore this fact whenever I bend or squat to weed the garden.)
Anyway, the promenade was smooth and the ball fast to escape. It bounced off the wall on our right and dribbled towards the edge of the pathway where it was in danger of dropping onto the beach. There was a rubber squeal of bicycle brakes and a guy clad entirely in yellow and black stopped to avoid running it over. Whizz apologised and caught it just in time. After a brief exchange of pleasantries, the happy cyclist (we knew he was happy from the flies in his teeth) continued his journey, and we continued on ours.
We walked on past a young couple on the beach below, enjoying a picnic breakfast in the sun. Their backs were to us as they stared out at the lapping waves, coasting onto the beach about twenty metres away.
‘What a lovely idea, breakfast on the beach,’ I murmured to Whizz, then, as an afterthought, ‘But I suppose they might have been here all night.’ I looked at the pebbles. ‘Bit uncomfy for rumpy pumpy.’
Whizz chuckled. ‘They’d wake up with shingles.’
Hoot hooty hoot hoot.
At our estimated halfway point, we turned to retrace our steps.
When we reached the point at which the ball had trickled to the edge in front of the waspily garbed cyclist, the dog, who was now trotting along with it in his mouth, caught a whiff of something and dropped it for a detailed sniff. As before, the ball rolled towards the edge and as before, occasioned the sound of a bicycle brake.
‘What are the odds?’ came a familiar voice, and there he was, still clad in black and yellow, and grinning at us from beneath his helmet.
Hoot hooty hoot hoot. Or should I say tingaling?