It started fairly early on, the friend whose mother has died came round because he's had to quit his mother's flat and he recently subscribed to internet, tv and phone - so he needed help in getting it moved to his new address. Well it was a challenge combining all the joys of helplines, hold music, lost passwords, phone numbers that didn't work, etc. etc. etc. But we got it done. Amazing.
I prepared for the funeral. Scuttled off to the Reformed Church that we'd arranged to borrow, then cancelled, in case a friend we'd not been able to contact had gone there. He hadn't. Went home. Got changed. Went to the cemetery.
French cemeteries are bleak places. No grass. No trees. Graves very close together. The soil in the Pessac cemetery is very sandy. There must have been about 50 people there. The funeral directors arrived and we followed the van to a suitable place and set up there for the cérémonie. Our friend Patrice wanted to speak about the lady who died, and that suited me. I read from John 11 and spoke briefly about it. I abandoned the formal prayers I'd found in the French Book of Common Prayer and prayed simply for her family and for us all to reflect and find the faith in Christ that brings eternal life.
Afterwards we chatted with a very friendly, polite and helpful funeral director. Increasingly French people have no pastor or priest involved at their funeral and they want an atheist burial, so he's found a text which he reads and the remains are left and everyone walks away.
French graves are rented for 15 years (unless they are family vaults that have been bought for ever !). After 15 years the town hall contacts the family to see if they want to rent for another 15 years. If not then the body is exhumed and the remains are put in a labelled bag in the ossuary - a big cellar or building attached to the cemetery. French coffins are sealed with wax seals over the screws head and foot. We chatted with family members and friends and then went home to read, pray and eat with a student.
After funerals in North Wales sometimes I'd take refuge in Borders till my stress levels dropped again, sometimes we'd go and fly kites in Prestatyn. Here I had big band practice, which was awesome. We have two new pieces to learn, one a bit of a challenge (In the stone, an Earth,Wind and Fire number), and the other a bit of nonsense, really, Señorita Fajita, which has nice trombone riffs. We also rehearsed Fly me and Spain. And we have two new trombonistes, welcome Théo and Damien. Afterwards we hung around eating Pringles, brownies and talking about atheism and stuff.
Renaud, prof de trombone and directeur de big band, is very happy because he has his new airforce trombone, a brand spanking new Bach 42bo. This is the same model as my old 1970s Bach 42bo, and Bach have changed NOTHING ! NOTHING AT ALL ! Well, except the price, I imagine ! His valve is a bit stiff, it needs to be run in, but apart from that and my missing lacquer you'd have a job telling them apart. We started the rehearsal with me playing his new trombone, but then he needed it so I went back to my old faithful.
I told him that the American lads are unhappy because the new Bachs are made in China. He said "Oh no they're not;" "Oh yes they are..." You get the picture. He said he has a sheet of paper that says the trombone was made in America. I explained that the parts are made in China, then screwed together in a trailer-park in New Mexico, which means that they can be labelled made in America. He knows it's a wind-up and that I was making it all up anyway, except for the disgruntlement of the American trombone brothers. I have no idea where Renaud's trombone was made. Might have been Ystrad Mynach for all I know ! It's certainly tidy, anyway !