This week was mostly taken up with my trip to London for dear Sanya’s funeral and it's going to be long as there is an awful lot to write about. Sanya was my sister-in-law, the wife of my only and late brother George. She was found dead in her flat on 14th October and I just had to be there for her.
Monday was a bit of a let down as my 2 best friends forgot their lunch appointment with me. I was already a bit down so that didn’t help.
The trip from Tuesday to Thursday was going to be difficult and I was going on my own but I was going back to my country which I don’t do very often so there were going to be good bits about this trip too.
I was going to stay at my niece Sara’s flat round the corner from Marble Arch – what a great location – and she was there to welcome me with open arms as I arrived on Tuesday evening. She showed me round her lovely little pad which she shares with Sibil, her extrovert and lively German Turkish flatmate who works for G+J in London but apparently does most of it at parties!! These two girls brought me back my youth and for two days I felt a bit like them at times, independent and with London at my feet.
Well it is a great city which I have never lived in and only ever pass through but if you think about it, it’s the capital of the world in very many ways, not least because of its melting pot population. I was therefore determined to make the best of this difficult trip and most of that was thanks to Sarita.
On the first night I took Sara out to dinner and as I didn't know the area she showed me a street (James Street) with restaurants from at least 10 countries. We settled for a Turkish place she had been to before called Grand Bazaar where the wine was awful but the food was superb. It was very cosy and decorated with Turkish lamps and quite authentic.
Sara and I outside the Grand Bazaar restaurant.
Sanya’s funeral was to take place the next day, an important day in English life, the 5th November being Guy Fawkes Day or Bonfire night as it is often called, but it also turned out to be an important day in world history; the day the first black man was elected President of the United States. Yes, Barack Hussein Obama had won the elections the day before and London was brimming with the news.
The funeral was taking place at 11.30 at St. Silas Church in Kentish Town. Of course I used public transport and picked up an Oyster Card, recommended by my cost conscious niece for discount travelling in London. It was raining and I wanted to get to the church early to talk to Father G but I also had to find some flowers. I was not in luck as I left Chalk Farm Underground station and went from one Asian-run off licence to another. Some had flowers but none were good enough for Sanya. So I walked down the burka lined street off Haverstock Hill and finally found a Sainsbury’s where I got an ok only looking bunch of flowers. There was no way you could remove the label though so they had to be placed the wrong side up at Church and you couldn’t even see them. I felt so bad about that!!
I arrived at the church which was a typical early 20th century structure and rather grim looking at least from the outside. And there on the entrance was a poster announcing Sanya’s funeral. Father G certainly had certainly made a great effort.
Notice on the church door
And there he was inside the church as I walked in, laying the finishing touches on all the preparations for a full blown Church of England funeral. And full blown it was and very traditional too but I'm not too sure about the C of E part. St. Silas is officially C of E but is very obviously High Church judging by many of the things I saw and heard, not least the vocabulary as they talked about “mass” rather than “service” and “priest” or “Father” rather than “Vicar”. What was also rather telling was the inclusion of the very Catholic prayer, “Hail Mary” which I recognised from my Catholic school days. Don't think I mind at all, which I don't, these are just curious observations.
Father G was a treat to meet. He must be in his 60’s and is a dedicated clergyman who makes you feel very welcome. I can see what attracted Sanya to him and am extremely grateful for how he cared for her when she was alive and how he went all out to put on a very good funeral for her.
He wears the traditional vestments, including the old fashioned round clergy hat, yet he is also a man of his times. I mean he uses e-mail and looks very practical.
The funeral seemed old fashioned but was very special. It was also somber and solemn, very intense but not dismal like the Orthodox funerals for my Mother and my Brother. Father G was definitely dressed for the occasion with his black and silver funeral vestments. The same material was used to cover the coffin which was brought in by 4 professional pall bearers! Father G had printed a small order of the day for us all to follow which was another sign of how well he had prepared the funeral.
The small sprinkling of attendants emphasised the church’s big size. On one side were a few people from the congregation, including “Win”, the lady church warden who had been Sanya’s friend and “Lucas”, a “spaced out” and ungroomed middle aged bloke who I knew to be Sanya’s friend too. He told me he was her “new partner” and I felt terribly sorry for him.
On the other side sat Sanya’s step family. I sat next to her step mother, Mira, a good looking Bosnian woman who lives in London and her son and Sanya’s step brother, Mladen who lives in Zagreb but frequently visited Sanya in London. He told me strickenly how he had tried to contact her at the end of September unsuccessfully. They were joined by 4 of Mira’s Bosnian friends who seemed very kind ladies.
The funeral included communion and here I had an inner debate with myself. I hadn’t taken communion for about 30 years and finally decided I should do so for Sanya and for me, I suppose. I made the faux pas of going up to the altar as I used to when I went to church in England and the famous Brandon Jackson was my vicar. Embarrassedly I had to walk down again to the first pew to receive Holy Communion. Suffice it to say it was an emotional moment.
The coffin was sprinkled with holy water and with incense and then left the church in a cortege carried by the pall bearers with Father G in front. We all followed behind and outside there was a big black funeral car for the coffin and two similar big black limousines to carry us to the cemetery in East Finchley. Father G and the pall bearers walked ahead of the cortege and the cars followed at a snails pace for a few hundred yards until they got in and the engines were turned on and the cortege drove off to cemetery which all seemed quite Dickensian to me or so I thought.
I went in the car with Win and Lucas and Lucas’ care nurse and we went past opulent London houses in places like Bishop’s Avenue and the contrast was bizarre. It was very much a repeat experience of when we took my Brother George’s coffin to the cemetery because Sanya was to be buried in the plot next to him.
When we arrived I saw David. David was Sanya and George’s friend and had been my brother’s best man at their wedding. I hadn’t seen him at the funeral and was worried he didn’t know about it. When I used to visit Sanya I would also visit David and the 3 of us would spend time together. I used to take them flowers, chocolates and cigarettes and I always knew I had made their day. David is a man with many problems, mental and other, including gambling and the poor chap is very unkempt. Every time I see him I feel like taking him to the baths and then buying him a new set of clothes. He needs both desperately but neither seem possible in the life he leads, that is, if you can call it a life! I was very pleased to see him as I am extremely fond of him.
The cemetery threw me emotionally. Seeing the tombstone on my brother’s grave made me break down. I didn’t listen to the priest’s words, just kept looking at my brother’s name in gold letters, “George Lloyd” and the inscription, “In loving memory of George Lloyd, who died on 15th May 2001, aged 46, beloved husband of Sanja”. Amazingly Sanya was also 46 on the day she died as Mladin pointed out. We threw white roses and earth on her coffin and Mladin and I put some of the flowers on George’s grave too.
George and Sanya's graves at East Finchley Cemetery
Sadly we all left and went back to the church in the same cortege. This time David came with me. I must admit that between him and Lucas the sleek and luxurious jaguar began to reek of unclean bodily skin which I was actually to put up with for the next few hours.
We couldn’t part without a “send off” which is a very typical way to end funerals in England. So I suggested a cup of tea at the Church Hall and both Father G and Win thought that was a good idea. Being in that church hall, making the tea with Win and laying the table took me back to my days of Sunday school and Guides when I was a child in England. Making the tea for Sanya’s Bosnian step family and David who kept asking them all to repeat their foreign names was a funny experience. We all sat round a small square Sunday school table for children in the middle of a big room next to the church with children’s drawings on the wall and we all had English tea and biscuits and tried to make polite conversation.
When the family left, Win, David and I stayed on chatting. David was in obvious need of company and asked me how long I had. I said, “for you David, one hour”. In the end I think I was there for nearly 3 during which we talked about George, about Sanya, about God and about mundane things in life. There I promised to be David’s friend and to write to both him and Win. When we were leaving, he said: “I don’t just want a Christmas card, I want a 3 or 4 page letter”. Now I have to keep to my promise!
Dear Win, the Church Warden and Sanya's friend.
David took me all the way back to Marble Arch, he was such a gentleman. I felt sad to leave him. He actually told me, “you cheer me up” which was very special to hear. Dear David, I will write to you and I won’t forget you, I promise.
As I parted with a heavy heart from David at Marble Arch, I came back to my world and decidedly needed some comforting activity. So what better than an hour or so in Marks and Spencers before Sarita came back from work?
Marks and Spencers certainly brought me back to my world of consumer goods and earthly things and I acquired a lovely winter coat and an assortment of Mark’s best underwear, creams and potions.
Sara and I decided we wanted an Indian meal this time and after a bit of a search, came across a great little place called Rajdoot restaurant in Paddington Street. The onion bajis, the chicken tikka masala and lamb korma were superb. We walked home through typical London streets and laughed at a sign outside on some gardens which boasted having “the best loo of the year”!
Once at home, we both connected to our computers and Sara spoke to her parents, José Antonio (Eladio’s beloved brother) and Dolores on Skype.
I wasn’t leaving for Madrid until Thursday afternoon so decided to visit a museum, instead of spending money, before I left. I thought of going to the Victoria and Albert Museum or the Natural History and Natural Science museums but suddenly remembered that I had a debt with my Mother to visit
The Wallace Collection. My Mother had lived in London in the 40’s when she came to England as a war refugee and before she was married to my Father, of course. She always told me the Wallace Collection was her favourite museum. It turned out to be a stone’s throw from Sarita’s flat. My Mother’s judgement was not wrong. The Wallace Collection is supposedly “the finest collection of art ever assembled by one family. Five generations of collectors, four Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace, each made their special contribution". The collection is housed in the family home of Hertford House, a magnificent building in itself, in Manchester Place. The “collection” comprises artefacts of all sorts; furniture and paintings. Amazingly they include Velazquez’s, Murillo’s, Titians as well as a portrait made world famous by a chocolate company, the Laughing Cavailer by Hals.
Hertford House, the home of the Wallace Collection.
Too soon my time was up and I had to go back to the flat to pick up my things and take my suitcase and laptop down the steep British stairs to the street and so by foot to Park Lane to catch the number 73 bus to Victoria Station. There I cashed in my Oyster card and made a quick foray into Smith’s to get some chocolates for my Father and some very British Christmas cards.
As I made my way through the station to the Gatwick Express platform I went past the omnipresent Poppy Appeal stall. In England in the month of November poppies are sold everywhere to make money for the British Legion which looks after army families and are worn in rememberance of the fallen in the "Great War" which is actually the First World War. It was so quaint, I just had to take a picture. The 4 gentlemen were very representative and I gave them my remaining British coins and got 5 paper poppies in exchange to take back home for the family. If all of England were wearing poppies, my Father and I and my family were not to be less. Of course, no one in Spain will understand but that is to be expected.
The Poppy Appeal stand at Victoria Station
Eladio was at the airport to greet me and bring me home to my real world. Home for me is always “home sweet home” wherever I have been so it was good to be back.
I think I am still under the impression of Sanya’s death and the experience of the funeral and all it entailed. I will need some time to feel normal again. Family and work life of course will contribute to that happening.
Home again, was another story of a problem car. The old Lancia had broken down, so now from 4 cars we are down to 2 which is a bit of a problem when you live far out like we do. This week coming up will be challenging.
Friday was spent catching up with my work and also meeting my friend Elena for our monthly chat. This time she was cheering me up rather than her!
Tonight we will be going out to dinner with ex Motorola friends, Susana and Gustavo and Marian and her new partner. No doubt we will talk about the news of Motorola Spain laying off 30% of its workforce this last week as that includes some of our friends. We are going to a new place called Jiménez in Majadahonda. But more about that in my next post.