Saturday 19 December 2015

An Honour and a Privilege.

Welcome home meal - steak and chips.
This post finds us all back at home, safely gathered in after the 'away' events of last week, mainly Theo's funeral. My English readers may not know what a big thing is an Irish funeral. In 55 years in the UK I think I can recall going to around 3 and only one of those a burial, so it is a bit of a culture shock to move here and find that the norm is to go to as many as you can get to or feel duty-bound to attend. The Death Notices are a big part of local Radio Stations and there are some very amusing books and TV documentaries describing the etiquette and goings on at these events, the viewing of the open coffin, the procession through the funeral parlour shaking hands with all the family who are seated round the outside of the room and so on.

Make mine 'blue', please.
Coming at it from a British point of view, I imagined that none of this applied to me and I'd still just go to the 'vital' ones - I could not see what all the fuss was about and wondered why they were so key in Irish culture. Well, that was then, as they say and now that I have been to Theo's I am happy to admit that it was one of the most profound, moving, humbling and raw things I have ever done. It was an honour and a privilege to be part of it and to help out.

Baking-size spuds now coming out of the poly-tunnel. 
If I had imagined I would be allowed to just sit in the 'audience' as a rather begrudging low-level guest, I was in for a surprise. I am FAMILY and also one of the "big strong lads" who seem to catch the eye of professional funeral director's men when they are looking for someone to heft the coffin. I was well and truly included, and found myself honoured to be part of this, helping Theo on his final journey on earth. I walked behind the slow moving hearse from Funeral Parlour to church, helped carry and trolley the coffin into the church and up the aisle, had a prayer to read out during the service, then helped move the coffin back out of the church to the hearse. I joined the cortege driving Liz's mum's car to the graveyard, then helped carry the coffin to the grave, resting it on the metal bars while the Priest said the prayers and finally helped lower the coffin down on the straps, all four of us subconsciously synchronising to give Theo a slow descent and a soft landing. They were all new experiences for me. I am so, so grateful to the family for including me. It was a chance to do one last thing for my friend and Father in Law.

The poly tunnel is now pumping out some
lovely big spuds
The graveyard was drizzly and chilly, so I was delighted to do the final Irish bit - everybody adjourned to the local pub for pre-arranged soup and sandwiches. Obviously no photo's for all this bit but I was delighted to even supply the picture which the family stood on the coffin while it was on view and in church - I had taken a nice one of Theo a good decade ago, pre-digital days - the one at the top of the previous post. The family asked me to tidy it up, re-photograph it without the glare and email it to Mrs Silverwood so that she could print and frame a nice copy of it for use on the day. Now all this is over and we are both back here hoping that that is it for running around pre-Christmas. It has been quite a roller-coaster ride.

Three for the chop? Yes there are three birds here. 
Meanwhile back at the ranch, I seem to have acquired a reputation that is not necessarily that welcome, that of being a bloke who doesn't mind killing chickens. There are, around here a few smallholders who love to keep chickens and breed them but do not have the heart to cull out the unwanted spare roosters. The word seems to have gone round - that bloke will do them for you! Thanks. Yes I can do them and I do a good, clean, quick, stress-free, painless, respectful job on them but I don't actually ENJOY it or court the business. I do it as a favour for friends. If we then get usable chicken carcasses by plucking and 'dressing' the dead ones, then I suppose that is an added bonus. Today, then, I took delivery of 3 roosters to 'process' but they were not of a meaty breed, so a scrawnier threesome I have never seen. They were killing out at about 1.2 kg (oven ready) and we probably should have just killed them and bagged them for the wheelie bin but we don't like to see them go to waste and like to give them the respect of using them even if it is only in stock.

8 kilograms of oven ready turkey stag.
At the other end of the scale, was the turkey cock-bird we reclaimed from Sue and Rob who had reared it from one of our eggs (a child of Tom and Barbara). We had inadvertently booked out more birds that we actually had and looked like going hungry ourselves on the 25th. This lad arrived today and easily weighed more than the three roosters together. He has come out as 8.0 kg (17.6 lbs) oven ready which might be a bit generous for our two-person meal on the 25th but hey, there are always the cold left overs, curry, rissoles, turkey-burgers, risotto, soup and on and on.

Mid December and the hens are mainly off the boil but we do
still get a few eggs each day.
And so into Christmas. I may post once more before the day, but however that works out I wish all my readers a superb Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year. Keep it Small-Holder, Keep it Outdoor Reared and Free Range. Keep it safe from the fox. Look after yourselves.


Care Towers said...

So sorry to hear of Theo's passing... our condolences to Liz, yourself and all the rest of the family. You mention the initial trepidation of meeting the prospective father in law, and it brought to mind mine of meeting Frank; not in respect of the strength of the Irish Family but of the Forces Officers' life and expectation, but that trepidation was there! I suspect Theo's passing also brought about a lot of reflection on your (and our) relationship with our own father... I know it did for me when Frank passed away, and it was all a bit mixed up and weird. Anyway, toast the fellow you knew, and have a great Christmas in his honour!

Matt Care said...

Thank you very much for that. I will pass it on. I THINK I know what you mean about our relationship with Dad though I know that yours and mine were possibly quite different. Anyway, you, too, have a great Christmas and thanks, as ever, for looking after Mum.