I’m not sure if sibling rivalry goes beyond this mortal coil, but sadly my elder brother died recently and last week I found myself experiencing a touch of funeral envy.
It wasn’t just that the church was crammed with three hundred mourners. I mean, I’m supposed to be the media-hungry show-off theatrical one. I reckon I could rustle up quite a crowd at my farewell do. Thousands of people have paid good money to see me make a fool of myself on stage. David was supposed to be the self-effacing one. He must have touched many people’s lives with his kindness and good humour.
Nor was it the local choral society singing the rather beautiful Vicar of Dibley version of The Lord is My Shepherd. Me, I’ve got mates in the Munich Philharmonic and they’d knock out some pretty impressive Vivaldi in my memory at the drop of a French horn.
My nephew delivered an extremely eloquent oration and I’d book him any time. I’m sure he could find some nice things to say about his Uncle Ralph.
No, it was the choice of hearse where David came up trumps. He was an avid motorcycle enthusiast and people had even flown in from the Isle of Man, where he had been a steward at the TT races, to pay tribute. His crash helmet was placed reverently on his coffin by the top-hatted funeral director and we even sang ‘Ride on, ride on in majesty, thy triumph now begin’ (see below!)
So, someone had the marvellous idea to hire a motorcycle hearse. This impressive vehicle consisted of a classic motorbike (a Triumph of course) with a handsome black sidecar in the form of a glass sided hearse, complete with walnut and brass fittings. It was driven by a genuine ton-up vicar and as the cortege turned slowly into the high street of the small Essex town, led by the top-hatted director, heads swivelled.
It was pure street theatre: a solemn occasion made glorious by a touch of humour, and a truly fitting send-off.
At the wake I commented that I didn’t think I could match that exit. ‘Oh, I don’t know, Ralph’, said a waggish mourner, ‘I imagine Jordan’s pink princess carriage is still available for hire!’
Well, I’ll certainly consider it.