I’m in big trouble. One of my wardens sidled up to me just before a recent funeral, whispering into my ear out of the side of his mouth (as they do in County Laois) ‘People complain that you call the coffin “a box”.’
Guilty as charged.
I don’t think I’ve ever done a funeral without saying to the assembled worthies something like: ‘One day we’re all going to end up in a box like that [pointing at same], and we never know when. How do you want to be remembered? What do you want to see when you are forced to look into the mirror and see yourself as you really are? Now’s the time to live the rest of your life so that when that day comes you leave behind as few regrets and as little unfinished business as possible.’ A colleague calls it an altar call.
Anyhoo, back to the plot. Having heard the complaint and lodged it in my frontal cortex, a funny thing happens. Up to the pulpit, burble, burble, burble, and then out comes the word ‘box’. Just as usual. The thing that I don’t want to do is the very thing that I do. Ah well, I’m in good company. Is it a form of Tourette’s do you think?
I like the word box. It’s earthy. Box is what it is. You can take the lad out of the North but you can’t take the North out of the lad. I’m not a Yorkshireman, though many have called me so (they probably think all flat vowels signify Yorkshire whereas the Yorkshire accent is merely lazy, and no vowel is flatter than a Cumbrian vowel). That having been said, I must have been infected by Yorkshire to some extent since down at the bottom of the garden ‘when aa were a lad’ flowed the River Eden. This, one of the few substantial English rivers that flows north, emerges into daylight in Yorkshire, then travels the rest of its 70-odd miles through Westmorland and Cumberland, to the briny Solway.
It must have been this river that brought me one of the rare bits of Yarkshire wisdom. On Ilkley moor baht’at.Wheear ‘ast tha bin sin’ ah saw thee? On Ilkla Mooar baht ‘at. Tha’s been a cooartin’ Mary Jane, On Ilkla … Tha’s bahn’ to catch thy deeath o’ cowd, On Ilkla … Then us’ll ha’ to bury thee, On Ilkla … Then t’worms’ll come an’ eyt thee up, On Ilkla … Then t’ducks’ll come an’ eyt up t’worms, On Ilkla … Then us’ll go an’ eyt up t’ducks, On Ilkla … Then us’ll all ha’ etten thee, On Ilkla … That’s wheear we get us ooan back, On Ilkla …
The salient points of this literary epic, be they noted, dear reader, are these: live, sex, die, box (implied), reused. We live, we reproduce, we die, we’re in the box, we’re in the food chain and round and round we go. Our molecules go back to chaos then to kosmos once more. The great cycle of life. The resurrection of the dead.
I’ll stick to box, I think. If people don’t like it, it’s their problem.
Stanley: My poor old Dad has just died aged 88 and my Mum is making me say something at his cremation “ceremony” next week. I had a little chuckle when I realised that I would be saying that one of his qualiities was the ability to think “ouside the box”.
..aaah, Rev Stanley – Langwathby. I know it well, as I now live very close – and often cycle up through the Eden Valley, from Appleby, to my home outside Carlisle. (PS. There’s a row going on in the village, as the ‘blow-ins’ don’t take kindly to a working farm in the centre: this pre-dates their own homes. Its a question of “farmyard smells and noise.”)
As a Brit who once taught & lived in Ireland, I fully understand some of your, er, ‘cultural difficulties.’ “They came over here and tried to show us their ways” once being a common retort to me! (I can’t repeat any of the other Irish ‘linguistic flavours’.)
I see you don’t take kindly to ‘Yorkshire.’ Can’t agree; it was the source for my next & excellent teaching/lecturing job.
Eey up, give me our address, and I’ll send you down both pigeons and whippet, lad!
Martin, thanks for this. Langwathby was dotted with cow clap all the time when aa were a lad. It’s what farming villages are for. I like the smell. If the chelsea tractor brigade don’t like dung they should move somewhere else. I could write much more about Irish ways – suffice it to say that I have been told in print that I am ‘not one of us’. As for Yarkshire – you can surely spot a twinkling eye. My job is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.