Saturday, 1 August 2015

Useful ballrooms

The church at Broadwell was packed for Colin's send-off, and I was the only one wearing a black tie. I thought it was a funeral, but it turned out to be a thanksgiving service. Colin himself was not in attendance.

Everyone looked up to the rafters when they went in, expecting to see flocks of swallows in rows, because speakers were twittering out birdsong on Colin's request. He designed the whole affair himself, obviously this side of the pearly gates.

I waited for a shotgun blast from the sound system - he spent the first half of his adult life shooting birds - but it never came.

He had more grandchildren than I remembered, and they have grown up into very pretty young women. I remember them as gawky and rather plain looking kids, but they now really look the part, and the part is being the most influential family in the area. His daughter married the man who inherited the village with the title, and is now a Baroness. She really looks the part as well, but then she always did.

Colin was a quiet Christian ("I don't bother God that much..."), so the service had a lot of hymns and prayers between the above covers, and the vicar was a classic huntin', shootin' and fishin' one, with mutton-chop whiskers. He explained that Colin insisted on including the now un-pc verse of 'All things bright and beautiful' - The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate... - because he thought it would make us laugh, given the exalted position to which his daughter had been elevated. He took great delight in pretending to sneer at people waiting for busses as he drove past them in his beaten-up old Ford.

Colin's son - a six-foot six, strapping ex-army officer (This is my little son...) gave a very funny address which included stories of his late dad's exploits from the 1950s onwards. Most of them alluded to practical jokes of such outrageous illegality involving policemen, that I am amazed he was never imprisoned for some of them.

I remember that when 'Hooray Henrys' were prevalent in the 1980s, Colin was deeply worried that his boy was turning into a prime and shameful example of an extreme one, which he was until the army knocked it out of him.

Colin, his son explained, took him to one side one day, and said, "It is about time that one of us grew up, and it's not going to be me."

We all piled back into the massive Victorian country house after the thanksgiving and stood about on the terrace from which three counties can be seen stretching across the horizon.

When Colin gave me a guided tour of the place, he said, "It's a rather dull house really, but it is perfectly adequate. The Ballroom can be very useful."


  1. In almost all the photos I have of Colin and me in the open air, he is pointing at some far distant object on the horizon - maybe a county or two - just as he did at his son-in-law's house in the Cotswolds.

  2. Lovely words he picked for his Service sheet thing. I would have liked him I think. "The ballroom can be very useful" just says it all I guess. Thank you for sharing it with us all.

    1. You are most welcome, Rachel. I could share more, but I think that's enough for the time being!

  3. Sounds like a very decent send-off. I like the idea of dozens of weeping beautiful granddaughters.... sadly I have but none.

    1. They weren't weeping. I am guessing they saved that for the private funeral. Everyone was, in fact, laughing. Much better.

  4. He sounds such a lovely character Tom - pleased you gave him a good send-off.