Monday, 26th September, 2022

[Day 924]

Today is the day of the funeral of Meg’s Uncle Ken and we had made good plans to get there and back in one day and forgo a night’s stay in a hotel which was our initial intention. We set off at 8.30 in the morning and decided to go by a slightly shorter and more direct route but avoiding some of the other routes which seem to bend round and curve a lot. The route that we decided upon was to cut north from the A5 on the A41 that headed directly for Chester. We got to just over the half way point and Meg was indicating that she could do with a loo visit. Just south of Whitchurch, we came across a huge old hotel that looked as though as it had seen better days and which advertisd all day coffees. However, the hotel was undoubtedly shut and looked as though it might have been for some time. But we espied nex door. a homely looking cafe called ‘Ma Bakers’ or something similar. They were open and gave us a steaming hot mug of tea and some toasted fruitcake at a very good price. It looked and felt very much like a biker’s café judging by the photographs around the walls and, just as we were finishing, a couple of bikers walked in. What was extraordinary about our little rest stop was that we indicated as could be seen by our apparel that we were on our way to a funeral whereupon the proprietor and his wife informed us that we were the third funeral party he had seen this morning – and it was only about 10.30am as well. We made our way to the Country Club off the Chester Expressway that we know well but as we had made good time and had no significant delays, we thought it be OK for us to turn up somewhat early. We got there about 40 minutes before our booked restaurant slot and were a little dismayed to find the whole establishment closed. Anyway, after we had tried the door a kindly member of staff let us in, for which we were grateful, and we indicated we just wanted to sit quietly in a corner until they were ready for us. However their coffee machine had broken down but the member of staff made us both a cup of tea for which we were grateful and we drank this whilst reading our copy of The Times purchased earlier in the day. Then a good hour before the crematorium slot allocated to us we set off and the SatNav got us practically to the door of the crematorium but was defeated by a series of roadworks in the vicinity. Eventually, we drove away and then reprogrammed the SatNav having dome some hairy U-turns to get ourselves back into the traffic flow. When we did arrive at the crem some other mourners were amazed that we had managed to get there having performed some near miraculous manouvres to get there but arrive we did. The crematorium committal service was fairly brief but dignified – we had expected that the crematorium chapel would be full but in actually the congregation was only about 15-20, being mainly family and relatives. Then we needed to SatNav our way to the Methodist chapel but there were some horrendous traffic jams and when we arrived in the vicinity of the chapel, the SatNav did not locate it correctly for us, as we could not specify a house number. After several attempts to find the chapel and asking some passersby we did manage to locate the chapel. One of Ken’s close friends who we knew well was waiting for us outside attempting to locate us and when we did arrive, the congregation was half way through the first hymn but fortunately, we had not missed too much. Again, the chapel was not as full as we thought it might be but of course at the age of 96 most of Uncle Ken’s family and closest friends were dead. Again, the service was quite short and dignified and practically all of the obituary speeches mentioned Ken’s incessant good humour when, in all honesty towards the end of his life, he must have been in terrible pain from a knee that really needed an amputation. After the service, fortunately we repaired to the adjacent hall for cups of tea and a spread of sandwiches and funeral fare. We managed to have words with all of the relatives that we knew who were welcoming and very supportive of Meg who was feeling a little doddery by this time.

We left at about 5.40 and thought we would get a fair bit of the journey home underway before the evening light faded. But there were some extremely heavy showers following us nearly all of the way. I had intended to come back by a different route but which had more dual carriageways and stretches of motorway in it. Instead, we had about fifty miles of quite slow roads to cope with, including at one point a tractor pulling a heavy load that progressed at 30mph and behind which a most enormous queue built up. Some took their lives in their hands and attempted a risky overtaking manouvre but there were no straight stretches of road to help us, the white line was generally against us and the rain was tremendous, so we took no risks but I thought to myself that I would never take that route again in a hurry. Eventually, we got home at about 8.30 which was not too bad, all things considered.