Social Distancing

Day 17

No, gentle reader, you are not hallucinating due to lack of human contact: the blog is not missing a day. It is missing another member of the Executive Team behind bringing you these daily peregrinations through the increasingly labyrinthine mind of a man who is spending too much time doing other people’s work. After yesterday’s sacking of the second Marketing Manager, today sees the departure of the Finance Director, for reasons that will become abundantly clear … soon. I feel no emotion (generally) as the silver-haired, sprightly octogenarian clears his desk flanked by two of the security staff, and is escorted to the front door of the hacienda where he is thrown forcibly, face-down, onto the wet tarmac of the front street, solely for the purposes of referencing a previous post down there in which I explained the term ‘street’ as used in the countryside. As he gingerly picks himself up, extracts a cotton hankie from the breast pocket of his Italian-designed suit to stem the bleeding from his nose and totters up the slight hill of the driveway to where it meets the lane (see previous post down the page there as well for an explanation of ‘lane’) and thence off to fend for himself among the great unwashed, I look back over all the great times we had together and realise that there weren’t any. It will probably take him about two days to reach the city on foot from here as I doubt there is any public transport running in this area at the minute – it was never what you might call a regular service, even in times PC. Good enough for him, I say, and if any other small or medium enterprise is kind enough to take him in off the street when he gets there, a word of warning, if you don’t mind: caveat emptor.

But his ignominious exit has brought the somewhat more than slight hill on the front driveway to my attention again, and jogged my memory that I must remember to finish off the detailed arrangements for my own funeral. I am recording them for posterity in the form of a short story which has started well – and the end is a complete blaster; it’s just the tricky middle bit I have been avoiding. I could, of course, just draw up a list of my requirements for my own burial, but where’s the crack in that? Much better to have a cloud of funeral directors and a gaggle of literary critics hunched over the manuscript on the kitchen table trying to work out exactly what I meant by some line or other. Was I being symbolic, or literal? Is that just pathetic fallacy, or do we actually have to wait for a tornado to strike the locale before we can take the coffin out of the house? That sort of thing, you know. It will lend a much-needed air of gravitas to the atmosphere of the wake, and give the jubilant part-time wife something to do when she is called in for a definitive judgement on some dispute or other between the critics and the undertakers, whether a structuralist or a Marxist interpretation is more appropriate for the passage about the stone wall building, for example.

I will not be budged on one detail, though. Despite it being an ancient and unalienable tradition (any word on when Boris is coming back for his nightly stand-up gig?) down my way for the closest next-of-kin to carry the coffin out of the house and over the threshold, there’ll be none of that going on at my funeral. There is a tricky turn in the front vestibule where it meets the protruding porch, and the last thing I want on the day of my burial is an undignified ‘to me, to you’ hiatus, or for one of the two sons to rip (R.I.P. geddit? Me and James Joyce both) the shoulder of his good suit on the stone wall as they try to manoeuvre the simple, black ebony, gold-plaited coffin round the bend. No, leave it to the professionals is my definitive instruction. And if the literary critics can’t manage the turn either, the funeral directors can always take over. (Did you see what I did there? You see, you assumed I meant the undertakers when I mentioned ‘professionals’, but as literary critics are also paid for their work, and as both groups were mentioned together up there a bit, I did a subtle sleight of pen to produce a comic effect. If you were under the impression that this comedy stuff writes itself, you should try it sometime.)

And whichever group gets the nod for the removal of the coffin, they will not be attempting to shoulder the thing out of the house either. No, a dignified push on a trolley from this very study where I will have been (is that an actual tense? if so, what is it called? the future perfect?) lying in state waiting for more inclement weather, down the stone-tiled front hall, a neat, three-point turn using the doorway to the country kitchen and out the door and onto the street (careful of the front step there!). That is what is required. And, because of that hill on the driveway, there will be no attempt either at carrying the coffin at a precarious angle on four shoulders of men of differing heights. (Having only two sons, there are two available positions in the first lift: applications welcome.) No, stick the thing straight into the back of the hearse parked on the horizontal area of the street, and then let the mourners follow it on foot at a dignified pace up the hill of the driveway and down the lane to where all their cars are parked in the more extensive front street of the brother-in-law. That’s what I call dignity, and you can shove your tradition. There will be time enough for first lifts when they get to the chapel.

So anyway. Yes, smart boy, this blog has ‘jumped’ from Day 15 to Day 17, but there is no missing day. The internal audit team pointed out that there are in fact two Day 11s down the page there a bit, hence the sacking of the Finance Director. Numbers were never really his strong point, anyway. I could correct the egregious error by editing, but I prefer to keep it there as evidence in case some would-be employer contacts me for a reference in a couple of days’ time. Of course I accept, dear readers, that you yourselves have too much manners and fine breeding to have pointed out the mistake in the comments section. But please feel free to leave any other comments you might have: they keep some of the staff occupied for a minute or two.

[In case you are wondering where yer man is, and if he has been sacked as well, he actually gets Saturdays off for good behaviour. Don’t tell him I am borrowing his square brackets!]


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