On to Peggy Braithwaite’s Funeral Tea

‘I said are you alright Maureen?’

Foolishly I muttered something about it being
too hot in the restaurant. I should have known better. Instead of sympathy I
got another salvo of unwelcome advice on the perils of wearing unseemly amounts
of other people’s hair on top of your own.

‘Anyway it’s time we were off,’ she said
swinging her handbag over her arm. ‘It’s at St Luke’s and if we don’t get there
in good time all the best seats will have gone. Remember Eileen Murchison’s? Jammed
at the back with all those Boy Scouts? Then get a move on. I’ve no idea why Peggy’s
family chose that place. The acoustics are dreadful and the walls are covered
in graffiti. They say it’s the play group but where do the under-fives learn
words like that unless it’s from their parents? Still have you seen those
mothers? How you can expect to bring up a child when you live in a tracksuit I
don’t know. Then again I suppose it’s
got a wide aisle.’

That was one thing Beattie was right about. She
also shot me a triumphant smile when they wheeled Peggy’s coffin in on a
trolley, which I will admit was the size of a double wardrobe with very sturdy
handles. But she was wrong about the lack of seating. Apart from the immediate
family there was only us there. Sadly Peggy’s only close friends in life were
Jean Shanks and Frieda Waverley. One of them was dead and the other was in St
Mary’s Hospital having had her spleen removed. We didn’t really count either,
only being there for the cakes. Still we knew that a small turnout always boded
well in terms of catering largesse. Plus judging from the combined tonnage of Peggy’s
brood they definitely seemed like a family that enjoyed their food so it looked
like we were in for a treat.

‘As soon as that last clod of earth gets
thrown in’, sang Beattie to the tune of ‘Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer’,’ we’ll
be round that church hall double quick as I don’t fancy being trampled to death
under that lot when they whip the tea towels off the sandwiches. Look at that
grandchild. You can’t tell me it’s natural for twelve year olds to be that
size! And what is that Karen wearing? She looks like a bungalow under an

Our plan worked. Dust to dust and we were right
at the head of the queue. Beattie was over the moon and all over the food.
Despite her girdle she managed to eat four chocolate éclairs, three Fondant
Fancies and a slice of pork pie. She was so overcome by the size and magnificence
of the spread before us that she even risked her immortal soul by telling all
Peggy’s children what a wonderful woman their mother had been and how greatly
she’d be missed by everyone. All poor Jean’s family had got was a tactless request
for more Rennies.

‘Decent milk,’ she hissed using the excuse of
a cup of tea to get a good feel of the table cloth. ‘Real linen too! Has to be
borrowed surely?’

As far as I was concerned they could have
been serving fresh caviar on gold plates stolen from Buckingham Palace for all
the difference it made. Without trying to sound dramatic I knew that we were
NOT ALONE. Ever since we’d left the restaurant I’d had a feeling that we were
being followed. Even in the church I kept turning round, convinced that somebody
was watching us. And it wasn’t the Almighty either. By the time we got to the
eulogy the feeling was so strong I could feel the hairs on my head standing up,
which was no mean feat considering they were buried under £40.00 worth of ‘Hey
Big Spender’.

What I needed more than anything was fresh air.
Unfortunately my attempt at a speedy exit was thwarted when Peggy’s daughter
Karen lumbered over and begged us to take some of the leftover food with us. I
think she said something about it only going to waste if we didn’t but it was
hard to tell because her mouth was full of Cheesy Wotsits.

‘I doubt that very much!’ Beattie muttered but
she did her bit to help and crammed most of a ham and egg pie and a jar of
pickle into her handbag. Then she rammed half a dozen scones into mine. Only
when our pockets were bulging with mini chocolate rolls were we allowed to