Earlier this week me and OH went to the funeral of one of his old mates, A. He and A were friends as adolescents. A had been in the year above him at school but they hadn't mated up until Jim left and went to work at the same garage as a trainee mechanic. Then they and a few more young men played football, fished, drank and went to dances together. A had been one of the good looking ones, a girl magnet and Jim the one you took home to mother.
Their friendship continued through National Service and after when they returned to civvy street. A was married and had two sons by the time I met him. I was never really an intimate friend of him and his wife, they seemed older and different, but we would go out to the local working man's club on a Saturday with them. This continued until I became pregnant and that put a stop to that.
We then moved out of the district and continued with our lives. I had two children and returned to work. Then tragically A's wife died and he became more involved with his family. We would see him from time to time but the intimacy never returned we'd all moved on. Ten years later A married a young widow and to all intents and purposes lived a happy life.
The last time we saw him was at Jim's mother's funeral three years ago he looked older but seemed ok we chatted made loose arrangements to meet up some time but that never happened. Then last week we heard of his death and we both agreed we wanted to attend his funeral and that's what I wanted to talk about.
When we arrived at the local cemetery chapel there were already crowds of people there. We both looked around for a familiar face but none appeared. By the time the cortege arrived there must have been a hundred people and we were ushered in to standing room only. The service was not a religious one and in fact only the Lord's Prayer was said. The rest of it was a mixture of anecdotes and music but it captured the man and at the end there was a round of applause for a life well lived. All of it was very positive and we were pleased we'd attended.
But it was a strange experience, a sort of dislocation? We had been surrounded by a working class community to which we no longer belonged. So when we returned home, we spent some time talking about A and some rather vivid memories we hand of him but then we talked about how our lives have changed over the years. I realised that I had felt like Rita, Willy Russell's eponymous character in Educating Rita. I 'sing another song'. Jim was just in a state of disbelief and then started wondering if he was the last dinosaur standing?
I think we have experienced an evolution of sorts. A, though a prosperous business man was still living the same life but with more money. Whereas we, mainly through my growing up and late education, have experienced something different. I stress the 'different' I don't mean better. He had clearly been loved and as far as we know he was content. We on the other hand have a rich cultural life and often don't feel contented? Is it because although I sing a different song I no longer have a place of belonging? I'm perhaps neither fish nor fowl. No longer really working class but not really middle either. This discomfort serves me well in my work. I am adept at empathising. I get it from the different perspectives. Where it serves me less well perhaps is when I am required to socialise. I then, to misquote, feel like a sheep in wolf's clothing?