Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Strange but True - Amsterdam Funeral

I was trying to find something different to fit in with the theme of Strange but True when I came across this, I think it was in a ‘100 Strange but True Facts’ article.

“If you die in Amsterdam with no next of kin and no friends or family to prepare funeral or mourn over the body, a poet will write a poem for you and recite it at your funeral.”

I was impressed and wondered where to apply for the job…
     I must visit Amsterdam.

I’ve laughed and I’ve cried reading ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’.  Anne Frank wrote witty and amusing accounts to ‘Kitty’, with honesty about her feelings as she coped with her family’s situation and truthful about her mixed up moods and personal concerns as she emerged from childhood into puberty. For two years, summer 1942 until summer 1944, the Frank family were in hiding from the Germans with another Jewish family in the top floors of an office block in Amsterdam.

This is my real reason to visit Amsterdam, just to see for myself the place known by the family as ‘the annexe’ that Anne Frank called home and learn more about how they managed. I believe it is tiny and I’m told it’s much commercialised but I would like to see for myself and show respect for their hardship and later suffering.

One of my father’s pubs had a live-in barman. He was an elderly gentleman known as Old Joe and he had lived there for many years. The only family he had was a nephew who came to take him out on his day off. He worked in the pub, played snooker for the team and always had toffees in his pocket for me and my sister. He blended in with us like family and even had his favourite ‘tripe and cow heel pie’ made for him by my mother or our housekeeper once a week. He was very deaf and had the tv on full volume when he sat in our living-room to watch the sport on a Saturday afternoon.  According to my father, he’d heard a rumour that Old Joe had a drawer full of unopened wage packets. Joe had free board and lodgings with us, the locals kept him in beer with a pint or two and his nephew treated him to lunch and whatever else on their days out. My dad was concerned and thought that if Joe really did have so much money around, it would be safer in the bank. Apparently, Joe neither confirmed nor denied the rumour, just laughed it off and told my dad he was alright, there was no need to bother. Joe lived a few more years into his nineties. There was no significant amount of money in his room. Strange, perhaps, to some, but true.
My chosen poem, I'd love to believe it's true.
The lost Lost Property Office
‘On buses and trains you wouldn’t believe
The crazy things that passengers leave
A ventriloquist’s dummy mouthing a scream
Two tickets (unused) for Midsummer Night’s Dream
Handcuffs, chains and a spiderman suit
The tangled remains of a failed parachute
Rucksacks, tents and rolled-up beds
If they weren’t screwed on they’d lose their heads
Two bull terriers and a Siamese kitten
Suicide note, hastily written
Garden forks with broken handles
A birthday cake with four candles
A file with TOP SECRET stamped in red
(Inside a card, April Fool, it said)
Safe and secure behind a locked door
Priceless works of art by the score
Paintings by Hockney, Warhol and Blake
Two Mona Lisas (possibly fake)
Magritte’s bowler hat and Van Gogh’s chair
Duchamp’s urinal and a paint-stained pair
Of trousers belonging to Toulouse Lautrec
(short in the leg, black and white check)
A painting by numbers of Rembrandt’s head
Dirty sheet and a pillow off Tracey’s bed
Jigsaw by Rodin, of two lovers kissing
Damien Hirst skull with the diamonds missing
Am I overworked? Of course I am
The list goes on ad nauseam
A shot putter’s shot and a pole vaulter’s pole
A partial eclipse and a Black Hole
A bucket of toenails and a wooden plank
Two air-to-air missiles and a Russian tank
The Statue of Liberty and an oil slick
Mountains of mobiles and an old walking stick
Lost any of these? Bad news I’m afraid
The Lost Property Office has been mislaid.’
Roger McGough, CBE, FRSL
Thanks for reading, Pam x



Steve Rowland said...

A lovely blog, Pam. Regarding a poem for the lonesome dead, I'm sure it could work in Blackpool too - not sure where you'd start. Maybe worth making enquiries? A great choice of Roger McGough poem as well :-)