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Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Funeral

 M. and I went down to Burslem for the Mater’s funeral on Tuesday afternoon. I learnt from Jennings that the ‘last journey’ had to be ‘the longest’, i.e. corpse must always go longest way to cemetery. I asked why. He sniggered, ‘So as to prolong the agony, I suppose.’ Real reason nowadays and for long past must be ostentation. We naturally altered this.
   Funeral. Too soon. Orange light through blinds in front of room. Coffin in centre on 2 chairs. Covered with flowers. Bad reading, and stumbling of parson. Clichés and halting prayer. Small thin book out of which parson read. In dim light, cheap new carving on oak of coffin seemed like fine oak carving. Sham brass handles on coffin. Horrible lettering. Had to wait after service for hearse to arrive. Men hung their hats on spikes of hearse before coming in. No trouble in carrying coffin. I kept Uncle J.L.’s arm most of the time, as he is nearly blind. He told me he still managed 700 accounts. Long walk from cemetery gates to region of chapel. By the way, the lodge at gates is rented as an ordinary house to a schoolmaster. . John Ford’s vault next to Longson, with records of his young wives (‘The flower fadeth,’ etc.). This could be exaggerated into a fine story. No sign of any other coffins, of course, in Longson vault.

   Curious jacket and apron of first gravedigger. Second stood apart. Both with hats off. Parson put on a skull-cap. On return, carriages trotted down slope from cemetery, but walked as we got to houses near Cobridge station, ‘Next Egg Factory’ en route. 2 cottages turned into works.
                                                                         Arnold Bennett's Journal, Friday, November 27th 1914 

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