Madame Charlatan. Telling Misfortunes under a fog of musk and a cloud of fag-ash…….
Old Mother Charlatan has died. In her usual selfish manner, she didn’t even have the decency to tell me her death was imminent. Her mystical powers would have afforded her such knowledge, but even though she’d been poorly for a while, it was nonetheless unexpected when it happened. Not to her of course.
My Mother’s passing comes with mixed blessings. No longer will I have to excuse her behaviour to all and sundry, but on the downside, she is now free to haunt me at will.
I am obliged to organise her funeral. She has left very specific requests, and as she will know whether I fulfil these or not, it’s the lesser of two evils that I do my best.
My Granny Charlatan always swore to the story my Mother was born smoking a cigarello. She came out pouting. The confines of the womb did not suit and the freedom that birth unleashed was more than Granny Charlatan’s world was ready for. Her first word was a sly smirk. Trouble, mayhem and a flamboyant hullabaloo whirled round my Mother her entire mortal life and she intends for her departure to be no different.
There will be no hearse. The funeral ‘procession’ will see her coffin floated across the town’s boating lake, pulled by swan-shaped pedalos. The day of her funeral coincides with our local Scouts’ Annual Jamboree. As it’s in the park next to the lake, I’ve asked the Scoutmaster if we could commandeer some of his lads and lasses to operate the pedalos. The Scoutmaster was only too willing to help. He does seem extraordinarily upset by my Mother’s death and in her will she’s left him her entire terranium plant collection, so perhaps he knew her better than I thought. Always surprised me that she was able to have a hobby that involved care and nurture. And remembering to hydrate something other than herself. The Jamboree will be festooned with bunting and balloons, so at least that’s something on the list that I won’t need to organise myself. Although I still have to ask the Scout bugle players if they could assist in a short fanfare.
After the swan pedalo procession, it will be on to church. My Mother wasn’t a religious woman, but our parish Vicar, also inconsolable at the news, has been specially requested to conduct her service. Funerals can drag on a bit can’t they, so I’m going to have a little pop-up Palmistry booth in the confessional box for anyone bored and wanting their Misfortune told during the service.
There will be no hymns. Instead, we will hear Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Free Bird’ and most of Fleetwood Mac’s entire back catalogue. My Mother’s friend Bunty, from her retirement home, will be entertaining us with a dance to ‘Black Magic Woman’. I’ve been asked to buy some black feathers so she can fashion a little headpiece to match her stockings, but she’ll have to be creative and make do with whatever I can grab off my chickens. Bunty’s 84, so I doubt she’ll have the strength to complain. Or complete her routine.
For my part, I will of course be in charge of catering for the Wake. The Fishmonger has promised to bring some whelks. You may recall the rumour that he is in fact my Father. I’ve never pursued the truth, but he always gives me 12 crabsticks when I only ask for 10 and I have come home before now to find a smoked kipper through my letterbox. So, seafood will be on the funeral menu, as will my very own corned beef and cocktail-cherry party sticks. I was going to make a simple blancmange for dessert, but I’ve been experimenting with a ‘Lucky Dip Pudding’ by hiding some treats inside. Maybe some prunes or olives. Trying to put the ‘Fun’ into ‘Funeral’.
My late husband has promised to turn up for the ‘celebration’. Old Mother Charlatan laughed through his funeral, dressed as Carmen Miranda, so he’s relishing the chance to let his decomposing hair down and bid good riddance. I can’t get involved with how they get on, now that they’ll be sharing the Afterlife. They are both grown spirits, they will have to find a way to avoid each other or rub along. It’s my Granny Charlatan I feel sorry for as she will be caught in the middle as peacemaker. I don’t doubt she’ll have found a 12 bore on the ‘other side’ and will not be afraid to use it.
So, as I say, my Mother’s death brings mixed blessings. I won’t miss the drama. I get to keep the caravan. And her well-stocked drinks cabinet.
I don’t know how many people will turn up to her funeral. Apart from me, the Vicar, the Fishmonger and my dead husband. The Scoutmaster will have to stay with his troops at the Jamboree. They have a packed programme of first aid demonstrations and knot-tying to get through. Hopefully he’ll make it in time for the Wake and that blancmange surprise.
Putting the Shame back into Shaman