Clare and I went to Thornhill Crematorium this morning for my cousin Thelma's funeral. The service was led by two Spiritualist church ministers, as this was the path Thelma followed in later life. The minister who took the first part of the service seemed unused to standing in front of such a large crowd. The main chapel was two thirds full, with extended family members, friends and neighbours.
As a lively, sociable rebellious fun-loving teenager, Thelma had a great appetite for attending and organising parties, and a great compassionate heart. She married three times, and raised a family of three step children as well as her own. With her third husband Graham who died a couple of years ago, she ran a community centre in Senghenydd for many years, and the door of her home was ever open to welcome anyone who wanted a chat or a shoulder to cry on, or their fortunes told. An amazing unconventional loveable character in every sense.
Her elder brother Godfrey gave a family tribute which truly captured the ethos of those teenage years. We left the chapel to Bill Hailey's 'See you later Alligator', which often blasted forth from the family record player at home in those teenage years. Her younger sister Rosalyn was there too. Both have been widowed in the past couple of years, and spent a lot more time together, especially after Thelma was taken into hospital last autumn. She seemed full of energy when she returned home and did a lot more socialising than usual in the last few months of her life, perhaps aware that her time was short, since she suffered from COPD, legacy of a lifetime's smoking.
Most of Thelma's extended family by marriage I'd never met. It is, after all, forty three years since we left Caerphilly, where I served my title as as assistant Curate. Since then our meetings were few and far between. The shared memories of growing up in the craziness of the sixties maintained a bond between us however. Apart from her siblings, cousin Guy and Pam his wife were there, cousin Alan from Nice.
I enjoyed meeting Godfrey's grown up children; Geraint who lives in Bristol not far from Owain, and is a deejay like him. Also Tegwen who lives in Aberdeen and works there as an engineer. She told us that she'd re-engaged with the church since she's been there. She now attends the Redeemed Christian Church of God, a black African Pentecostal church, where she sings in the choir! Many Nigerians work in Aberdeen, the oil industry brings them there. How on earth can they cope with the climate? I guess the energy of the worship counts for much. Clare really enjoyed the opportunity of speaking Welsh to them all. Idiot that I am, I kept letting myself down by trying to respond in Spanish.
After the funeral tea in the Municipal Club in the centre of Caerphilly, we drove back to Thornhill, and Clare dropped me off at the Crematorium to meet with a family and bury cremated remains from last Friday's funeral. The funeral director drove me back to Roath, where I went looking for Hamid's place, but was unable to find it, as I walked in the wrong direction along Newport Road. I then went into the office for an hour, before heading home for the evening.
After supper, I steeled myself to go on line and book Vueling flights from Cardiff to Malaga, then home from Barcelona to Cardiff, to cover my locum duties in June and July. I also needed to complete the formalities to acquire boarding passes for the April holiday trip to Alicante with Ann. It's ages since I last did any on-line booking, more than a year. Trouble is, when you get out of the habit, gearing up to do things accurately and correctly is not all that enjoyable, although I have to admit that the better web booking services do seem to improve in usability incrementally. At last now, I can look forward, above and beyond any overcast weather days which may yet arrive to loom over us in wet Wales.