Death, eh? A puzzle wrapped in an enigma packed in a box chucked in a hole. I don't like to think about it too much because it means going somewhere else and I don't want to go somewhere else. I like it here. I don't even like to go on holiday. Genuinely. The thought of it is just too bloody stressful. So death, that freaks me out something chronic.
And there's the whole one-way thing. I've never bought a one-way ticket in my life. What if I don't like death? I can tell you what, I'll be sending home the mother of all postcards.
Yet one of my favourite pastimes is reading obituaries. I love reading obituaries. Love it. You learn new things about old people (or about people for whom getting old turned out to not be an option). Obituaries always read with a similar sentiment to 'Alas poor Yorick! I knew him well'. I recently discovered that this line is a misquote; Hamlet actually says, 'Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him'. Which would be a more honest tone where obituaries are concerned. More honest still would be 'Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him vaguely' and most honest would be 'Alas, poor Yorick! I didn't know him at all but I used Wikipedia which is fairly accurate and in any case, no one will look this shit up'.
People almost always say nice things about dead people. You can't speak ill of the dead, people say, but they're wrong, you can, they can't hear you. It's not just obituaries, it's eulogies. I went to a funeral once and the vicar was saying such nice things that I thought I'd turned up to the wrong crematorium. Here are my top five annoying obituary platitudes:
Will be remembered forever. I can't even consistently remember where I put my keys and I use them every day. Do you really think I'll remember some nurse who looked after sick people in the Crimean War? Okay, I'll probably remember her, but she's the only nurse I'll remember.
One of a kind. As far as DNA is concerned, yes, we are all one of a kind. But at the same time, you can kind of sort us into groups. For example, I would say there are two groups of people: those known as 'Grammar Nazis' and those who should have their oxygen rationed until they can use an apostrophe properly.
Liked by all. Come on! Seriously? No one is liked by all! There will be people who think the Dalai Lama is a prick.
The best mother in the world. Particularly ridiculous, this one. Not everybody can be the best. In fact, only one person can be the best. And it probably isn't you. Out of a global population of 7bn, it probably isn't anyone you know. Or anyone you've heard of, either.
Would do anything for anyone. Who comes out with this nonsense? This is a way of saying a person was really kind, except this doesn't say they were really kind, it says they were overly compliant and willing to put their own beliefs, morals and personal judgement to one side in order to do what someone else wanted them to. I once had to be physically restrained from standing up and correcting a vicar regarding this matter in the middle of a funeral. I was slightly drunk.
You might be thinking, so Helen, what would your own completely honest obituary look like? Something like this:
Helen Keeler was born in Birkenhead (yeah, you heard, we'll just leave that one there). It's unlikely anyone would remember her from primary school if it wasn't for Facebook. She was in the Road Safety Team. Yes. That's right. That was a thing.
In secondary school, she was in the hockey, netball and rounders teams because the PE teacher begged her as she didn't have enough players. All teams were very successful. It was nothing to do with Keeler.
Once in Geography she was talking to Alan Newton, got her ruler out of her bag and lifted it up to find a sanitary towel had attached itself to the end at a right angle, like a flag. She and Alan Newton never spoke of this again.
She also fancied a boy because he was good at maths.
Keeler went to university, but not much. She once got a 2:2 in an exam she fell asleep in. Imagine what she could have achieved if she had properly tried.
She had eclectic taste in men: Face from The A Team, a bloke from a life insurance advert (not Parky), pretty much anyone who's ever made her laugh, the Canadian Prime Minister, the men from the Channel 4 SAS programme (all of them), Richard Osman, everyone with a Scottish accent, the pharmacist from her local chemist, a guy who works in Tesco, Nathan Fillion, the new guy from Silent Witness, the old guy from Silent Witness, Raza Jaffrey, a bloke who valued a sideboard on Antiques Roadshow, anyone who's ever played James Bond, Adam Ant, Jack Lemmon, Nick Knowles and the copper who came round after she had an attempted break-in.
Of all the screwed up balls of paper she threw at bins in her entire life, seven went in. She was clumsy, she couldn't sing and her death is the only adequate excuse she's ever had for the state of her house.
She knew how to fill a dress.
Keeler had children, who will miss her dearly, just as soon as they realise the dishwasher doesn't pack itself.