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A Shout From The Attic: The Gerry Years - 8

Continuing his life story, Ronnie Bray tells of a lady who organised the most expensive funeral that was available.

Grace worked in the staff canteen at John Crowther’s famous mill in Milnsbridge, Huddersfield. René worked there when she left school and knew Grace. She called her, “My lady.” I met Grace when Matthew and I moved to Longwood, Huddersfield, and Grace lived in the one room underdwelling.

Her place was a cellar room cum palace with a fireplace, a small kitchenette, and a cupboard at the back of the room that had been converted into a bedspace hidden from the room by a set of heavy curtains. She had two windows. One big sash window that looked out over the garden at the back, and a smaller one next to it that let light into her kitchenette. A dining table and chairs, a settee and matching easy chair, and a sideboard at the back of the room facing the door and window, made the darkish room a cosy home for an elderly lady.

She had not married, but lived in single blessedness with her budgerigar, Mickey, who had the freedom of their shared home
that was always cheerful and warm. Her garden was small. I had to walk through her garden to get to mine that was down some steps – the house was build on a hillside – and she grew tomatoes in a small greenhouse by the low wall on the side opposite the garage that formed the other boundary of her garden. A small green tumbledown shed graced the side of the stone garage.

On the shed’s outside wall were hung several hundred clog irons, relics of earlier days when the cobbler who had the shop at the side of the ground floor of my house was also a clogger.

When Grace’s sister’s husband fell ill in his middle years, Grace turned her hand to being his full time nurse. Suspending her own employment and its humble wages until, after a couple of years of her care, he died. In the war talk that follows on
death the news came out that grace would not receive any of the promised compensation for her sacrifice. The plan was, it
was let slip, a small payment from the bountiful life insurance pay out. I had known Grace for a good while when she told me this story, and I was surprised at her confession. In spite of the family, particularly her sister’s, intention to cut Grace
with little more than a peppercorn, the funeral arrangements were left in Grace’s hands.

Grace planned to make sure that if she could not benefit from the insurance, no one else would. Her eyes twinkled and she
threw her head back, laughing as she said, “I knew how much she had got, so I arranged the most expensive funeral the Co-op had, then I had him embalmed and cremated, and that took every penny!”

I determined there and then never to upset René’s gentle grey haired lady who had twinkling eyes, a budgie that would sit on
a delighted Matthew’s head, and a burning sense of injustice.


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