You’ve suddenly become the topic of conversation. Two really good friends on totally separate occasions have asked me about next week. Next week when I take you on the holiday that I thought would never happen (cheers corona) and finally set you free, scattering your ashes off in the sea like sand. Letting you blow away in the wind forever. Sounds poetic doesn’t it? Well it’s a hell of a lot better than you being tucked away under my stairs next to the electric metre and a half full tin of left white emulsion!
It’s a funny year for everyone and many of us have had plans and holidays, cancelled, postponed or just hanging in limbo wondering whether or not they were going to happen. Well my holiday this year was booked in the new year and was not just your average holiday. It was finally setting in stone the scattering of Poppa M’s ashes, almost 4 years on I need it done. It needed doing awhile ago but for various reasons it’s not happened, various life events and people’s wishes to be there etc have meant the organisation of it has just not happened. But on a selfish and personal level I need it done. I can’t keep moving the cardboard box containing a polythene bag of pale grey powder around, hiding it away so I don’t see it, I need what’s left of you somewhere better. He deserves it too, for all his faults and misgivings, he deserves to be scattered somewhere he was fond of. So thankfully lockdown restrictions are gradually being lifted and I can take Poppa M on one final infamous car journey to the South West and finally scatter his ashes in the sea at one of his favourite beaches.
Holidays are one of the good memories. In fact the best. Poppa M was nicknamed Mungo Gerry for as long as I can remember, to the point where he even jokingly received letters through the post addressed to Gerry. I always remember the fluorescent yellow cassette tape that was played in your Vauxhall Cavalier tape player on repeat as we towed the caravan through the night down to the opposite end of the country, tediously reaching Bristol thinking we were nearly there but still having Exeter and the dreaded A30 traffic jam to tackle early morning before seeing the sea.
The bright yellow 80s cassette has a lot to answer for! It was an MnM’s special, I still remember the jungle between songs “MnM’s get the summer time feeling, summer time feeeeellllling, (cue deep American voice) MnM’s melt in your mouth and not in your hand” and if I were able to check I’ve probably still got the majority of the track list in the correct order. That’s how much it was played! With Mungo Gerry’s in the Summertime, Walking on Sunshine, the Beach Boys’ Beach Baby and Under the Boardwalk as some of Poppa M’s faves how could I forget. Especially given his terrible singing (yep someone’s is worse than mine) and driver’s seat dancing to the annual summer holiday soundtrack. You see every time we ever went on a holiday to Cornwall, whenever I’ve driven that journey, no matter who with, I’ve always remembered our journeys with Poppa M to one of my favourite places, even the ones later one sans caravan with just me as a teenager and my brother old enough to stay home and avoid the family holiday.
Like I said holidays were the good times, everyone liked Poppa M then. He was his best self. They were the best times. We never really holidayed anywhere else than Cornwall when I was a child, there was the odd occasion elsewhere but it was our tried and tested favourite. So much so that the place feels like a second home. I know it almost as well as places I’ve lived. There’s just something familiar about the place, like I’m coming home. So it seems apt that we’re scattering Poppa M there, he loved it, we loved it and my best memories are of time with him there.
But then what? Then it’s done. It’s weird, I’ve needed this moment for so long and in a weird way, I’ve been looking forward to it (god that sounds morbid and odd). But I have, I’ve had a little glimmer of excitement about scattering my dad’s ashes on one of the best beaches in Cornwall (no it’s Fistral beach at Newquay, he wasn’t keen on that one even though the surfers love it). Maybe it’s a bit of him coming through (sorry for all the skeptics and cynics out there but I’m a bit spiritual and believe in these things) or maybe it’s actually relief, maybe I’m more than ready to let this part go. And maybe it’s because I remember him getting as over excited as I do about holidays and fun times, it didn’t take much for Poppa M not does it me, to become a giddy kipper over Christmas/birthdays/holidays etc. Both of us are as annoying as hell over excitement for occasions and maybe it’s this memory and that I’m metaphorically (or actually if you’re really pedantic) taking Poppa M on one final holiday to our favourite place again. Maybe it’s a sign that I’m scattering him in the right place and for the right reasons.
But then what? Then that’s technically it for the grieving process. That’s not even a process. Because calling it a process suggests that there’s an end to it. But how do you end someone being gone forever. How do you put an end to missing them, losing them, wishing they were still here and them missing the things you’d love for then to be here for? Truth is you don’t. Hence why you don’t ever really stop grieving, you don’t ever get over it. You just learn to carry it. It’s just there, whisky they’re not anymore.
It’s weird, I don’t really cry that much anymore in fact, I can’t remember the last time I did cry over my dad, it definitely wasn’t in the last year or so. But god I do still miss him, but not like you’d think, not when you’d think. It’s more random and sporadic, it’s a bit more unexpected, it’s not on an anniversary or Father’s Day, it’s not at Christmas or his birthday. It’s more when I can’t work out how to fix the Hoover, can’t get the shelf I’m putting up to stay straight or could do with asking the best way to turn the left over pallets into raised garden boxes. It’s the more, “bloody hell Dad, could do with phoning you right now” moments. And scattering his ashes won’t get rid of those, it won’t take those away. It’ll just mean some dust has been thrown into the water to disappear and float away whilst he still lives in us, with good and bad memories, lessons learnt and emotions felt.
So then what? Well I’ll just carry on, remembering him warts and red wine stained lips and all. His cheap Indian cigarette smelling clothes and bad dress sense. His foul temper, potty mouth and stupid sense of humour. I’ll just carrying on laughing, crying and playing holy hell about him and his good ways and stupid behaviour. Remembering him for all he was, the good, the bad and the ugly!
I guess though what I will hold onto more is the good memories. The Mungo Gerry sing-a-longs during epic car journeys. Good Gerry Pops, trying to teach me to swim (oh god yes he tried!) in the holiday swimming pool, which was more a case of throwing me in at the deep end and him shouting for me to “swim, come on swim” as in haled more and more chlorine! I’ll remember the MnMs cassette, the 80s style swim shorts, blue stripy windbreaks, Fat Willy’s t-shirts and him getting pissed on the taste testers at the Scrumpy Cider farm.
I’ll scatter dad, but still remember Poppa M and his alter ego, Mungo Gerry!