Tuesday, 26 May 2009

R's legacy, part 2

When we were looking to move to Wales, we had a whole list of criteria that our prospective new home had to fulfil. In the event we fell in love with a house that met practically none of our requirements: it was too big, needed too much work, didn't have as much land as we wanted, was too far from a train station. In fact, it was wrong in almost every respect.

But it did have one significant thing in its favour; the house was within walking distance of a pub. This had been fairly close to, if not actually at the top of R's list of essential features. Several houses had been vetoed at the particulars stage because they failed to pass this hurdle, even though he was prepared to be flexible as to what constituted walking distance.

And a very nice pub it is too. The landlady is lovely, there is a real fire in the grate all winter and you receive a warm welcome whenever you visit. In a tiny village like this, it acts as a real centre of the community. The only problem was that we had failed to do one essential piece of research - check which beer it served.

And that turned out to be the brown electrofizz liquid that is a sorry imitation of the real thing. It was a big disappointment, and meant that we visited the place a lot less over the years than we had intended.

When R died, though, it was the obvious place to hold his wake. I left the catering details in the landlady's capable hands, but my one special request was that she get in a barrel of proper beer. Specifically Cambrian Gold from a local brewery as it was one of R's favourites.

It lasted approximately an hour!

He would have been delighted to know that we drank the pub dry, but even now I can hear him wondering out loud why on earth I hadn't ordered two barrels, or even three, just to be on the safe side.

So where does the legacy part come in?

Well, after that weekend, the landlady started to experiment by bringing in a guest real ale. Initially just for the Six Nations rugby tournament, but it proved so popular that she has continued ever since. Everyone I have spoken to attributes this change of heart to the success of R's wake. That, I know for sure, would have delighted him.

And his influence lives on.
This weekend, I was invited to a party. A real, proper party where the majority of the guest list isn't under the age of 8. One where I would only know about 10% of the people.

I was terrified.

I'm not such a shrinking violet and I have always enjoyed a good party. This would be the first without his reassuring presence in the next room, though. It would have been so much easier to make some excuse and avoid going, but it was something I felt I needed to do.

When I walked in, the host asked me what I would like to drink. I cast my eye over the offerings and my heart leaped to see that he had a barrel of Cambrian Gold - R's beer - on the table. From that moment onwards, I felt totally relaxed. It was almost as though he were there looking after me. If nothing else, it gave me a topic of conversation to use as an ice-breaker which, after all, is the hardest part of being at a party.

I don’t believe there is any sort of life after death, so I equally don’t believe in messages from beyond the grave, but that reminder of him was just what I needed to help me get through what I was expecting to be a difficult evening.

(I did, however, gratefully accept an offer of an early lift home).


  1. Such a ritual, to pour out an offering of drink to the Gods. We humans still connect the same old ways even between the worlds of the living and the dead.

    I was so bummed that Gavin's gallery could not get the first, or even the second, favorite beer for our memorial service. But I was too tired to fight and grateful they were paying.

    Thanks for telling the tale! And I'm glad to hear more about your community, now I have someone to picture when I hope folks are watching out for you.



  2. Well done for going. A short evening can seem uniquely and punishingly long at times.

  3. That R.'s beer was on the table and gave you strength in starting out the party is so bittersweet and touching - a merging of the past and present!