I swear to God this morning I saw Jason Robards, the American actor, driving a black cab .... he was turning on to the Euston Road..... I was upstairs on the number 30 bus. Unlikely I know, especially as he’s dead. But maybe not.
In Will Self’s brilliant and hilarious short story, The North London Book of the Dead, from The Quantity Theory of Insanity, it turns out that when people die they end up living in the city suburbs and working in most departments of the civil service........
I recently lost a close friend. My oldest friend. She died of cancer after a brave and difficult, 3 year battle; another too young, too soon. Over the last few days I keep smelling a perfume: at work, at home, on the number 30 bus. I know this scent. It’s not mine, I wear Jo Malone. But I recognise it. It smells like Joseph’s Perfum de Jour. I used to wear it a lot when I was younger. My dead friend wore it. When I was in her bathroom I would spray myself with it and remember my youth. Is it her?
This year has been rather death heavy so far, a sign of growing older perhaps? My Uncle died suddenly, only in his sixties, and then my ex-mother-in-law, eighty something. Death is the only thing in life of which we can be certain and yet we are always surprised when it creeps up, calls our name and we run in the other direction. As a child I asked the nuns if heaven was so great why didn't we all just commit suicide? Shocked by the immorality of such a question about mortality by a minor, they changed the subject.
A couple of weeks ago the oldest member of my yoga class died aged 96, her last words being, 'May I have a glass of champagne please?' Her's was as good a death as one might hope for. It came at the right time, at the right end of her life. When you lose a child, unlike an adult, they grow up in your mind. Year after year. So you lose their future too: where would they be living? What would they be doing? Who would they be? And what would one's own life have been, if they were still here? My daughter would now be the same age I was when I had her. I could be a grandmother. Where do they go?
Rise up hold the reins
We'll meet again I don't know when
Hold tight bye bye
Paths that cross
will cross again
Paths that cross
Will cross again
from Paths That Cross
Top tip: live each day as if it were the last.......