Retirement? My Yorkshire husband's funeral parlour adventure may have come to an end but thank goodness he's not the retiring type – Susan Morrison

His retirement was going well. All the little jobs were done about the house, the garden was looking smart and constitutional walks were taken on a regular basis.

Carrying a coffin is a weighty task in more ways than one (Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Carrying a coffin is a weighty task in more ways than one (Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Carrying a coffin is a weighty task in more ways than one (Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Oh, I said to my friends, it's lovely having him about all day. You’re lying, they said back to me. It was something to do with the manic look in my eye and the way I clutched my wine glass like a life jacket. They had a point.

There was his habit of popping up next to my desk at ten past nine in the morning to ask what I wanted for dinner. And the way he wandered about the house to find me to tell me that a police car had parked outside and he saw them going down the street into a house down there and they were there for ages. There was his mild obsession with the squirrels in the garden.

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This, I thought, is no way to live. Turned out, he agreed. He announced he was going job hunting. Nothing demanding, just a few hours a week with a bit of human contact. This last was important since he had realised I’d stopped talking to him.

When a Yorkshireman says they are going to do something, they tend to do it. Within days, he had an interview.

Now, I’ve had my fill of health problems over the last few years, and I’m still in cancer’s nasty shadow. So it came as a mild surprise when he told me the job was with a funeral director. He’d get to drive the hearse, he said, with a gleam in his eye. He’d get to clean the limos. He’s keen on a shiny car. And he said, to my very face, he’d get a ten per cent discount on the funeral. He seemed well chuffed with that.

The men of the North of England are very suited to the funeral business. They don’t go in much for chat, and so people tend to think they are being empathetic. They are very good at standing still, in my experience. Not sure why. When in the North, I have noticed blokes exactly like my husband utterly immobile for hours in pubs and bars. They make Easter Island statues look like Tasmanian Devils. Possibly it's to prevent being hit by Yorkshirewomen, who hurtle about like photons in the Large Haldron Collider.

Yorkshiremen, like some Scotsmen, have a naturally occurring air of mild mournfulness about them. The perfect package for a funeral director, really.

He got the job. Sadly, he lacked the muscle power. A coffin is a heavy thing. We all recall watching the Queen’s funeral. There’s a reason why they had a team of strapping guardsmen as pallbearers.

I’m afraid this 60-something Yorkshireman found it difficult to manage and, despite his enthusiasm for the limos, the hearses and the discount, he had to pack it in. Mind you, he’d had a bit of an adventure, and came away from the experience with a deep admiration for what happens behind the scenes of a funeral.

Undaunted, he hit the job market, and once more, the boy did good. He starts next week, hiring out power tools and cement mixers to DIY enthusiasts. He likes a chat about wiring and plaster. And there’s a discount.



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