Saturday, 17 February 2018

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

The Country Celebrant: Memorials

I have been asked to write a memorial for a wonderful chap, married to his wife for nearly seventy years.  They lived in the same village for all of their married lives, in a house that belonged to her parents.  Sadly, they never had any children and they were the world to each other - country people who shared a love of their garden and of nature.

I walked today, thinking of them both and wondering what I will need to say to bring her comfort; these memories are the ones that she has shared with me put into a little poem, I collected some hips and haws that I am pressing in my flower press and I will frame the poem with them for her.

Ode to a Gentleman

You were the earth to me, 
each walk we took together,
the times we stood and stared
over the fields to a distant spot.

Looking at a deer, head raised -
rooted to the ground
an unbroken look between us
Neither wishing to blink nor stop.

You were the world to me,
gruff and gentle, weather beaten.
Your hands mapped with life;
your face as cherished as a child.

Watching a fox break cover,
tail and nose low to the ground
slinking along a hedge line
in the Autumn morning, wild.

You were my everything,
my compass and my map.
You are my everything,
my coat, my gloves, my hat.

It is an honour to listen to someone talk of the person that they have spent most of their life with; it may sound a little cliched but I truly believe that sharing memories with a relative stranger brings a crumb of comfort.  There is the chance to complete the circle, to say some of things that may have been left unsaid and to close a chapter.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

The Country Celebrant: Naming Ceremonies

The Country Celebrant: Naming Ceremonies: What is in a Name? It has been a marvellous summer in Hampshire.  We have had beautiful, balmy days and there have been some glorious Nami...

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

The Country Celebrant | In memory of my Father

The Country Celebrant: Bespoke Ceremonies for All Your Celebrations

Death is the one certainty in life and for those of you who don't know me well, the death of my Father in 2009 had a profound effect on me.

Father had fallen out of love with the Church but he was still a spiritual man ... he was a farmer and farmers are intrinsically linked with the earth; they are long term planners and the true husbands of nature.  By that I mean that they care deeply for the land that they work, everything that they do is for the future, next year's crop; the next generation and so forth.

Father wanted to be buried on our farm and we were able to do that for him.  His grave is in woodland, unmarked and unremarkable but a place of peace and somewhere that all of us go to for a chat once in a while.

I know that I am privileged to have been able to do that final service for him and I know that it is not something that many people are able to enjoy; but there are the most wonderful green burial sites all around the country and there are an increasing number of people who are there to help you plan a resting place as peaceful and true as the one I describe.

Yesterday marked the seventh anniversary of my Father's death and I have written a poem for him that I would like to share with you.  Writing poetry and writing funeral celebrations brings me the most enormous amount of pleasure ... please forgive me this indulgence.


When I think of you I see strong hands, nails cut short and square, 
wide hands that hold firmly and are warm and dry.

When I think of you, I see the muscle in your cheek, just below the tiny patch of hair,
the muscle that jumps and quivers and shows the emotion that the rest of your expression belies.

When I think of you, I smell a spicy mix of pipe tobacco, whisky and lime flowered after shave.  
It is the smell that holds my youth, it is there in the rough warmth of your jersey against my cheek.

I hear your voice and recall your words, expressions that are familiar to us, your family;
but words that others do not know, strange words gleaned from around the world.

I see your fingers do that queer sideways wave as though you were playing a piano in the air;
I see your eye close as you proffer your cheek for a kiss and tilt your face to one side.

I feel the strength of your love in the way you treasure the young; be they animal or no,
it is all the same to you; tough love, fierce protective love and love that brooks no failure.

You protest against the modern way, you are a traditional man; 
you hold decency and honesty in high esteem.  You are loyal to and fierce with your own above all else.

I learned my love of people from you.  You were always there at the end, playing your part in the pageant of life; not the star but the pivot around which the actors mill, constant and strong.

When I think of you, we are out of the yard in the early morning off to the hounds, breath forming smoke in the air, bread and butter and scalding tea still coat my tongue and sleep still fogs my brain.

You mix in me the fear of doing it wrong and the joy of knowing that I am on your team and have your protective arm about me, always.

I see you sitting at the end of the table, full of preposterous stories and with a dog perched on your lap; feet bare. glass to hand and glasses pushed up on your forehead like a befuddled watch mender.

There are things I wish I had asked, things I thought I had time to hear.  There are dogs that you never met; walks that we never took to places that I wish I was able to share with you.

Navigating by pubs and the recollection of rides and drives and trips that we took side by side,
talking earnestly about the nonsense of life, stories and tales embellished with time.

When I meet with you again, what fun we will have - we'll walk the fields with a pack at our feet
and stop and stare at all that is good, we'll see each other, smile and wave.  

I hope that when the time comes for you to plan your own departure or for someone that you love, that you will seek the advice of someone who understands the need for peace and calm and that you are not pushed onto the treadmill of modern, urban death.  There is a serene way to be buried and the end result is so much more honest and personal.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The Country Celebrant | Writing Poetry

Bringing recollections to life through words.

When I was a teenager I was introduced the The Wasteland by T S Eliot.  I remember having the most wonderful time studying the imagery and analysing the poet's intent and losing myself in his words and the pictures that they created.  I wanted to make a film of the poem and when I close my eyes I can still see the ideas that I had as a response to the poetry.

Now I am able to revisit my poetry books, to look again at the words that say so much and conjure up such imagery and to use the poetry to create ceremonies for so many different occasions.

In recent weeks I have had the chance to write my own poems; it is bizarre how pleasurable it is to craft a memorial for a person in the form of a poem.  I have written a number of poems for a variety of events and although they are not, in any way, as accomplished as the poetry of real poets; they help to make my ceremonies intensely personal.

Cyan blue and white flowers
Colour - by The Country Celebrant

When I think of you, I see the rainbow
set out on a palette to mix and daub
the paper that hangs on the easel.

I see the cyan blue of your artwork,
tulips and grasses white against the evening sky
and woodland creatures gazing at the moon.

I see magenta flowers mainly sweet peas full of scent
tied with rough sisal string and mixed with herbs
to make a gift that smells divine.

When I think of you, I see silver wire and discs
of silver cut and thread onto chain
in a pattern that says I value you.

I see pale pink and gossamer fairy wings,
gentle hands nurturing a child's imagination,
lost in their dreams with them, smiling and nodding.

When I think of you, I see piercing blue eyes
the colour of iced water and forget-me-nots.
Eyes that laugh and crinkle at their sides.

I see necklaces of beads from far off lands,
spicy colours and warm colours
worn with casual elegance and style.

I remember you in the yellow warmth of the sun
in the grey drizzle of a wet afternoon
and in the purple of a winter's night.

I will keep your colours bright and shining
for your children to use and treasure
on the palette that is your legacy.

It is such a pleasure to write and to help people to recall those that they have lost through the spoken word.


Thursday, 16 June 2016

The Country Celebrant: Respect for the Bereaved

The Country Celebrant: Respect for the Bereaved: In the last year I have conducted all manner of funerals. There have been the timely deaths of beloved people where the ceremony has ...