Having recently been more than a little under the weather, today I escaped the confines of the house for pleasure for the first time in about a month. I expect you can guess where I escaped to…
The owners of The Junk Shop in Hungerford Antiques Arcade were unpacking the products of a house clearance that they had done - so much new 'stuff' to browse through and I was fortunate enough to see the first pickings as the boxes were emptied. Yet, along with the thrill of the chase, I was also left thinking 'there is someone's life in a few cardboard boxes'.
All the little treasures that the last owners of these items had collected over the years, mixed up with what others of us would consider trash - all gathered together as a mere collection of artefacts - items without their stories, just pieces of copper, brass, china, glass; no inkling of where they came from, who bought them, or why. No idea of the effect that their purchase had - a surprise gift for a mother? a get-well gift for a friend?…a tea-set given to help set up home? all of them, story-less, identity-less, probably 'cleared' as the result of a death and a closing up of a home.
It left me thinking, yet again, of how we have rituals for most events in life; we celebrate and commemorate a birth or a marriage, we gather to mourn and say farewell to a person at a death - but we do not seem, as a society, to have a ritual for closing a house and saying farewell to the more material components of a person - even though those treasured (or even despised) items and that place we call 'home' will have played a significant role in their lives.
I am not quite correct when I say that I am not aware of any rituals for such an event - as usual, if you need a ritual, it is often a Jewish person who will be wonderfully competent at coming up with one! Several years ago, I came across a ritual which had been specifically written by Rabbi Richard Hirsh, as a farewell and thanksgiving to his parents' home, which was about to be sold, but which had played a hugely significant part in all their lives.
He wanted to acknowledge this, give thanks and create closure. I think it is a lovely idea and I have shared the concept with more than one person who was struggling to come to terms with both the loss of a parent and the home which they had created. Perhaps it is something more of us could create and put out into the world as and when the need is felt.
But I was at the Arcade to seek treasure for myself and happily I met there my long time book dealer friend, Martin, who runs what must be one of the most enticing of old book shops (Countryside Books) in the Arcade as well as a monthly book sale in his home village (which I simply *cannot* allow myself to attend these days!!). He was on hand to give me a good deal on the framed print from 1829 upon which my eye had fallen, principally because the topic was a funeral in a graveyard full of very merry mourners, all apparently singing the farewell song to 'Tom Moody' the 'whipper in' of the local hunt, who, as star of the show, is presumably already at the bottom of the very fine grave at the centre of the picture. The words and music to said song are set out for participants' use at the bottom of the print (and can be read here if you click on the print to enlarge it).
The scene is anything but morbid; on the contrary it is all rather jolly - added to which are some rather interesting depictions of Georgian costume. Tally Ho, Tally Ho - in the grave he shall go! Meanwhile, the print will become another pleasing addition to my rapidly expanding Museum of Mortality.