I was excited though not surprised when President Éamon de Valera walked down the aisle towards my grandfather’s coffin. Grandfathers can be hugely important and mysterious figures to kids so why wouldn’t the President of our country be showing his respect to my grandfather? The bar had been set quite high the week before with the TV coverage for Winston Churchill’s funeral. I had no other model for my first funeral, so to speak.
I was only ten and knew nothing much of the world beyond my family. Indeed, I wasn’t completely sure of that much within my family. Family gatherings, particularly those agnate, were generally fuelled by drink and thrived on stories of death by various mis-adventures. An oral tradition, the drinking and the storytelling both. The rituals often involved stormy nights under the flickering light of the damnable smokey coal fires of the era. The elaborations depended on the storyteller. ‘It was a late summer evening’ might become ‘One spring morning’ and we accepted such ambiguity because the outcome was assured.[Read more…] about On Persistent Ambiguity