Last Thursday we buried Pat. My heart broke as her coffin was lowered into the ground. Pat had brought me up, between all the nannies that came and went and my parents in and out, Pat had always been there. She had turned up on my mother’s doorstep, with 5 boys in tow, escaping an abusive marriage. My mother took her in and she stayed for forty years.
In a pub, after the funeral, slightly tipsy on Pimms and grief I sat with a cluster of her granddaughters. One was a receptionist, one worked in corporate events and one was a body paint model. A body paint model? You mean like naked body paint modeling? “Yes,” said Verity, “I stand very still for lots of hours and Mona paints me.” She took out her camera and showed me some examples.
“What are you doing Saturday night?” I asked.
My brother, an unusual character, had recently met someone on Instagram and had decided very quickly he was going to marry her. Katalina, clearly unusual herself, accepted. Within a few weeks a date was set and a wedding announced. “A small wedding,” my brother told me, “I don’t know anyone anymore.”
In fact hundreds of fascinated friends and family came, poured into a gigantic pink tent to eat pizza and ice creams and celebrate (can you imagine an ice cream freezer filled with free Magnums and Cornettos? No? Domino couldn’t either). Photo booths with David Hicks wallpaper were set up where old friends piled on top of each other, wearing silly wigs and silly hats and pulling silly faces, and we danced in the old wooden hay barn till the sun came up.
The bride wore bunny ears and at one point my brother was dressed as a chicken. Don’t worry, it made sense at the time. Well sort of. Donald Robertson, the illustrator, was the best man. He gave an amusing speech about how to marry someone you meet on Instagram and terrify Lady Pamela (although my mother, always very modern in her outlook, seemed to go along with the idea of meeting someone on ‘instamatic’ as she called it, and wasn’t terrified in the least).
I woke the next morning and thought of my happy brother and his beautiful bride and their new life ahead, and I thought of Pat who’s life was over but knew how much she would have enjoyed the thought of Verity, painted in my brother’s patterns, roving around the gardens she knew so well.