One of the things that we miss most of all when somebody dies is sharing a really good laugh with them. After my sister died I recalled all sorts of crazy fun we had… from her climbing into a dress in a shop changing-room and getting stuck in it, to making me put on her giant hat in a funeral, so that it fell over my eyes, making me look like a mushroom. Thinking about the laughter we shared I wrote this, which has now become one of the most frequently used funeral readings. Here it is:
We Will Laugh Again
It seems to me That sometime We will meet again If only to share Laughter…
It seems to me That once more We must do Funny stuff Silly stories shared Whispering, lisping Absurdities…
We need to giggle At the wrong moments Parties, wakes and funerals People dressed up weird Hats too big Clothes too small And laugh out loud Quite unexpectedly In moments That should be silent
We need to meet again And smile At silly things
The memories Of our laughter Make me cry Yet this I know That laughter Good and strong Its echo and its power Doesn’t die away And that is why I know that We will meet again So we can share Real laughter
And so I decided to find somewhere far away from the rest of the world, but close enough to be easy to get to for a couple of days. In my search I found a hotel, called The Romney Bay House Hotel which looked like a touch of sepia glamour out of an ancient magazine of yesteryear, found in a doctor’s surgery 50 years ago. It was far from anywhere, just a right-hand drive along the coast, to the further regions of East Sussex and the Romney Marsh, a barely populated corner of the country, a real contrast to Brighton. It looked suspiciously as though the bedrooms had barely made it out of 1952. It looked great. A merry trip into the land of Agatha Christie.
But it seemed that we had missed the boat. This hotel relic of another age had just been sold to another hotel, in Camber, called The Gallivant, which was busy doing up the old place. So we went to The Gallivant instead which was located in Camber on the very edge of East Sussex. Camber is about as exciting as a cold cup of tea; it’s only memorable for one of the country’s most vast and characterless sandy beaches, which goes on for mile, after mile after mile, and attracts zillions of people at the height of summer. Rye next-door, by contrast is definitely OK.
The Hotel was a big surprise. It wasn’t cheap, but few places are these days. It was just great interior-wise – very tasteful and all that – but the real charm and joy were the staff. Cursed with pancreatitis for the rest of my days plus being coeliac makes my diet choices as electrifying as a mouldy boiled potato. But the good people of The Gallivant made everything real fun. The staff were all totally engaged, from the bar staff to the chef, from the chef to the cleaner. Kindness is a special quality in the hospitality business, and a rare one. The bloke that owns and runs the place is committed to looking after his staff, and rewarding them for their work, and trust me he is an unusual and wonderful being. Ever since companies stopped using the word personnel, and replaced it with human resources, the value of people, and their importance and individuality as employees has faded into oblivion.
The news of the Prime Minister’s dubious fate broke while we were there; it was a weird reminder of a Government that has lost sight of the 67 million humans who occupy this country, and have real needs of every possible kind. I just thank goodness for those inspired souls that respect those they employ, and work with.
So when you go to stay in a hotel, in a land contaminated by Brexit, take pleasure in something better than a pretentious menu, more soothing than Egyptian cotton sheets… it’s the people that make it all lovely, and going to a posh hotel and meeting people who have the time and enthusiasm to be happy and enjoy what they do is a genuine privilege.