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This report is taken from PN Review 147, Volume 29 Number 1, September - October 2002.

From a Journal R.F. Langley

November 1977

The funeral is over by mid-day. Eight people in the small chapel at Golders Green Crematorium. The coffin, mahogany colour, brass handles, rolled away into a further room. No furnace. One imagines people in there, sitting reading newspapers, waiting for its entrance. The chapel walls are clean brick. Three carers from the home. We pull ourselves through selected verses of 'The Lord is my Shepherd'. The clergyman gives a neat summary of what we told him, over the phone. Pauline narrows into someone whose interests are hard to enumerate, who had travelled, New Zealand, Australia, America, but who never much registered it. Silver hair. Pursed lips. White skin. Mopping her mouth with a handkerchief. New Zealand accent. Unexpected and rather funny denunciations of selected people. Mysterious past on the other side of the world. What happened to all her possessions, apart from these few glass brooches, one string of cultivated pearls, a bone shoehorn? These photographs go back no further than parties at the community centre in Kentish Town.

The yellow leaves on the plane trees, outside the windows of her room. Windows which tilt open in a framework, on hinges at the top, so that the gap is below them, a caged opening, the air, somehow, not coming up easily though their down-tilted mouths. The backstreet outside. But many yellow leaves and some blue sky. The bed tugged open. A screw of bedclothes, just as it was left when she got out ...


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