Racism, Kitchen Worktops and Tombstones.

I’ve just realised I can’t really take her anywhere these days. With Dad gone, Mum’s latent racism has stepped up a gear and moved from being latent to active and out there in the open, her deafness clouding her judgement possibly as to how loud she goes and under what circumstances.

So we were stood next to some headstones in the garden of remembrance on the outskirts of a small Leicestershire satellite town. The Crematorium is pretty new and so the garden of remembrance is pretty young too, but theres a healthy growth of trees; silver birches, lilacs, beeches, flowering cherries, apples and pears, all rising, presumably, from the ashes of the dear departed out of the consecrated ground as smooth as a cricket pitch at the start of the season. Mum doesn’t want a tree she doesn’t like the idea of the roots plunging down into the casket of burnt bones and false teeth, when really as far as I can see, thats all that is left, the soul, if there is such a thing, I would have imagined to have cleared off much earlier, to go and sit on a cloud or whatever. So we were looking at tombstones, and small granite bases for the stone to sit upon, both these sit in 2 foot by 2 foot squares in a larger square made up of 16 of these set in to a larger square, with the middle 4 taken out and bushes planted in the space, so 12 tombstones exist in this arrangement, each with various epitaphs, but all pretty similar as you’re only allowed 80 letters and any more come at a cost. We decided on a suitable plot, looking out over the hills and away from Leicester, a double plot for Dad and later Mum, so they can be together forever or at least until the lease expires for the plot in 50 years time, buy which i’ll be dead anyway and Putin may well have destroyed Leicester entirely. We paid for the plot, £2k, then we started looking at the stones, which was very much like being in a kitchen showroom choosing a granite worktop, where the staff are overly solemn and whilst not wanting to completely fleece you are nevertheless happy to exploit you, as one really doesn’t know where else to buy this stuff from other than perhaps an actual kitchen showroom.

One of the tombstones had a name ending in puram, which I thought reminded me of the town in southern India called (I think) Mahabalipuram, where craftsmen and expert  stonemasons carved intricate frescos and statues for temples and the tourist industry, the slabs of stone sometimes piled up precariously high occasionally resulting in deadly working conditions for the masons. Anyway mentioning the potential Indian connection Mum suddenly piped up with

“Well I’m not too sure what Dad would think about that, lets chose another stone. I don’t think he’d like that” 

That was pretty offensive but the earnest over solemn graduate, either was too polite to say anything or wasn’t listening, he was having some trouble with the figures and pretty much any question we asked he had to duck out to go and ask someone more senior. We settled on a nice grey stone, the same one as someone who’s name Mum recognised in a plot a few feet away. With all the paperwork done and dusted, the plot secured for the next 50 years and then… God knows, and an invoice being prepared for the exact cost of the stone being emailed to me, to pay next week. We took a walk back out around the memorial garden and regarded Dad’s plot again, a beautiful spot with room for some heathers and rabbit proof bushes behind, we were pleased until the C Bomb was noticed by Mum. Just next to our plot, Mum and Dads final resting place was a stone belonging to a Chinese person, I could be mistaken as my understanding of Chinese names and titles is limited and so to say for definite may be a slightly miseducated guess. Mum said, upon seeing this,

“Oh dear, Dad is next door to a Chinese person, I’m not sure what he’d think about that. I expect he’d find it amusing” 

And with that she turned away and walked back towards the car. Now I know my dad wasn’t perfect, but he wasn’t a racist, working in Leicester all his life he came into contact with all sorts of people from all colours, creeds and religious backgrounds and he was always fair and always respectful in all his estate agency shenanigans. Sadly it seems Mum is imposing her prejudices on a Dead man, who can no longer speak for himself. This makes me kind of sad, for Dad, sad for Mum in that she feels this way, and sad that in todays racist dog whistle politics regarding, specifically the Rwanda situation, our government is pushing through at the moment, this sort of attitude is sadly still burning brightly. 

2 comments

  1. We all have our Rocks to bear. In about 1964 my mother came home from somewhere, perhaps Coventry and said “Howard! I was the only white woman on the bus” Me, I hadn’t noticed a thing, the bus was full of people. These days it would be that the bus was full of foreign languages. And those I do know speak too quickly to spy on.

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  2. I have similar issues with my mother. Plus, I asked her if she minded if I would have an inscription made for my dad on his family’s tombstone (at my expense), because she wasn’t getting it done. She became loud and upset and said, “Certainly not! I’ve been getting along well with Angela!” I have no idea what that has do with it. Five years later, no inscription.

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