A Greek Funeral

A beautiful sunny day. On with the suit and black tie and up to London to the funeral of Chris Toumazis, Sophie's father. Hideous journey. I had given myself an extra hour to get there just in case, but thanks to two train cancellations and a hefty delay on the third train I still contrived to be late. Got really stressed by this.

Eventually leaped out of a taxi outside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and St Michael buildings five minutes late, and a random man asked me if I wanted the church and pointed to an open door. I burst through this only to discover I was by the side of the the altar and looking at the scene of a crowded church, clouds of incense, and the singing of priests presided over by Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateria and Great Britain, who knew Sophie's dad well.  Slunk self-consciously to the back feeling like an idiot.

A Greek Orthodox service, with some beautiful singing from one of the priests, and presided over by the Archbishop. Almost all of it in Greek, very atmospheric although on at least three occasions moments of pathos in the service were interrupted by jauntily Hellenic ringtones. For me the best part of the service was when some of the grandchildren read parts of Chris's account of his life that he had written for his children. We had three episodes, about how his parents had died when he was eleven, his arrival in England and meeting Melia, Sophie's mum, and finally getting the restaurant of his dreams just down the road from the church in Golder's Green. Young Christof read this last bit, and choked up halfway through, but then soldiered on manfully.

Then we all had to slowly file past the coffin, some kissing it enthusiastically. Then the Toumazis family had lined up and greeted everyone, a lengthy process with lots of hugging and kissing. I kissed Sophie's formidable mum Melia, who is heartbroken. Met Sophie's brother Tom and sister Tia for the first time in decades, talked with Andros, Christof and Electra, and met some of Christof and Electra's cousins.

Then outside meeting Sarah Saunders, a nice pal of Sophie's who had been kind enough to offer me a berth after a party of Sophie's some time ago. She is just finishing reading The Mind in the Cave, which has blown her away, as it had me. We managed to cadge a lift from Sophie's old friend Sue to the cemetery in Hendon. More prayers and so on, the priest at one point breaking into slightly approximate English saying that 'we Christians are the undead' which I am ashamed to say made me think of Zombies. Sarah and I stuck together and flung earth on the coffin with everyone else. After there was a little stand set up nearby which gave everyone a little bread, cheese and olives, plus a welcome glug of sherry.

From there to a hotel, where there was a buffet serving some Greek treats, coffee and orange juice. Here I talked a lot to Sarah, and chatted to Sophie and Andros, and mingled somewhat before Sue drove Sarah and I to Golder's Green.

An interesting day, sad to see people I am very fond of upset, but also lovely to see some old friends. Sophie told me several times she was so happy that I had come, which made it all worthwhile. Fond farewells to all, and then I cunningly caught a bus to Cricklewood which painlessly took me home to Brighton.

Grateful to be home, slightly dehydrated and very pleased to see Lorraine.