This week has presented the fascinating task of playing 'Desert Island Discs' on someone else's behalf, albeit in rather sombre circumstances.
I am, frankly, amazed at the variety of pre-recorded musical accompaniment available for one's last journey - as well as being somewhat baffled at some of the options on offer.
The local crematorium has thoughtfully provided an online catalogue of all the tracks they can play for you. All the usual suspects are there; classical greats and plenty of hymns and sacred music.
So far, so spiritual, but then we come to some odder choices, all of which genuinely feature on the list. One could understand a good film score - after all the work of Vaughan Williams or Maurice Jarre is no less significant for having been attached to moving pictures - but what about TV themes?
There have been some stirring ones, certainly, but would you really want to meet your maker to the accompaniment of the theme from 'Deal or No Deal' or 'Countryfile', let alone the 30-second burst from 'Countdown'? Meanwhile, sporting tastes are catered for with 'Match of the Day', the Wimbledon theme and Channel 4 racing, among others, though, under the circumstances, I assume it would be considered bad form to clap along with the music from the 'Horse of the Year Show'.
And, while one can understand and admire the fighting spirit with which those left behind might choose 'Another One Bites the Dust' or 'Bat out of Hell', it's hard to imagine why someone would wish to be remembered for having the Wurzels' 'Combine Harvester' or Benny Hill's theme as a final goodbye.
And then there's the real puzzles, not least among which is Frankie Laine's 'Jezebel' or Chas'n'Dave's immortal classic, 'Rabbit'; "You won't stop talking, Why don't you give it a rest?", and you really have to wonder about anyone who would be seen to their final repose to the strains of a Rabelaisian offering from the Antipodes entitled 'Mick, the Master Farter'.
In fact, those looking for a light-hearted experience are very well catered for, particularly if they happen to be of a cockney persuasion; it would be possible to conduct a service based on 'Lily the Pink', 'A Luverly Bunch of Coconuts' and 'Knees Up Mother Brown', ending up with a rousing rendition of the 'Hokey Cokey', while Northerners are also catered for with 'When I'm Cleaning Windows' and 'My Little Stick of Blackpool Rock'.
All in all, it's been an enlightening experience and provides some much-needed comic relief from an otherwise solemn business, not least in wondering just how some of the more egregious selections made it onto the list - is the driving force supply or demand?*
And if the latter, what sort of person, I wonder, first approached the crematorium and asked that their loved one should vanish to the accompaniment of 'Great Balls of Fire'.
*Update: I asked them; it turns out that if you have a special request, they will find it for you and add it to the list. Odd as it may seem, someone has specifically asked for all of the tracks listed above.
Tamám Shud and other tales
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