Karin didn't wait long to play a trick on me, for after all this was her day. A friend arrived with a welcome lift Bristolwards, and Karin decided what fun it would be if my trouser zip were to malfunction. She was already imagining everyone catching me stepping into and out of the venue's disabled toilet with a parade of concerned women and their safety-pins.
I do get nervous ahead of training courses, but nothing is like speaking for your loved ones. Ahead of my best man speech at Mike's wedding I was so nervous I had to go to the doctors for mistaking an anxiety attack for a heart attack. And once you get the faintest reputation for being any good at this stuff, the harder the thought of letting down someone you care for becomes.
I picked up a friend's text on arrival. She said to me: Words that Claire said to me once, “Strong back, soft front.” Not just perfect words but carefully chosen for Claire was also Genkai the Buddhist monk who was to run the day perfectly.
My speech was soon after kick-off. Words ok, memorised and delivered ok. It really was ok, but I rushed it. Through fear of non-completion. Played safe, choked down on the club, aimed for the centre of the green. Glad to get through it. Us trainers pride ourselves on being able to hold the audience in the palm of our hand. Like a comedian or an actor. Like a preacher. Not today. Not quite. Skills are not as transferable as many would like to think.
Genkai showed me the way. I had a line in my speech that was a throwaway joke addressed to Karin. I mumbled it and moved on. Too quick, wasted. Genkai reached a similar place in her bit and moved to the coffin (a giant blue cardboard box like you get in Staples) and put her hand on it and then said her line. Brilliant. Just brilliant.
Normally, by which I mean a Church of England service, that would be that. Play Jerusalem or something, pull back the curtains, go to the pub. Not today. A cavalcade of folks spoke movingly and funnily, from lectern and from their seats. Mark said how she had put her signature onto each of us, and also shared how lazy she was, Izzy broke our hearts, her dearest friends shared their love, and an ex work colleague remembered a time when she declared to all and sundry that the meeting they were in was 'as dry as a nun's chuff.' Anne read my favourite bit from Farewell Trip – so well I noticed someone even bought a copy on Amazon later.
Which is all well and good but flipping heck it went on a bit. At heart I'm a good old Western cowboy. Chew some baccy, dig a hole, small wooden cross, take your hat off, mumble, put them in the ground and ride on. This was all a bit much. Half of us had been crying for two hours. I'm never going to slag off a CofE, stiff-upper lip, twenty minute bout of repression ever again.
But hey, Karin hadn't even started yet. She had written a letter of love to her family. Like they didn't know already. I always told her she should do like Trip and leave her loved ones a letter. Didn't fucking think she'd get Genkai to read it out loud. For fuck's sake Karin – you're from Stevenage. Get a grip. Upstaged us all, obvs.
Quick, a negroni, fuck Karin, these are horrible, what were you thinking? Add prosecco to it, better, another. Repeat ad infinitum or ad nauseam whichever comes first. Wait to wave her off. The idea, of course, was that she was there. And, of course, she was, everywhere you looked. And, of course, she wasn't. Like a magic trick you love but hate yourself for loving. Truthfully, closure's a shit concept. I'm not for closing. Karin, open all hours. Like my flies. Otherwise who else am I writing to?