Surely, Gloria was there, smiling down

By Charlotte Hofton

Tuesday, April 22, 2014



Funerals can be strange affairs. With our reluctance to look death in the face, we skirt round the uncomfortable realities. 
We play pop songs, insist on bright colours, imbue the ceremony with unalloyed cheerfulness, teeter on with any old thing, just so long as the embarrassment of death and the solemnity of the hereafter is avoided.
Sometimes funerals go the other way. They are conducted on traditional cliches of gloom, the obsequies observed with more attention to fixed etiquette than hope and thoughtfulness. Dignified, certainly, but all too often an unsatisfying and empty tribute to the deceased.
And some pitch it exactly right. Gloria Minghella, whose funeral was held last week in a requiem mass of thanksgiving, had throughout her life shown us all how to organise a gathering.  
She had twinkled her way through birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, film premieres, charity events, high days and holidays. 
She did it not just with prodigious quantities of hospitality (it was as well to order a taxi if you intended to accept the full spectrum of Minghella catering) but with the quality that is essential for a perfect party. 
It is not enough simply to supply good food and wine, music, or stage performances. For that vital shimmer of absolute joy, you also have to mix everything with total welcome and love for your guests. 
And that is what Gloria did, unfailingly, unreservedly, bang on the button every time.
But a Minghella event was never, of course, just Gloria. It was the whole family — her beloved husband, Edward, her children, grandchildren, and the latest  addition of two great-granddaughters, brand new sparkles in her heart. Every member of her family was integral to everything she did, and she showed them just how to do it.
And so last week’s requiem mass of thanksgiving at St Mary’s Church, Ryde, was, thanks to Gloria’s inspiration and example, with the love, dedication and fortitude of her family, a most perfect occasion. 
Gloria’s unshakeable faith in God was there, not in any perfunctory trawl through church liturgy but in utter conviction. 
Her adored family framed the solemn church rites with readings and fine music, prayers and tributes, with both grief and laughter but, most of all  with love.  
Afterwards, there was generous hospitality to all, given with the warmth and friendship that were central to any event that had Gloria at its heart. And of course there were hundreds of people in the packed church and at the reception, every one of them welcomed with smiles and good-heartedness by this remarkable family. 
Many believe that nobody truly dies so long as their spirit remains in living hearts. 
Such a perfect funeral was not just a credit to Gloria’s family but gave a joyful endorsement to that belief. 
She was surely there, twinkling in approval at lessons well learned. The occasion couldn’t have been more of a triumph, had she organised it herself.

Forget the Fairy – take more water

The ongoing trial at the Old Bailey featuring, among others, former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks and her husband, Charlie, has thrown up some fascinating insights into the alleged lives of the tabloid set.
I was particularly agog to learn that Mr Brooks had once drunk Fairy Liquid as a hangover cure.
A friend of Mr Brooks, called as a character witness for his defence, told the court: "I once found him frothing at the mouth, looking close to death one morning, only to discover he had not been bitten by a rabid dog but had drunk a pint of Fairy Liquid to try to rid himself of the excesses of the night before."   
If this is the best a character witness can say in Mr Brooks’s defence, one shudders to think what the prosecution might come up with. 
Even more astonishing is the notion of Fairy Liquid as a hangover cure. Albeit in the fuddled state which follows "excesses of the night", few of us would think of reaching for the washing-up liquid.
With Lenten fasts completed and Easter upon us, those likely to fall victim to excesses of the night might welcome some guidance, though possibly not from Mr Brooks.
I therefore consulted Anthony Goddard, founder of Goddard’s Brewery and one-time vintner, to see if he had any good hangover cures. He has something of a reputation for reckless pursuits but even he draws the line at Fairy Liquid. 
He recommends getting into practice for these excesses. "I’ve been practising my drinking for a long time, so I don’t really get hangovers now," he told me. "But the best thing is to have lots of water."
Goddards Brewery, now run by Anthony’s son-in-law, Patrick Birley, has recently produced a new beer called Wight Squirrel. It doesn’t contain squirrels, though Charlie Brooks might think it does. 
You see, I think that’s where he went wrong. The poor chap went to Eton, which doesn’t always deal in reality, and he obviously thought Fairy Liquid contained real fairies, the ones that waved their magic wands and made the nasty headache disappear.

• See Charlotte Hofton's latest column, including why heading to the Island from London for a quiet life might not be such a good idea, in today's Isle of Wight County Press, Friday, April 25.

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