Graham's True Stories
Number 11, The Wake
Did I tell you about the time I bought a sewing machine from a dead woman? Well, that's almost true.
I'd called at a house, deep in the French countryside, to inspect a Peugeot treadle from the 1870s and was met at the door by a young man in black who showed me the machine in the hallway. We dickered price for a while and he asked me to wait. He disappeared into the front room and returned moments later to say the price was OK.
He then asked me about a grandfather clock by the door. I agreed a price, and again he went through the front-room routine.
The next thing he asked was whether I bought furniture. I said yes and followed him into that front room to inspect a set of chairs that were on offer.
There were about 20 people sitting around and, as I checked out the chairs, I noticed that the guy who had answered the door was going to each sharing out the money I had given him. I mentioned the price I was willing to pay for the chairs (a good bit less than he had suggested) and a vote was held, the bid accepted and again the money shared out.
It was only then that I noticed that one guest, an old lady sitting in a rocking chair in the corner of the room, was not getting a share. I guess it took a couple of minutes and a glass of the proffered booze before I realised where I was and just what was going on.
I was at a wake. The relatives, with no need for wills or lawyers, were sharing out the estate under the watchful eye of the recently departed in the corner rocking chair.