Her funeral took place in Kingsdown, near Deal in Kent. It was a cold, windy day.
It was a two-hour car journey from Borehamwood in Hertfordshiore. We allowed three hours.
We never got to the funeral service itself.
We got as far as the Dartford Bridge across the River Thames, then just stopped on the motorway, about a two-minute drive away from the bridge. We could see the queue of cars stretching, static, ahead of us and, at right angles ahead of us, we could see the Dartford Bridge with a few high-sided lorries static on it.
“It might be the wind,” Martin suggested. “They may have closed the bridge because of the wind.”
We sat there, not moving, for fifty minutes. Eventually, a helicopter appeared, circled the bridge a couple of times, then landed on it.
It must have stayed there for at least ten minutes.
Perhaps ten minutes after the helicopter left, we started moving.
When we crossed over the bridge, we passed two lorries and a petrol tanker which had been involved in a crash. One of the lorries had part of its side and back torn off.
So it goes.
When we arrived at the church, Joan’s coffin was being carried out of the church after the service.
So it goes.
We went to the Crematorium and to the Wake, but missed the church service.
“I remember dancing with Joan,” Martin told me. “Always dancing with her. No matter what event we were at, she’d always say: Ooh, Martin, please come and grace the dance floor with me. She was obviously a traditionalist, so she knew what to do and was doing the all right steps and she would invariably lead me and push me into the right position.
“Another thing about Joan,” he said, “was not being at home. Malcolm would often say: C’mon, let’s go see me mum! We’d all go round there and she’d never be in. She was always out.
“The first time I met her… Well, I had heard a lot about her but, with Malcolm, I just never believed anything at first. Everything he introduced me to or showed me or told me I took with huge pinches of salt, because it was always just so ludicrous and he did just say things for effect. A lot of what he said was true; but a lot of what he said was bullshit.
“The first time I met Joan, I was expecting some hair-netted, overweight, pinny-wearing D’ya wanna pork chop for breakfast? type. But, with Malcolm and Joan it was like God! They’re so completely different! When you met her, it was a slightly posh voice and Oh, hello. I’m into art deco!
“And music. She always used to put on some jazz or dance music.
“I was always dancing with her.”
And now, on a future date to be decided, her ashes will be placed in the Hardee family plot at Shooters Hill in London.
I remember talking to a nurse when my own mother died in 2007. I said I was surprised how heavy funeral ashes are. My father had been cremated in 2001.
The nurse replied: “We leave the world about the same weight we entered it.”
So it goes.
Joan Hardee, Monday 21st March 1927 – Tuesday 29th November 2011.