Last night I had a somewhat over-priced snack in the crypt of St Martin-in-the-Fields, a very pleasant place to be with subtle up-lighters to the vaulted brick ceiling and tastefully up-dated modernity out in the corridor plus a very emotionally satisfying circular glass lift up to ground level. It is a very relaxing place to sit and chat although, because this is the crypt of a church built in 1542 and re-built in 1726, the chairs and tables and kitchens stand on headstones and ancient bones including, I think, those of Nell Gwyn.
I sat wondering what Samuel Pepys would have made of this future world if he could see it. Pepys had a nude picture of Nell Gwyn hanging above his desk.
“What am I going to do with my mother?” my friend interrupted.
“What?” I asked, distracted.
“My mother. I don’t know what to do with her. She’ll have to go somewhere.”
“Where is she?” I asked.
“In the bedroom cupboard at home. She’s been there for over two years.”
“I know,” I said, trying to be sympathetic. “I had my father in the kitchen for about 18 months. I didn’t like to bring up the subject with my mother in case it upset her. Is there anywhere your mother liked that had a special place in her heart?”
My friend pondered this long and hard.
“Dickens & Jones,” she eventually mused. “She adored Dickens & Jones.”
“They might think it was bad for business,” I said, trying to be practical while remaining sympathetic. “And department stores tend to clean the floors an awful lot. They’d vacuum her up.”
“It’s what she would have wanted,” my friend said quietly. “She was always at her happiest in Dickens & Jones. But it doesn’t exist any more. So, realistically, I would have to scatter her ashes inside John Lewis in Oxford Street. She liked shopping there too.”
“How about St Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster Abbey?” I suggested.
My friend looked unconvinced.
“She would be among the great and the good of the country,” I re-assured her. “Nelson, Wellington, Chaucer, Charles Dickens, people like that… You could just go in and drop her surreptitiously in a corner when no-one’s looking. It’s all grey stone. They’d never notice and they must only sweep the corners and dust the edges of the floors by the walls every couple of centuries. I’m sure someone must have done it before.”
My friend still looked unconvinced.
“It would be like The Great Escape,” I suggested, trying to get her enthusiasm going. “When they drop the earth from the tunnel down the inside of their trouser legs.”
“Sounds a bit messy,” my friend said.
And that was that.
But I am still convinced it is good idea and deserves further consideration. We live in occasionally surreal times and have to think laterally to keep pace with reality.
Who would have thought a man would try to blow up a plane using a shoe bomb, that MPs would be going to prison for fiddling their expenses and that the European Court’s advisors would reckon it is against basic Human Rights to ban people imprisoned for murder, rape and terrorist offences from voting in an election.
Later, as I was walking through St Pancras station, my eyes accidentally strayed to the Eurostar arrivals board. The next three trains were from Paris, Brussels and Disneyland. I half expected to see Mickey Mouse get off a train hand-in-hand with Pinnochio.
Twenty feet further on, I passed an overweight man in his 40s sitting at a table. He had receding hair at the front of his head and a bald patch at the back. He was eating a croissant and was dressed as a schoolboy. No-one looked at him because no-one thought it odd.
In my train home, a middle-aged woman was talking to a stuffed meerkat. Neither the woman nor the meerkat appeared to have a mobile phone.
What would Samuel Pepys have made of this future world?