Death is funny.
I remember when I was a kid my Grandad telling me that he was writing his memoirs and showing me the famous typewriter he was writing them on.
I, obviously, was totally disinterested and just wanted to go outside and kick a football.
But when I came across the manuscript many years later, yellow, faded and typed on a typewriter; in a box of stuff I was looking through after my dad died, it was like finding a piece of history.
The front cover is the seven ages of man speech from As You Like it, and each chapter is headed with a period from … ‘Then the whining schoolboy’ etc.
He talks about growing up in the tenements of Port Glasgow, of living in one room with seemingly hundreds of brothers and sisters, of his father (Davy Bonar - the man on the poster) working as a Cocker in the shipyards, of riding his Raleigh Golden Arrow round the Glen Burn, of being in The Boys Brigade, of hardship and poverty, of getting a scholarship to go to a Grammar School - of growing up basically.
Then he gets to the chapter titled 'Then a soldier, full of strange oaths'... He starts to describe being called up to fight in the war - going in front of the medical board and sent to Burma… and…suddenly…I noticed that words were getting mixed up. Tenses confused. Random images dropped into sentences that seemingly had nothing to do with what he was talking about.
My Grandad had suffered a stroke and subsequent dementia - and he must have carried on going up to his room every day to sit at his typewriter and - write.
It was terrifying and fascinating and heartbreaking to see his memories disintegrate on the page - and it make me think about my Dad, about what I wanted to forget about his death and; and the things I desperately wanted to remember about his life. And it made me want to piece them back together. Somehow.
The thing about the phone number being the same as the local undertaker is true. The house I grew up in shared a number (with one digit different) to Patricks, the local undertakers. And people would phone. To check abut the wreath, or the hearse or the time of the service.
And it was funny.
Until, one summer an old man called and called…and called. He was so confused. What happens in the play didn’t happen then, but I remember being so affected by it. By how lost he sounded. How adamant he was that he had called the right number.
And as I started to write the play, memories came flooding back - things from way back - things from the funeral - things about my childhood. Things that made me laugh and things that made me angry and sad - and, I hope, the play captures the millions of tiny emotions and confusions that you feel when you lose someone.
Cos, death is funnny. Right?
Written by Ian Bonar