We scattered my dad's ashes this week. He died in October, aged 81, having been more fit and healthy for most of his life than his son will ever be.
It took this long to do the final act because he and my stepmother lived in Spain and Spanish bureaucracy does not move quickly. The Spanish as a nation seem to have more public holidays than the rest of Europe put together and it does not help when solicitors only realise at the very last minute of a process that they have spelled a surname incorrectly (of course, it is not difficult to spell Warrillow wrong - it's been happening to me for more than 50 years!)
But we got Christmas out of the way and decided that the day which would have been my late mother's 80th birthday, January 7, would be a suitable day for the ceremony. Of course, being January, it could have been cold, wet and muddy. In the event, it was a lovely sunny winter's day - the kind of day on which we can look back with pleasure, if such a thing is possible at all.
My stepmother and I both gave emotional eulogies and we prepared to scatter the ashes, but a moment of black humour intervened. The screw-on top of the urn in which the ashes had been kept since the cremation would not come off - despite the fact that my stepmother had already removed it once that morning to check that it would come off!
Three of us stood there with scissors and screwdrivers, trying for several minutes to force the lid - at one point, we even considered smashing the urn with a hammer. I could clearly see my father standing at the scene, handing out clear instructions (he was good at that) and eventually (and successfully) carrying out the task himself after watching others fail for far too long - he was good at that, too.
Eventually, the lid came off and the ashes were sent to their final resting place. I took a picture which will remain with me for life and we all went off for Sunday lunch and to raise a glass in his memory.
Astonishingly, the restaurant was selling real ale from a brewery which is based in the old junior school which my dad attended in the 1940s. Well, I had to, didn't I? And jolly good it was, too.
All in all, the day went as well as I had hoped, if not better. My dad had stipulated that he did not want a permanent memorial, partly because that was his own personal wish but also because he knew that tending it in my state of health would become increasingly difficult.
As it is, every time I think of his hometown now, I will think of him. Every time I drink that ale, I will think of him. I think he'd like that.