>One funeral and a christening
My wife’s grandmother died at the age of 96 in January. She is to be laid to rest in a short ceremony in her home village near Zlín. Relatives from various branches of my wife’s family gradually assemble in the muncipal cemetry. It is sunny and the atmosphere is sombre but low key.
Introductions are made, there some conversation and then the priest arrives. He says what his has to say in a straightfoward and dignifed way. There are short speeches by relatives. Flowers are laid, candles are lit. The priest departs and mourners drift off in small groups toward the local pub-restaurant where my mother-in-law has arranged a meal.
The children, who have behaved well throughout, want to walk around the the graveyard, so I agree. It is a municipal cemetry, not very near the church and there are relatively few crosses. One grave belongs to 32 year old who died in December 1914. A small photo set into the grave stone shows a man with a moustache in high collared uniform. Presumably he was killed in the early fighting on Serbian or Galician front which annihilated much of the pre-war Austro-Hungarian military at the start of the Great War. His wife, who died in 1930, and daughter who lived in 1980s are buried with him. There are some recent looking flowers on the grave.
We get to the restaurant. Very oddly, when we get there it is pulsating with very loud, live Gypsy music. Two policeman from the Municipal Police walk out. I assume we’ve probably got the wrong place, but we walk in anyway to find out what’s going on, despite disgruntled local drinkers outside that the place is full of Gypsies.
We are in the right place – and it is full of Gypsies. The pub, has somehow booked meal arranged by my mother-in-law to following the laying to rest alongside a Roma christening celebration There is an interesting kind of symmetry and the music supplied by 2-3 musicams with keyboard and synthaszier is foot-tappingly good, but the noise and ingruousness of it are too much for most of our party, who walk off – despite the landlord’s protestations – to see what can be arranged at the village’s other hostelry. Unsurprisingly, nothing can done for a party of twenty, so discontented mourners drift back, grumbling that the Roma – while not all of them are bad – have no consideration and shouldn’t even be there because they are not local.
Luckily, the landlord has indeed now rescued the situation and agreed with the Roma , there will be no music for an hour and a half while we have our meal. The musicians stop. While my wife talks to elderly great aunts and cousins, I have nothing much to do except keep an eye on the kids and my attention increasingly wanders to the Roma party, who are sitting around a large table in covered courtyard just by the pub’s main function room where we are. They seems to have provided their own food: huge quantities of fried or possibly breadcrumbed meat. The women have sequined dresses and one is wearing a satin dress that ressembles a sari, many of the children are dressed in a kind of Sunday best, white-shirts or ribboned party dresses. Most of the men seem to be sitting next door in the bar. There is a lot of raucous sounding conversation, much coming and going, and huges amount of smoking.
It is a world away from the more restrained Czech way of doing things : like some kind of Greek or Middle East event catapulted into Central Europe. Just after 12.00 as we are beginning to leave, the Gypsy music re-starts in earnest. A very large Roma man with moustache pork pie hat and fantastic voice fills the pub with a reverberating and haunting song.this time guests at the christening head into the pub to dance.
“Where did you learn to dance so well?” my wife asks a Roma girl of 7-8 in white frock.
“From my grandma” she replies.
My wife’s grandmother would almost certainly not have approved of all this, but both events seem to have gone well.