I first encountered Nathaniel just after I’d moved in next door to his large stone house in Moffatt. He was shouting in his back garden.
Oi, you up there. Call yourself a fucking god? Here I am, ninety-two years old with my mind as sharp as a tack with fucking limbs that refuse to do what my brain tells them. I go to walk forward but my feet don’t move quickly enough and I end up falling flat on my face. I’m supposed to believe in you but what do I get out of it? Bugger all. So, fuck off!
Well said, I shouted.
I’m Dunbar, your new neighbour.
Fancy a dram with me later? he asked.
From that moment we became friends and began an early evening Saturday ritual of putting the world to rights over a bottle of Tamnavulin.
On Thursday 8th of September 2022 Queen Elizabeth II died.
On Saturday September 10th 2022 her death is the only topic of discussion
For Christ’s sake, man, Nathaniel says, The Windsors are Germans, and ersatz Scots, still living in Victoria’s fantasy of a mythic Scotland of kilts, tins of shortbread, stags at fucking bay, whisky, pipers, haggis and soldiers in fancy dress.
Maybe, but she did a good job.
So have our nurses and all the others who got us through Covid. No one will glorify their deaths.
Of course we will, I replied.
You know we won’t. Listen, the monarchy’s facade is a charade. Strip off their fancy dress and fancy ways and they’re just ordinary people – just rich racists. They describe us as their subjects, whereas we’re citizens whose rights as human beings are inalienable and not a privilege bestowed by Royalty.
He was about to go on one of his rants so I made an excuse and went home.
On Saturday September 17th I arrived for our normal Saturday dram. Eventually I found him lying dead under a freezing shower. I couldn’t have felt greater guilt; he was ninety-six and I should have taken more care of him. The doctor said it was natural causes and he could have been dead for days. I couldn’t help but compare the Queen’s Lying in State and Nathaniel’s end.
In a state of shock I went through all the formalities as he had no immediate family. Searching through his address book I found a London postal address of a ‘distant cousin’.
Following his minimalist cremation I posted his ashes to the London address along with my name and address on the cardboard box.
Weeks pass, then months. The postman returns the box of ashes. There are multiple addresses crossed out and finally, ‘Return to sender’.
The Queen’s death faded from the news agenda and the world rolled on. I buried Nathaniel in his overgrown garden. He deserved a better death, if there is such a thing. I marked his grave with a wooden cross and a small plaque.
‘Oi, you up there.‘
© Phil Cosker 2022
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.