Jeremy Dennis is Jeremy Day (cleanskies) wrote,
Jeremy Dennis is Jeremy Day

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funeral for panda

close-up of moth damage to Panda's eyesproblem discovery of Panda, teddy bear (old) during routine inspection of storage (hat box) with moth damage (see photo). In the same box, Sherry, teddy bear (old) had escaped damage but Satin, dragon glove puppet (old), was also showing moth holing, in addition to stains and wear suffered at an earlier date.

solutions discussed and dismissed Repairing these toys was never seriously considered. Apart from the consideratons; that the damage was extensive; that sections of felt could not be repaired and would have to be replaced; that both toys had suffered unrepaired damage in the past (Panda was missing an ear, Satin had tears to his jaw); these toys had been in storage for at least two years, and were therefore clearly no longer part of my life. Additionally, the moth damage was worst to emotive parts of the toys' bodies (Panda's eye, Satin's tongue) carrying the suggestion that the toys were dead. However, for various reasons I was unwilling to put the toys out with the rubbish.

objections to the black bag That the toys were mine (Satin had actually been made by my mother for me) and should not go to anyone else, that dirtying them with rubbish would be distressing, that putting them in a black bag would be a continuation of neglect; that I would just be putting them away rather than entirely ending them; that it demonstrated a lack of respect for once-treasured posessions.

funeral arrangements like most soft toys, Panda's content and construction made him unsuitable for burial, also I found the idea of complete destruction (aesthetically and emotionally) more satisfying. Fortunately Bonfire Night was just a few weeks away, so I sought permission from a friend (jinty) to burn Panda on her bonfire at her fireworks party. At this time, friends' suggestions that I should strap him to fireworks were dismissed.

constructing the bier Knowledge of funeral customs derived from watching old episodes of Time Team suggested I had a variety of options, ranging from the complex Roman funeral pyre to a straightforward bonfire burning. I opted for the satisfyingly elaborate and culturally-transferrable burning with effigy/grave goods. In Panda's case this was a cardboard bed, with cardboard/paper sword, spear and sheild. Satin joined him on the bier as his steed and protector in the afterlife. Candles were set at each corner (for ritual purposes, but also to provide an accelerant) and an animal skin (leopard-skin patterned tissue paper) laid over the whole bed.

Sherry bears witness to his fallen comrade on my living room floor. The candles are unlit for safety reasonslying in state With just a few hours between returning from the bookshop and the party to eat, construct the bier, and gather wine, beer, food, fireworks and fancy dress, a long lying-in was not possible. However, I set him out with dignity in the living room while we ate; Sherry (armed with a Halloween wand and a candy cane) stood guard. Panda lay there for the length of an episode of Have I Got News For You. It was a good episode; Sir Ian Macellan was very entertaining.

travelling to the funeral The party was within walking distance. After the removal of the candles, the bier fit easily into a large carrier bag. I was the bearer; Damian carried fireworks, pumpkins, etc. Sherry accompanied Panda in the same bag.

Panda on his bier; note the shield over his feet, ceremonial belt and candleslightinq the bier We arrived to find the bonfire already burning and little extra wood so I immediately took off my coat and set to preparing the bier for the funeral. I set Sherry at a safe distance from the fire, then took off the covering so the other mourners/party-goers could see Panda's face. Lighting the candles in the stiff breeze proved very difficult (despite jackfirecat's best efforts) so I used the candles to weigh down the covering, reasoning that they would burn well enough when they were ready. Then I set the bier on a large fence-post in the middle of the bonfire.

After the first flash of flames - a scrap of the leopard-skin tissue paper has survivednotes on the burning The tissue paper instantly ignited and flames crawled over the bier, partially melting the candles; the wax-soaked cardboard went up like a flare. I had been worried about whether or not the toys would burn, and opened up Panda's back with kitchen scissors to loosen his stuffing. I need not have worried; his synthetic fur caught in a burst of flame and, like the wick in a candle, held the flame over his cotton stuffing until it was burning hot and slow. Satin, loosely stuffed with wine-wrapping paper, burned even more easily. The bier burnt through tidily, in the middle, exactly as it should, dropping Panda and Satin into the centre of the bonfire, where they remained recognisable for a long while. Panda's face, through the flames - note Satin's ear at the bottom of the picture

last-minute suttee by Buffy One of the mourners/party-goers (mr_snips) turned up late but bringing a small Buffy The Vampire Slayer standee. She was placed next to the burning remains of Panda to be his protector and companion in the afterlife. She burned very quickly, with a greenish flame.

history of Panda, as recounted by Jeremy Panda, a panda, was my toy. I loved him, a bit. He was a kit toy, though not one made for me. During my time at Weston Cottage and at the farm after that he lived on my bed, with many other soft toys, among them Sherry, faithful friend, who bears witness, and Satin, a dragon, who follows Panda into the afterlife.Panda, as he was when he came from the hatbox During this time he lost his ear; for a while I kept it as a bag for Sindy while I imagined I might mend him, but in the end it was lost. When I left to go to school, and later college, he too went wandering, joining a great multitude of toys kept in boxes, shelves and beds by Sister Vic. Later I tried to abandon him when my mother required me to take away such toys as I wished to keep; but young Sister George said I should take him away, so I did. After that he lived in cupboards, wardrobes and most lately in a hatbox, which is where moths ate his eyes. Sherry, a teddy, was with him then, and saw how he died. Satin, a shoulder-length glove puppet dragon, made by my mother from red satin and bright felt and embroidery threads, also fell victim to the moths. [Interjection: From ash we come, to ash we return. Or something.] Satin was my bright companion of home and school, concealer of illicit items and spare dolls clothes. But he was too frightening in appearance to keep in open sight, and in recent years he had lived in the airing cupboard, and then the hatbox, where he was partly eaten by moths. These were my toys and now I burn them, and now they are gone.

Panda's deeds, recounted by Sherry
on this pyre burns Panda, old toy abandoned
who stared fearless into deep darkness under the bed
frighted the dimly-perceived monsters behind the door
and sat solid, strong -- surrounded by strange creatures
elephants and dolls, bears and others fair and strange
to the caravan he went and there faced down invisible bears
then from house to house as small sisters' protector
holding them tight against grief and pain
in the dark loft he fought of darkness
then in the dark cupboard, wrapped in darker clothes
[Interjection: Look, there are flames coming out of the neck! The head has come off!]
at last close in a dark hat-box moths came hungry
and found him fallen in a dark place
Satin fought beside him, bright and noble dragon
and I my own poor part in the battle played
alas too little and too late we came, fell Panda,
Satin, to darkness and their doom
eaten by moths in that small dark narrow room.

look carefully for the teddy-shaped coal in the firesome notes about my costume I had smeared white over my face and hands for death; red jewellery on my neck and wrists represented the division between life and death, here a division I had drawn myself, taking the decision to say, my toys are dead. A label-cut Vivienne Westwood t-shirt and torn jeans were little defence against the cold but good representatives of acquisition, ownership, responsibility and decay. On a practical note, all items fit closely, minimising risk from the fire.
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