WestEndExtra

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Rayners make the scattering of ashes into a work of art

10 December, 2019 — By The Xtra Diary

Jay, Andy and Amanda at the theatre with that churn

THE journalist Jay Rayner’s mother, renowned health equality campaigner and agony aunt Claire, died in 2010, and his father, Des, five years later.

Since then he has, with his sister Amanda, been waiting for the right moment to get together and scatter their parents’ ashes.

What followed was a meandering journey through central London.

“My dad was a terrific painter,” says Jay. “He’d always said the nearest he’d get to Tate Britain was if his ashes were scattered on the steps so that was the first stop. I was sitting on the steps scattering his ashes when I looked up and saw a senior chap using the hand rail.

“It was Ken Clarke… He stomped straight through my dad’s ashes and walked him into the Tate on his Hush Puppies.

Tate Britain had been ticked off the list, so now it was on to the Royal College of Nursing.

“Claire started her working life as a nurse in the late 1940s and ended that way, too, campaigning on the nation’s health issues. It was only right we scattered her ashes on the steps,” he said.

By now Jay and Amanda were feeling peckish – so they headed to the Ivy, the well-to-do dining experience that their parents had been rather partial to.

“We raised a glass.

“At one point I discovered there was a gap down the back of a banquette. It seemed only right they should stay there for ever. So… when the waiters weren’t looking I decanted my parents’ combined remains into the Ivy.”

And to end their journey of paying their respects to their much-loved parents, they decided a trip to the theatre would be a good way to round off the day.

“I called up my dear friend Andy Nyman, who was playing Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof to huge acclaim.

“It was an hour or so before the matinée. He took us up on stage at the Playhouse to show us the magnificent set. He showed us Tevye’s cart. He showed us Tevye’s milk churns and how the lids came off. And when no one was looking, we decanted my parents into the churn.”

“I have waited to tell this story until the run had ended. I didn’t want them turfed out of the production,” he tweeted. “Now we like to think the churn has gone into some enormous prop set and that my dear late parents will keep popping up in some ropey amateur productions of the Sound of Music or Oklahoma. That’s what they would have wanted, I think…”

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