Blog Archives: May 2011

We’re going where the sun shines brightly

Sunday, 29 May 2011

I finally got to the bottom of it. The Isle of Portland is an area of severe signal deprivation. The Vodafone man confessed this shamefacedly when I demanded to know why his sainted dongle denied me the gift of utterance. “You’re in a 2G area,” he mumbled, “you need 3G at least for the internet.” “So why did Vodafone sell me this bloody dongle with the promise that it would connect me?” “Well, it does connect you, but very slowly.” “No, I crash before anything gets through.” “Oh.” The discussion is ongoing.

Me, the missus and three dogs are off for a week’s holiday. We can do email but that’s about it. No blog posts. Suspended animation, please note, not death.

See you soon! (And apologies for putting that tune in your head.)






Saturday, 28 May 2011

It’s been a while since I posted a roundup of news stories. Here’s a bunch. I can’t claim to have got them all; it’s a laborious business collecting them. They were all first posted on Twitter. I feel guilty about that. Twitter is a social networking site and I just use it as a filing system. Not cricket. Ach, wotthehell, archy, wotthehell.

Man journeying through eternity with a woman who is not his wife –

Father of Britain’s longest unburied body dies –

‘In his memory, go and get that medical test you’ve been avoiding.’ Always the best obits here:

RIP Poly Styrene –

Thirteen-year-old boy sets fire to his granddad –

What would you taste like to a cannibal? Ever wondered? Find out here –

“Davis said God was looking out for his family when a huge oak tree fell on their house.” Mysterious ways.

Mumbai scheme to stop dogs running off with the bones of cremated bodies –

Pub to hold funeral for hail-fellow-well-met cat –

The husband of Zsa Zsa Gabor wants to have her plastinated when she’s dead –

Burial Lessons: From Che to bin Laden.

Dead rebels with a cause and post-mortem ignominy strategies –

RIP Major General Barry Nuttall, scourge of the bureaucrats. What a great guy –

101 ways to euphemise ‘died’ –

‘If god wanted us to believe in him he’d exist.’ Linda Smith.

New coffin manufacturer on the block. Anyone know anything about Steve Soult Ltd?

Teen shoots self during funeral for shooting victim –

The DVD funeral tribute turned out to be a child porn slideshow. Ouch.

No bricks and mortar funeral homes – the shape of things to come in the UK?

Undertaker leaps from a moving aeroplane!

Sign of the times: the corpse was identified by the serial numbers of the breast implants –

Co-op trying to drive ethical retailer out of business. It’s time to expose this nasty pointless org –

OMG and all that, they’re serious about disturbing the dead and reusing their graves!! Good thing and high time –

There’s nowt so crap as a crem. This one wouldn’t wait for the dead woman’s brother –

They killed the dog so that it could be buried with its mistress –

No more church funerals for Naples mafiosi. Oh my godfathers!

Does anyone know anything about these people? Are they dodgy?

Maggoty corpses left outside at US crematory. The price of free enterprise?

Gunther von Hagens will pay you £61,000 for your dead body –

Dr Hannah Rumble’s PhD thesis on natural burial now available for download. Hugely recommended –

Here’s a hideous insight into UK undertaking. Cigar for the 1st person to define a ‘caterfelt’ –

Anniversary bash celebrates selling out to Fairways. Wailing and gnashing of teeth would have been more in order –

Replica celebrity coffins. Whose is for you?

Exit has updated its living will. Pricey at 30 quid but quite possibly worth it?

Reporting funerals back in the day –


Is he?

Friday, 27 May 2011

Photo Copyright © 2011 Lee Mitchell, LMX Creative, All Rights Reserved

No, I’m pleased to tell you. Reports are exaggerated. I remain sentient, mostly. Thank you, all those of you who have emailed to express concern. You’ve added to my guilt, but I am very touched.

I’ve been busy – busy with stuff and busy thinking. It’s the thinking that’s kept me away from the blog.

I’ve been preoccupied with paralysing existential brooding concerning the GFG.  I’ve suffered a major identity crisis. I’d be interested to know what you think.

My first and lesser concern has been sustainability. Can the GFG begin to break even at the very least? It runs at a lean and hungry loss at the moment, and that’s silly. ‘What was your business plan?’ I hear you ask. Never had one. I’m a believer in muddling through and seeing what happens. Even planners look back and agree that that’s the way it actually works. My guiding idea has been that if you can be of value to people then you can charge a little for that. I fancy the GFG to be of value to some FDs and providers of services and merchandise. I am proudest of all that it’s helped to keep Yuli Somme busy making her Leafshrouds. The GFG is of value to consumers, too. There ought to be a revenue stream there. Potentially, there is. The GFG just needs a better business head on its shoulders.

My principal concern has been identity. Does the GFG need to exist? What is it for? Last night I happened upon a Catholic blog which, it seems to me, expresses the idea of the GFG very well. The writer begins by saying, I have had a morbid interest in that particular blog for some time,’ and goes on to say:

‘it is an excellent resource to get to grips with the confused secular world and its prevailing attitudes towards death and dying.’ [Source]

That’s it! That’s what we spend a lot of time doing here. So: the GFG is a little think tank. It is earnest, altruistic, mischievous, angry, sad, sometimes bonkers, always serious, never self-serving. It is rooted in things as they are. It seeks to compete with no one and to respect all (almost). It is capable of influence and even authority – and, dammit, we want to change things.

It is the contributions of its loyal commenters, the discussions they have, which bring, in a good month, upwards of 19,000 people to the site. Sure, not all of those get beyond the home page, and I don’t know how many actually go through to the blog. But the name of the GFG is well and widely known; it has readers in many countries. As they say in smart circles, its brand value is high.

But the GFG is presently not growing and maturing, which means, does it, that it’s dying? If it is to mature, how is it to do that? By transitioning from one-man-band to some sort of partnership which formalises what it already is?  Is that what it actually is? (I’ve never been big on egotism; it would be a relief if it were.) Were it to become a partnership, what would the organisational architecture look like?

Maybe I am toying with ideas above my station. Sure, I am ambitious. I’d like us to shout louder and make an impact on public opinion, not leave the field open to Funeralcare and SunLife. But I am possibly being hubristic, and if so you’ll holler ‘Back in your box, Charles’. I can take it. There’s always something next.



Too Soon, Autumn

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Get back on the trees

you errant leaves!

How dare you fly

across my path so soon?

Forget your cheering colours,

green will do.

My body has not had enough

of summer.

Margie McCallum


Where would we be without a sense of humour?

Tuesday, 17 May 2011


It’s an old Willie Rushton joke.

And of course there’s no truth in it whatever.

I have been contacted by a Year 12/13 student in Germany. Her name is Julia and she is working on a project which I want you to help her with – if you can.

Julia’s working title is “How the British mock death”. She says: I will analyse the black humour in the film ‘Death at a Funeral’ and explain why the British like black humour so much.

Moreover I found a book, called ‘the British Museum book of epitaphs: awful ends’. In this book the author points out that the British tend to have no respect for the dead. On the gravestone of a dentist for instance is written: ‘Stranger, approach this spot with gravity! John Brown is filling his last cavity.’ Are such macabre sayings really the rule in England?

Julia suspects that in everyday life we are as serious as Germans. But: In art the English do tend to have an anarchic approach to death, because the British sense of humour is anarchic.

Please would you help Julia by suggesting sources of good, British funeral humour, and black humour generally. Can you offer her some insights into the national psyche? If you understand Germans, can you point out how they and the British differ and agree in these matters?

Thank you!


Go, Bede!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The present life of man, O king, seems to me like to the swift flight of a sparrow through the hall wherein you sit at supper in winter, with your commanders and ministers, and a good fire in the midst, whilst the storms of rain and snow prevail abroad; the sparrow, I say, flying in at one door, and immediately out at another, whilst he is within, is safe from the wintry storm; but after a short space of fair weather, he immediately vanishes out of your sight, into the dark winter from which he had emerged. So this life of man appears for a short space, but of what went before, or what is to follow, we are utterly ignorant.

The Venerable Bede (673-735)

On Being a Funeral Celebrant

Monday, 16 May 2011

Here I am, somehow standing in for this person
we have all gathered to honour and farewell.
I have listened to family and friends,
asked questions to elicit the fullest picture,
the roundest sense of the life at the centre of our ritual.

And here I am, holding it all,
the balance of dignity and lightness,
truth and compassion, sorrow and hopefulness.
In the face of death I am alive, fully present,
every cell seeming to take in and give out what is needed.

Who am I serving in this cherished role?
I am serving the deceased,
standing in the midst of her family,
listening on her behalf,
open to the shades and the nuances.

I am serving family members,
each different in relationship and perspective,
each creating their piece of the remembering.

I am serving friends, colleagues,
anyone who needs to mark an ending,
to say goodbye,
to use the efficacy of ceremony
to be with their regretting and their gratitude.

I am serving the professionals –
the funeral director,
crematorium and cemetery staff,
musicians and bearers
by attending to the details
so the process is orderly and timely.

I serve healing,
for a funeral that is fitting and meaningful
and invites participation
sits well in our bones,
and the journey back to wholeness can begin.

And over and around all this there dwells a larger picture,
a sense that we are held, each one of us,
in something sacred,
and far beyond our knowing.

Margie McCallum

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