Blog Archives: August 2012

One planning problem we don’t have over here

Friday, 31 August 2012

Authorities in an eastern Polish city are trying to stop a funeral company from building a crematorium in the same neighborhood as the former German Nazi death camp of Majdanek.

Full story.

Thoughts of a funeral-goer

Friday, 31 August 2012


Posted by Lyra Mollington


Editor’s note: before reading Lyra’s latest thoughts, it may be helpful to read last week’s Thoughts of a funeral-goer.

Whilst everyone else was making their way to the cloisters to look at the flowers, I popped back to have a chat with the young lady chapel attendant. I pretended that I had left my reading glasses behind. As we approached the pew, I apologised. Silly me – they were in my bag all the time!

Before she could lead me out, I asked her if she had a busy day ahead. She told me that it had been fairly quiet recently and there were only five services that day. Which was interesting, because Joyce’s family had been told by their funeral director that the crematorium was ‘chocker’. Perhaps he was worried that if he told the family the truth – that he was having trouble fitting them in to his tight schedule – they would look elsewhere. Although I doubt it. Who wants to go ‘shopping around’ for a funeral? Apart from me of course.

I casually mentioned that the lady vicar had seemed to be in a hurry. Was there a family emergency? The chapel attendant’s lips were sealed. Well almost. She smiled and asked me if everything had been all right. I was about to say yes, apart from the vicar bolting for the door like a greyhound released from her trap, but before I could speak, a voice boomed from the balcony. I had completely forgotten about the organist. Unlike the chapel attendant, he was not at all discreet. But he was extremely charming.

‘Ha!’ he boomed. ‘She was panicking from the moment she arrived!’ He was now leaning over the balcony. ‘She’s doing a service at Randall’s Park in half an hour and the traffic between here and Leatherhead can be a nightmare. And there’s been a road closure. Squeaky bottom time methinks!’

And with that he sat down and started playing his organ in the style of Eric Morecambe! The chapel attendant tried not to smile.



Interestingly, one my favourite comedians used to be a crematorium organist – Bill Bailey. Perhaps they’re all comedians. Perhaps they have to be.

I digress. I wasn’t going to get any more information out of the chapel attendant and the organist was off to ‘powder his nose’ so I left to join the rest of the family.

Is there any sight more forlorn than smartly dressed bereaved people silently looking at flowers? In this case, even more so because Joyce’s family had requested ‘no flowers’.

I put on my solemn face. Inwardly I was smiling. Joyce wouldn’t have liked the vicar… but she would have loved the organist.

Buried in a ‘Wasp Rockery’

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Posted by Vale

Gore Vidal died at the end of July aged 86. Although he would have wanted to be remembered as a writer and thinker, he was perhaps better known as a raconteur and wit with a vicious line in put downs. He had a long feud with writer Norman Mailer and once goaded the belligerent Mailer so much that he knocked Vidal down. As he fell to the floor Vidal managed to say ‘Ah, Norman, lost for words again’.

But then, with an insouciant air the GFG itself likes to sport, he believed that ‘Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.’

Dick Cavett, who used to host a TV chat show, has said that ‘You can be sure of one thing. Gore Vidal hates being dead. Unless of course we die and go somewhere you write, drink, have sex, appear on TV and, above all else, talk.’

It’s less well known that he had chosen and laid out his final resting place many years ago. His headstone of polished granite, marked with his date of birth, was in place and waiting only for his own death and interment for its inscription to be completed. The headstone includes Gore’s lifelong companion, Howard Austen, who died in 2003.

It’s in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington DC which dates back to the early 1700s. Christopher Hitchens called it a ‘WASP rockery’. You’d expect the patrician Vidal to want to keep distinguished company. Perhaps more unexpected is the suggestion that he chose his plot for another reason altogether. Nearby is the grave of Jimmie Trimble, a school friend and lover of Vidal’s who died on Iwo Jima. Jimmie was, the New York Times has suggested, ‘the only person with whom [Vidal] ever felt wholeness.’

Sources: Dick Cavett, Huffington Post

For the post mortem amusement of…

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Richard Brautigan



Posted by Vale

Richard Brautigan was a writer and a poet. He died not long ago, which makes this poem very timely. Ed Dorn wrote it ‘for the post mortem amusement of Richard Brautigan’. Let’s hope he is:

November 10, 1984
Death by over-seasoning: Herbicide
Death by annoyance: Pesticide
Death by suffocation: Carbon monoxide
Death by burning: Firecide
Death by falling: Cliffcide
Death by hiking: Trailcide
Death by camping: Campcide
Death by drowning: Rivercide
Death from puking: Curbcide
Death from boredom: Hearthcide
Death at the hands of the medical profession: Dockcide
Death from an overnight stay: Inncide
Death by suprise: Backcide
Death by blow to the head: Upcide
Death from delirious voting: Rightcide
Death from hounding: Leftcide
Death through war: Theircide & Ourcide
Death by penalty: Offcide
Death following a decision: Decide

Ed Dorn wrote the famous Gunslinger. Brautigan is best known for books like The Confederate General from Big Sur and Trout Fishing in America

Thanks to Celebrant Kim Farley for finding the poem.

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Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Posted by Vale

Once in a while, looking around, it dawns on you that getting to the kitchen has become an obstacle course; setting off for the bedroom an orienteering event. It’s the moment you realise that your books have stopped furnishing your rooms and begun – like a literary occupy movement – to take them over. Bitter as it is, it’s the moment you realise that a clear out is needed.

We were tackling a pile or two recently (on the scree slopes in the dining room) when our son came in and cried out ‘but those are my heirlooms!’ It’s a comfort to know that my collection of Mazo de La Roche and Marks and Spencer Cookbooks will be in good hands after I am gone but, I thought, what will he do with the electronic books?

It’s a good question. Libraries (and record collections) can be read and loaned, treasured, split up and shared out – unless they are electronic. The problem is that you never wholly own a Kindle book – you simply purchase a right to read that is at present non-transferable. Equally a music collection bought from Apple cannot be passed on as digital content (legally at least). Nowadays the day you die is the day the music dies too. It’s a queer reversal.  In the past it was you that exited while your possessions lived on in other hands. In the digital world you will live on in a thousand guises, while it is your digital assets that fade away.

It looks as though you might as well be buried with your Nook or  your Kindle, iPods or iPad – new grave goods for the virtual afterlife. After all your books and music will already be safe, stowed away again in their own clouds.

Read more about it here.

Suicide note

Tuesday, 28 August 2012


Posted by Richard Rawlinson


I picked up the London Evening Standard today and may as well have logged on to GFG. Of the three cover stories, one was about the health of the nonagenarian Duke of Edinburgh; one about the suspended death sentence of a Chinese woman convicted of murdering a Brit, and another about the suicide of Top Gun director Tony Scott, who threw himself off a Los Angeles bridge.

I’m sure even ardent Republicans here will feel a degree of concern for the Queen’s aged husband, and will recall with affection at least some of his un-PC utterances over the years:

‘You look like you’re ready for bed!’ To the President of Nigeria, who was wearing traditional robes.

‘Aren’t most of you descended from pirates?’ To residents of the Cayman Islands in 1994.

‘I would like to go to Russia very much — although the bastards murdered half my family.’ In 1967, when asked if he would like to visit the Soviet Union.

‘How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to pass the test?’ To a Scottish driving instructor in 1995.

‘There’s a lot of your family in tonight.’ After noticing business leader Atul Patel’s name badge during a Buckingham Palace reception for 400 influential British Indians in 2009.

As for story two, I’m sure most here oppose the death penalty, even for heinous crimes.

But do any of you have views on the ‘ethics’ of suicide? Having recently blogged about the need sometimes to release anger at funerals (here), suicide cases spring to mind: we love and miss the person, we wish we could have made things different, but why did the selfish bastard do this to us?

Despite this human response, most religious and non-religious folk alike are united in compassion for those troubled souls who take their own life for whatever reason, and whether they’re seemingly fortunate or clearly deprived and abused.

Religions have varying degrees of forgiveness for what is generally held to be a sin across the faith spectrum.

The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church states, ‘We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.’

Meanwhile, Conservative Protestants, especially Evangelicals, have argued self-murder is as sinful as murder. And because these sects don’t believe in prayers for the dead, they say salvation can only be earned prior to death: the unpardonable sin then becomes not the suicide itself, but rather the refusal of the gift of salvation.

In Jewish law, suicide is deemed sinful, but it may be acceptable as an alternative to certain cardinal sins, when it becomes martyrdom for sacred principles. In practice every means is used to excuse suicide—usually by determining either that the suicide itself proves that the perpetrator was not in his or her right mind, or that the suicide must have repented after performing the act but before death took place.

Most Muslim clerics consider suicide forbidden and make a point of including suicide bombing. Prophet Muhammad allegedly said: ‘Whoever is cruel and hard on a non-Muslim minority, or curtails their rights, or burdens them with more than they can bear, or takes anything from them against their free will; I will complain against the person on the Day of Judgment.’

The revolution will be televised

Saturday, 25 August 2012


A premier-league TV production company (we’re not allowed to say the name) is presently shooting a documentary about the GFG Awards, complete with behind-the-scenes peeks at some of the nominees at work in their own workplace. They want lots of human interest. Some nominees have already been contacted; the rest are advised to stand by. 

This is great news for The Cause. Brian Jenner (organiser of the Joy of Death Convention) and I have done our due diligence and we are convinced that the motives of the team behind this are the sound and sincere. The half-hour documentary, dedicated exclusively to the GFG Awards, will be one of a series of documentaries about heartwarming competitive events. 

The finished piece of work will reflect the deep seriousness, emotional intelligence and sense of humour which characterise the best people who work in the funeral ‘industry’. It will repair some of the reputational damage wrought by exposés of malpractice which have beset us this year. It will show funeral shoppers that there are people in this business of death whose excellence and beauty of heart they had never dreamed of. 

If you can join us, please buy your ticket at: 

We are more grateful than we can say to Sunset Coffins for donating the funeral Oscars, pictured above. 

Still with us

Saturday, 25 August 2012




Family members hold up a mummified relative before giving it new clothes in a ritual in the Toraja district of Indonesia’s South Sulawesi Province. The ritual, called Ma’nene, involves changing the clothes of mummified ancestors every three years. Locals believe dead family members are still with them, even if they died hundreds of years ago.

Source: Daily Telegraph

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