Blog Archives: August 2017

No grave concerns

Friday, 11 August 2017

A funeral may need organising at a moment’s notice. But how much notice do you think is advisable, or reasonable, for renovating and repair a gravestone? And what should the relevant institution do to accommodate health and safety concerns, if you don’t take action fast enough?

Many churchyards monuments are, by anyone’s measure, on the unsafe side of upright. Land settles; time passes; some might say it’s the higgledy-piggledy appearance of headstone in an expanse of church ground that actually provides quintessential Britishness to our countryside.

For the most part, ‘caveat visitor’ is the adopted position of the Church. Being aware of surroundings and taking care to avoid situations of peril seems like common sense. However, we have seen at least one death reported this century in Glasgow as a consequence of young children playing, unsupervised, among unsteady headstones.

Now, in Kilsyth, notifiable family members are being served 21 days’ notice when headstones in Kilsyth Cemetery are deemed to be ‘unsafe’.

Not surprisingly, the health and safety measures being implemented in the interim are causing as much concern as the need for remedial action: plastic orange hazard barriers are always an eysore. It is debatable, as to whether or not they provide enough deterrent for the people who would be most at risk.

This is a balancing act. For the Church; the local authorities – in this case, North Lanarkshire Council – insisting on regular risk assessments; heritage and preservation societies; and the families themselves. What’s not being reported in such large typeface, are the steps then being taken to remedy these situations.

The notices make this clear: “It may be necessary to lay this stone flat or trench (set lower part of memorial place into the ground) or support it to prevent injury or damage”. Or in other words, if the family does not come forward with contractors who’ve been commissioned to take remedial action, then the headstones will be laid flat on the ground instead. Like so many others.

In actual fact, stories like these hide the facts rather well: the local authorities are taking appropriate action, which reflects what’s happened for hundreds of years. Whether anyone’s given 21 days’ notice or not, when a headstone falls over, it falls over and usually stays on the ground.

Is your name on the list…?

Monday, 7 August 2017

This year’s Long List has just been published, and all the finalists for a 2017 Good Funeral Award can be found on the Awards website here

Or you can skim down the list below and see if you’re on it. Individuals listed first, alphabetically by first name, and companies / organisations listed second. 

It has been another exceptional year for nominations and entries, and the runners up and winners of each category will be announced at the glittering lunchtime awards ceremony at Porchester Hall on September 7th.

All finalists will receive a copy of the logo and the code for a special discount on the ticket price this week. 

Individual finalists

  • Alan Lister
  • Angela Bailey
  • Anna Lyons
  • Annette Furley
  • Barbara Scrimshaw
  • Barry Waples
  • Cara Mair
  • Carol Higgins
  • Cath Pratley / Tosh Abbott
  • Chantal Lockey
  • Charles Muglestone (Right Revd.)
  • Christine Jolly
  • Christyan James (Fr.)
  • Claire Turnham
  • Clive Cappleman
  • Clive Leverton
  • Colette Robinson
  • Colin Liddell
  • David Crayton
  • David Homer
  • David Ledger
  • Dominic Lister
  • Drew Rush
  • Emma Curtis
  • Felicity Warner
  • Frances Tulley
  • Glynes Mewton
  • Helen McLean
  • Helen Williams
  • Howard Hodgson
  • Hugh Milsom
  • Ian Willox
  • James Rogers
  • Jane Morgan
  • Janet Cheal
  • Janet Qualters
  • Jason Kiely
  • Jeremy Field
  • Julia Samuel
  • Julie Hillman
  • Justine Wykerd
  • Kate Tym & Kate Dyer
  • Kathryn Sansom
  • Kirsty Sailes
  • Lara-Rose Iredale
  • Laura Jane Smith (Dr.)
  • Lindis Pattison-Tadman
  • Lindy Irving
  • Liz Alman
  • Liz Rothschild
  • Lizzie Neville
  • Lorraine Aitken
  • Louise Cook
  • Lucy Coulbert
  • Lucy Talbot
  • Lyn Baylis
  • Martin House
  • May Andrews
  • Michael Tiney
  • Natalie Newbury
  • Natasha Bradshaw
  • Nicole Turner
  • Oliver Bird
  • Paul Jansen
  • Pauline Hyde-Coomber
  • Persephone Salway
  • Rebecca Sharp
  • Rhys Askham
  • Richard Hooker
  • Roger Knight
  • Rosalie Kuyvenhoven
  • Rosie Orr
  • Sally Ward
  • Sarah Ellis
  • Sarah Tully
  • Simon Dyer
  • Stacey Pitsillides
  • Steve Stacey
  • Stuart Preston
  • Susie Bearne
  • Terri Shanks
  • Victoria Fisher
  • Victoria McKeegan
  • Wendy Birch (Dr.)
  • Wendy Coulton
  • Yvonne Harper

Company / organisation finalists

  • A. W. Lymn – The Family Funeral Service
  • Amber Valley Memorial Park & Crematorium
  • Ann Bates Ceramics
  • ARKA Original Funerals
  • Attwood Funerals
  • Bewley & Merrett Funeral Directors
  • Brighton Death Forum
  • BrumYODO
  • Bungard Funeral Directors
  • Butterfly Memorial Garden
  • C. S. Boswell Independent Funeral Directors
  • Cardiff & Glamorgan Memorial Park & Crematorium
  • Cardiff Bereavement Services
  • Classic Flowers Maidstone
  • Coffin Club
  • Compassionate Funerals
  • Cradle To Grave
  • Crescent Funerals
  • Dandelion Farewells
  • Denbighshire Memorial Park & Crematorium
  • Earth to Heaven
  • Ecoffins
  • Edd Frost & Daughters
  • Eden Valley Woodland Burial Ground
  • Fosters Funeral Directors
  • Full Circle Funerals
  • Funeralbooker
  • Funeral Choice
  • Funeral Zone
  • Collins & Sons
  • Gimcrack Productions
  • Go Simply Funerals
  • Golders Green Crematorium
  • Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief
  • Harrison Funeral Home
  • Harrison Low Cost Funerals
  • Heatherley Wood Woodland
  • Home Funeral Network – Funerals To Die For
  • Holly’s Funerals
  • huunuu
  • C. Atkinson & Son Ltd.
  • Godfrey & Son Ltd.
  • Kettering Crematorium
  • Kirkleatham Memorial Park & Crematorium
  • Leverton & Sons
  • Life, Death & the Rest (Arnos Vale Cemetery)
  • Life, Death, Whatever
  • Meadow Wood Pet Cemetery
  • Medfest 2017 – Matters of Life & Death
  • Melville & Daughters
  • Memoria Low Cost Funerals Ltd.
  • Moribund (Gimcrack Productions)
  • Mortlake Crematorium
  • Nelson’s Journey Youth Panel’s Smartphone App.
  • O’Dwyer Funeral Service
  • Only With Love
  • Passionate Flowers
  • Perry & Phillips Funeral Directors
  • Pushing Up Daisies – Things Left Unsaid
  • Respect Direct Funeral Services
  • Rocket Catering
  • Rose Funerals Ltd.
  • Rounce Funeral Services
  • Sacred Stones
  • Scattering Ashes
  • Scraptoft Burial Ground
  • Seven Hills Crematorium
  • Sick Festival
  • South Leicestershire Memorial Park & Crematorium
  • South Oxfordshire Crematorium & Memorial Park
  • Still Loved Documentary
  • Tamworth Co-operative Funeral Services
  • Tea & Sympathy
  • The Art of Dying Well
  • The Good Grief Project
  • The Individual Funeral Company
  • The Natural Burial Company – Scraptoft Burial Ground
  • The Natural Death Centre
  • The Team at Cardiff Thornhill Crematorium
  • Thornhill Crematorium Cardiff
  • Varley & Varley Funeral Directors
  • Veteran Bereavement Support
  • W. E. Pinder & Son Ltd.
  • Waveney Memorial Park & Crematorium
  • Westmill Woodland Burial
  • Woodland Wishes
  • Woodvale Crematorium

 

 

 

Material choices

Saturday, 5 August 2017

 

Willow, cardboard, veneer. Wool, even. The material in which we choose to be buried may be imbued with cultural, emotional or traditional significance.

We have the benefit of access to so many superb suppliers. We know the options are highly varied now, as are the means of interment. It is important that we don’t take this knowledge for granted, though, being intimately acquainted with our own industry’s gamut of possibilities.

For many families – irrespective of religion – the assumption is that a wooden coffin will be involved. This has long been the case and the exposition of a coffin in Durham this month will do much to assuage any doubts about the benefits of choosing high quality products.

St. Cuthbert’s coffin went on display in Durham cathedral. Hermit; bishop; the saint who inspired the Lindisfarne Gospels. Cuthbert died in 687, probably from tuberculosis, but his body was exhumed relatively shortly after death to be reburied in this coffin, which was made from English oak: tests have confirmed it was manufactured (‘crafted by artisans’ is probably a less anachronistic term), on Lindisfarne in 698.

However, it was lifted again, in 1104, and reopened several times thereafter to allow viewings of the remains. While it was interred for a short time behind the altar of the catherdral, it was also disturbed again – allowing new bacteria in to have their effect on the wood, each time – in the 19th century. This is a coffin that has truly served its purpose. 

Some environments are more forgiving than others. Soil and humidity conditions have an impact; acidity is also an influence. If wood has been heavily varnished, that preservative may act as a moisture-barrier for years. Deterioration depends on the material that a coffin or container is made of and the environment it’s resting in, and archaeologists have even found Roman coffins in reasonable condition. 

It surely behoves us to be transparent about the nature of materials used, and what the reality of material degradation is. Sadly, it’s still a matter of record that families may be offered non-ethical products for use in woodland or natural burials.

But perhaps, tongue in cheek, we can now offer a rather more positive caveat when it comes to ‘how long will it last?’

Our role in their wishes

Thursday, 3 August 2017

We noted The Sun newspaper’s report on a floral tribute this week, pointing a mild gosh-look-at-this finger at a family’s ambition to let funeral wishes be carried out – to the perfumed, petalled letter.

However, it was the throwaway inclusion of another story, further down the page, that caught our eye. Moving on past the report of a Royal Artillery sergeant’s coffin being transported on a gun carriage – de rigueur perhaps – The Sun has a picture of a JCB at the head of a funeral cortège with a coffin secured carefully in its bucket.

A little background research revealed that Tony Law had always worked with plant machinery. As a digger enthusiast, he’d not only specified the mode of transport to his own service but also had his wishes extended by the family: instead of traditional, low-key or formal dress, everyone wore hi-viz jackets to mark the occasion. ‘Tony Law’s Last Ride’, they said.

Happily, in most situations these are far from being seen as irreverent gestures. They are endearing; a little eccentric, perhaps; but intended without malice to bridge the gap between the absent character of the person who has died and people who are coming together to commemorate that person’s unique life.

Flowers, saying ‘BARSTARD’? Traditional limousines on the one hand, but a bright yellow JCB to carry your coffin? It may not be the done thing to suggest it up-front without knowing the family’s background, but if the situation is the right one then – for a good funeral – these gestures are not out of place.

However, specific wishes like these may cause significant dismay, pain even, if they are set out in a funeral plan but not shared in advance. Karen Anstee’s short film, Rachel, brought this into sharp perspective last year. Anstee’s 10-film explored the relationships between religion and family: Rachel had rejected her conservative Jewish upbringing for a more bohemian life and wanted her ceremony to reflect those life choices. Rachel’s family wanted to reclaim her body for burial in the traditional way, and the story unfolds to reflect both points of view.

In the 21st century, diverging preferences are becoming more common. Families are, sadly, more dysfunctional than they once were. Couples of all ages may come together from different cultural backgrounds and pass on new traditions or beliefs to their children. Whereas, once, intimate rites of passage served to bring families and communities together at a difficult time, today the expression of individuality has the potential to stimulate conflict.

Nowadays the expected form for a funeral may bear little or no resemblance to the unique, individual service or ceremony that’s requested either by a partner, a close family member, or – prior to their death – by the persons who have died. And as a result, funeral directors and celebrants may find themselves in a difficult situation.

Questions, then.

We hear much, still, about the importance of making a Will and ensuring it’s valid and kept up-to-date. What more could we do to reappropriate the term ‘funeral plan’, or is it too toxic to contemplate?

Would it not help us all if we could encourage the solicitors or Will-makers we know, locally, to include detailed funeral arrangements as a part of that process, and to highlight the benefit of communicating these details in advance? Or would that be too complicated in itself?

And should we consider ‘how to tell people what’s happening’ guides as an integral part of the information we all provide – or do you do this already?