The Good Funeral Guide Blog

Funeralcare mouldy corridor scandal

Friday, 12 February 2016



Update from the National Association of Funeral Directors:                                                                   

You may be aware of the media coverage this morning relating to Midcounties Cooperative.

In line with our commitment to uphold standards within the profession we have been working closely with Midcounties Cooperative today and sent a team of Standards and Quality Managers over to the branch.

Our inspectors found that coffins are no longer stored on the racking pictured and those stored in this area of the building were, in fact, empty.

Further, Ben Reid, Chief Executive Officer of Midcounties Co-operative, has confirmed publicly that those pictured in the media coverage were also empty. Minor remedial maintenance was being undertaken which will restore it to a properly functioning storage area.

In response to our initial enquiries Midcounties Cooperative have assured us they are increasing their own internal inspection regime to ensure this error is not repeated.

Along with Midcounties Cooperative we have been taking steps today to reassure the public that this is a high performing funeral home and, further, that the public can be confident in choosing any NAFD member firm, not only because of the high standards our members abide by but because of our swift and thorough approach to working with our members to address any concerns that may come to light.

William Millar, President, National Association of Funeral Directors


View from Ben Reid, ceo Midcounties Co-op:

“It appears that this is an ex-employee who has taken photos and fed a customer’s detail to The Sun. That breach of data will be investigated to the full.” Mr Reid added that after being alerted to The Sun’s story, he visited the Walsall funeral home early on Wednesday morning, prior to staff arrival, and saw no issues that would cause him concern if he had a loved one in the home’s care. Any issues were not about care of the deceased, but more about interior standards, he said. “Could we refresh it? Yes we could. Could it do with a lick of paint? Yes it could. Do I think that the people we are caring for are being disrespected in any way? No I do not.” [Source

What’s interesting here is Mr Reid’s typically combative we-know-best response. This is the second time in less than 4 years that Funeralcare has been exposed for its behind-the-scenes body-storage arrangements. As a commercial operator Mr Reid needs to acknowledge that the requirements of consumers are paramount. If they didn’t like what they saw in that Sun photo, Mr Reid, you messed up. End of. Put your hands in the air and say sorry. Don’t do it again.

Top people’s trends

Friday, 12 February 2016




If you’re of a certain age (ie, shortly to make the acquaintance of Reaper G) you’ll remember that advertising slogan. It made you worry whether you qualified to buy The Times – whether the newsvendor would cock an eye and snarl, “You ‘avin a larf?”

Society isn’t so stratified these days. And what with the internet, death announcements in newspapers aren’t what they were – just a handful, now. You probably make for them in your paper because, being a deathie, you are drawn by the dark force that is your mainspring. I’m not a deathie. What draws me is social trends the announcements exhibit. The Times, after all this time, remains the newspaper of the Establishment, so you’d expect the readership to be small-c conservative.

Here are yesterday’s (Thurs) Times death announcements reduced to age, description of event and venue. Anything here that interests you?

Barnes – 83 – funeral – St Peter’s church Ravenshead, committal Mansfield crematorium.

Barrowcliff – funeral – St Mary’s RC church Warwick

Coull – 65 – ‘A private cremation has already taken place.’ Service of thanksgiving All Saints Marlow on 7 March.

Duncan – 96 – All enquiries to undertaker

Ellory – 94 – funeral – Sacred Heart Cobham

Felkin – funeral – St Andrew’s church St Helier

Glyn – 94 – funeral – St Andrew’s Sonning

Herbert – 89 – Requiem Mass – Catholic church Ilkley

Hopkinson – 62 – private cremation – Party to Remember

Jaggers – 78 – enquiries to undertaker

Manson – 77 – private funeral, no flowers

Parsons – funeral – Westminster cathedral

Percy – 92 – enquiries to undertaker

Russell – 88 – funeral – enquiries to undertaker

Speer – 103 – funeral – St John’s Southbourne

Taverner – 86 – private cremation – service of remembrance Urchfont parish church

Wernberg-Moller – 92 – funeral – St Nicholas, Old Marston

Woodthorpe – 89 – private family cremation – service of thanksgiving St Paul’s Woldingham



Thursday, 11 February 2016



by Catherine Smith

Dying, darling, is the easy bit. Fifty paracetamol,
bride-white and sticking in the throat, ten shots
of Johnny Walker, and the deed is done.
A twilight day of drowsing, then the breathing
slows to a whisper, like a sinner in Confession.

Death is dead easy. No, what happens next
is the difficulty. You bastard, howling in public,
snivelling over photos, ringing round for consolation.
And you have me burnt, like a dinner gone wrong,
you keep the charred remains of me on show

at the Wake, inviting everyone I hate. Oh God,
they come in packs, sleek as rats with platitudes
and an eye on my half of the bed, hoping to find
leftover skin, a hint of fetid breath. I leave them
no hairs on the pillow; there are none to leave.

And a year to the day since I shrug off the yoke
of life, you meet the new bride. In group therapy.
You head straight for a weeper and wailer,
telling strangers all her little tragedies. You love
the way she languishes, her tears sliming your neck,

you give in to her on vile pink Austrian blinds.
The Wedding is a riot of white nylon; Everybody
drinks your health and hers, the simpering bitch.
She and Delia Smith keep you fat and happy
as a pig in shit. I want her cells to go beserk.

Some nights I slip between you. The new bride
sleeps buttoned-up, slug-smug in polyester. You,
my faithless husband, turn over in your dreams,
and I’m there, ice-cold and seeking out your eyes
and for a moment you brush my lips, and freeze.

Reproduced with the permission of the author.

Cut-price Co-op offers better funerals cheaper

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

price cut


So. Co-operative Funeralcare is cutting the price of its ‘simple’ funeral by 7 per cent to £1995 excluding third-party payments (once known, quaintly, as disbursements). That’s £140. If you’re a Co-operative Group member you get to save £380. Reminder: the Group is just one of many co-operative societies. There are other independent societies which aren’t in on this price reduction and may already charge less.

Well done, Funeralcare! We thought we’d wait a lifetime to say that.

Why should The Co-op concern itself with low-price funerals? Because it is an organisation founded by working people to enable all working people to buy those things they would otherwise be unable to afford. Essentials, obviously, not Maseratis. If anyone should be doing their bit to mitigate the effects of funeral poverty it’s The Co-op. All part of its social mission, its raison d’etre: the point of The Co-op.

What do you get for your £1995? According to the Co-op, a nicer coffin; collection of mortal remains day or night within a 15-mile radius; viewing; hearse direct; and “A dignified funeral service, with all necessary staff”. All in all, a better funeral at a lower price. (No direct cremation option, though.)

Which sort of begs the question: what took you so long? Is this an admission that you were overcharging? How otherwise can you offer something better for less?

A great many independent undertakers will have scrutinised the Co-op price cut with a raised eyebrow and drawn their own conclusions. A large proportion of them already charge less than this despite The Co-op’s economies of scale. Is this anything more than a PR exercise?

Whatever, it’s at least a step in the right direction. Over to you, Dignity and Funeral Service Partners!

UPDATE 10-02-2016   Oh dear, oh dear! There’s Funeralcare MD Richard Lancaster boasting about “our industry leading standards of care”, setting the shining halo above Funeralcare at just the right tilt, when all of a sudden, Flump! What’s that in the fan? Yuck. It’s the Sun wot broke it, complete with ‘shocking’ photo. Here’s the Mirror: “A funeral home has reportedly be found to store bodies on makeshift shelves in a dirty corridor next to a load of junk. The recently deceased were left in allegedly ‘scandalous’ conditions at Midcounties Co-operative Funeralcare home in Walsall … The bodies were left in coffins next to an old bicycle, and tatty storage boxes, the Sun reports. Jane Hughes, whose 74-year-old dad John Bagby’s body was kept at the home awaiting his funeral said: ‘I’m sickened to the stomach.'” Photographs apparently taken inside the home show coffins on a shelving unit in a corridor. Water reportedly appears to be leaking in from a hole in the roof.”  Midcounties is an independent co-op which brands its funerals under Funeralcare. The NAFD is investigating. 

Diddling the doddery

Thursday, 4 February 2016

changing hands


Doorstep scammers, con artists, cold callers, internet swindlers, rogue traders – these are just some of the predators that old people must learn to defend themselves against today. Besieged on all sides, they are. Who can they trust? Charities, surely?

Not Age UK for starters, love. Oh no, not them. Them least of all.

Yep, it’s all over today’s news. Age UK is revealed to have stitched a deal last year with energy giant E.ON to flog a special gas-and-leccy rate to 152,000 credulous coffin-dodgers.  The special rate, Age UK promised them, would “save energy and money”.  Emboldened by this endorsement, no fewer than 152,000 people signed up. They paid an average annual charge of £1,049. This was on average £245 more than E.ON’s cheapest rate in 2015. £245!

Who cares? There’s no fool like an old fool. Age UK chuckled all the way to the bank having trousered £6 million, some which it may even spend on updating its webpage Scams and fraud and include a section entitled Charity jackals.

The revelation certainly didn’t make Age UK think twice about the brass-necked prominence it is giving on its home page to its Cold Homes Week campaign: Age UK is calling on the Government to reform its energy efficiency programmes. Ha!

What the media failed to do in reporting this story was to record that Age UK has previous convictions in the matter of relieving its client group of its slender pensions. It is a serial offender.

In 2011 Age UK issued a grovelling press release in the wake of a FSA investigation into HSBC and its subsidiary Nursing Home Fees Agency (NHFA), with which Age UK, in its own words, “had a relationship”. Between 2005-10 NHFA missold bonds to cover long-term care costs. Clients, average age 83, were recommended to invest for 5 years — longer than they were expected to live. Under the circumstances, an ISA or a higher fixed interest rate savings account would have been a much better option. The FSA fined HSBC £10.5 million, and NHFA faced a compensation bill for £29.3 million.

*In 2013 The Times ran a story which began Britain’s largest charity for the elderly has been accused of short-changing pensioners by selling “peace of mind” funeral plans that leave bereaved families footing unexpected bills of hundreds of pounds. The piece concluded with this sorry story:

Ros Rhodes, 70, was shocked to receive a bill for more than £1,000 for her mother’s funeral, as she believed all costs would be covered by an Age UK funeral plan. Her 89-year-old mother had spent almost £3,000 on the plan 18 months previously.

The extra costs were even more perplexing because the undertaker’s account showed that he had been paid only £2,169 from Age UK — £571 less than her mother had paid the charity.

She says: “I have telephoned and written to Age UK to try and find why there was such a difference in the money paid in and the money paid out. I have been fobbed off with trust funds, expenses, inflation and other such terms that are of no real answer.”

After Age UK was contacted by Times Money it sent Mrs Rhodes a cheque for £750 as a goodwill gesture. The charity said that there had been a mix up with the bill and Mrs Rhodes should not have been charged so much, and also that she should not have seen the breakdown of the funeral director’s expenses. But Ros says had she not seen the breakdown, she would have never have queried the bill.

It is difficult for us to calculate how much money Age UK has minted from flogging Dignity funeral plans. When ITV were making that undercover investigation in 2012 they reckoned it was millions. That Age UK is ‘in a relationship’ with one of the most expensive funeral providers in the UK is nothing short of scandalous.


Counting the cost

Monday, 11 January 2016



Because of the stubborn refusal of all but a small number of undertakers to post their prices online, there’s a commercial opportunity for an entrepreneur who can offer a useful price+value comparison service for bereaved people.

First out of the blocks was FuneralChoice which offers its service free to undertakers and consumers and depends on mystery shopping to source prices, a labour-intensive, never-ending process. Undertakers are listed whether they want to be or not. Coverage now looks pretty good. The site is quick and clear. Clients can’t leave feedback, but the site records GFG and NDC recommendations. How does the site make money? By offering a freemium service: “… we are asking funeral directors if they want to pay a subscription in return for adding additional details for their profile and tailoring their profile to their catchment area.”

New kid on the block is FuneralBooker. It’s free to consumers but – here’s the catch – FuneralBooker charges undertakers a percentage of each funeral referred by the site. It’s a calculated risk: undertakers must ask themselves if they can survive without it. While they make up their minds, coverage is at present less than optimal. Value is determined by customer feedback. The site offers slightly more functionality than FuneralChoice. It’s lean, intuitive and fast, a nice piece of work.

Both sites are run by decent, intelligent people.

Whether or not one or both will thrive is a tough one to call. What we do know is that the profits of funerals are not large, undertakers are unwilling to share them with third parties and they disdain interlopers who seek to make a few bob out of them. What we also know is that consumers are more price conscious than ever and looking for value. Price tells a consumer next to nothing about service values, but it’s a useful starting point.

The case for displaying prices on websites just got even stronger.





Death sells

Friday, 8 January 2016

I should have posted these before Christmas, but what with one thing and another…

Happy 2016!




And here’s a fashion shoot filmed in a funeral home in Greece –

Rest in fashion I (1) from Lora Dimoglou on Vimeo.

Travellers funerals

Wednesday, 6 May 2015



Posted by David Hall

Travellers make up a proportion of the Vintage Lorry Funerals business as David Hall has developed a reputation within their community for creating memorable Floral Tribute layouts and a simple no nonsense communicative style that Travellers like.

Traveller funerals were there at the very start of the business in 2002 accounting for 2 of the first 4 funerals undertaken by the lorry. The opportunity to carry a high profile Lady Traveller for his second funeral, by David’s own admission, came earlier in his funeral career than he would have wished. As David explained, ‘It was like a 17 year old Footballer making his debut in the World Cup Finals, and I’m no Pele.’ David had no contact with the Family and the Leyland Beaver inched slowly into the Traveller Encampment, near Swindon, with David having no knowledge of what flowers were to be loaded. Gaps between the Travellers vehicles were very narrow and Travellers watched David struggle to get past cars with less than one inch clearance, rather than move their vehicles. The flowers were thrown onto the vehicle by Travellers and David’s perception was that he was being ostracised because he was not a Traveller. David felt uncomfortable and the chorus of Leon Russell and the Shelter People’s ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ was reverberating inside David’s head.

As the 1950 Leyland Beaver pulled into Abingdon there were hundreds of mourners all dressed completely in black and David had to drive into the crowd to park the lorry in a position to off-load the white casket. Everyone wanted to touch the lorry, the crowd around the cab was 6 deep and David couldn’t open the door to get out of the lorry. It took David’s wife over two days to remove all the finger prints.

So when the second Traveller funeral arrived for a Leeds Family David insisted from the start that he wanted to be treated as if he were part of the Family. David arrived in Keighley around 1730 hours and someone came up to him and asked, ‘Are you hungry Driver?’ Somebody else arrived in 20 minutes with a Fish Supper and would take no payment. As David was washing the lorry in the evening sunlight a young boy asked David, ‘How much is the lorry worth?’ David said he wasn’t sure, but he had seen similar vehicles for sale at £10,000. David was surprised when his bed for the evening turned out to be the chair in front of the coal fire, however, he did recall insisting that he should be treated as if he was part of the Family. At 0700 hours there was a knock on the window and someone, who David had not met, handed in a bacon butty for his breakfast.

David was directed to follow a 4×4 vehicle to the house of the Deceased and was instructed to park on the pavement. On this occasion the lorry was booked to only carry the flowers with the Deceased’s coffin being transported in a Horse Drawn Carriage. The Leyland Beaver was chosen specifically because The Deceased’s favourite colour was blue and John, the man who had phoned David initially acted as the liaison with other people. The Widow made John the first cup of tea and David was honoured when he was offered the second cup of tea. People gave their flowers to John and John instructed David where to position them on the lorry deck, those relations closest to the Deceased had their Floral Tributes loaded nearer the front of the deck closer to the headboard.


In the cemetery after the interment John gave David a roll of notes, which he put in his shirt pocket as his main focus at the time was fixing the sheet in place as the wind was gaining strength in the late afternoon. John asked David to count the money as he was roping the sheet down and David replied that he trusted that the money would be right. John insisted that David should count the money as it was Traveller Culture to do so. David was unaccustomed to counting notes, and started to turn over the £20 notes slowly one by one. Totally frustrated John grabbed the bundle of notes and counted them quickly like a card player shuffling a deck of cards. Having finally secured the sheet, David was having a drink from his flask when he was approached by two hugely built men in heavy overcoats. One man pulled two massive rolls of money from the pockets on the overcoat and said, ‘Here’s £10,000 for your motor.’ David was perplexed, however, John was in close proximity and stepped between David and the two men saying, ‘The young lad last night asked what the motor was worth, he never ascertained if it was for sale, there was no shake of hands.’ David had never seen such hugely built guys so disappointed and these weren’t the type of guys who normally take disappointment in their stride. However, taking a broader view David believed that progress had been made in that he had direct contact with the Family.

Fast forward 10 years on and Traveller Funerals are treated just like any other funeral in that a Family member provides information on the Florists involved, who are relaxed to provide information once David has confirmed the member of the Family he had spoken with.

A good example of a Traveller’s funeral working brilliantly was the final journey of John Buckley who had tragically passed away following an accident at home. His Sister Mary Lee provided information on the flowers which included exquisite giant wire framed ‘Names’ including ‘BIG JOHN’. A ‘Cornflake Box’ Tribute was ordered because when friends visited John in hospital he would always say, ‘I’d love a bowl of cornflakes.’ Cognisant that the ‘Cornflake’ Tribute would accompany a ‘Cup & Saucer’ Tribute, David created a Breakfast Table with a table cloth.

When David arrived at 0730 hours, Floral Tributes had already started to be positioned on the grass area in front of the house. Mary Lee provided David with a cup of tea and introduced two men who had been assigned to work for David whilst he was assembling the Floral Tributes on the lorry. At 0930 hours two smaller lorries arrived to load friends and more distant Family members flowers. The agreement with Mary included the provision that David could have the choice of requesting any extra tributes from the grass area if these would enhance the display on his lorry beyond those included in the layout sketch previously agreed by Mary. David approached the men loading the smaller lorries who willingly gave up any specific tribute that David requested.

On a Travellers funeral no person will look inside the vintage lorry’s cab without first gaining David’s expressed permission. The cab door is never locked and valuables including a digital camera are often in plain sight, however, nothing has ever been taken. Travellers can get a bad name, however, in David’s opinion we could all learn from how a Traveller respects their dead.




Stick to what you know

Wednesday, 8 April 2015



Guest post by Vita Incerta

Was I alone in reading The Times journalist, Janice Turner’s piece about the funeral of her Godmother? In a rip roaring and impassioned annihilation, she tore apart the ‘crass, vain, sloppy buffoon’  who led her Godmother’s service. 

This wasn’t some half baked celebrant, nor a clueless member of the clergy. It was a Funeral Director. The ritual was held at the  FD’s premises. 

Addressing those gathered in ‘the jocular tone suitable for a boozy Rotarian lunch’, in his opening words he waxed lyrical about the lovely spread of sandwiches awaiting the mourners afterwards. Some ten minutes passed before Ms Turner heard her Godmother’s life mentioned as he extolled the virtues of his undertaking firm. Ms Turner knew that he had spoken with those closest to her Godmother, but it became quickly evident that – anathema to a journalist – he had taken no notes. The FD compounded his foolishness by making errors about Ms Turner’s Godmother that were corrected by those attending. He then argued with his audience about the date of VE Day…and so it went on. It is such a shame that the article is behind a paywall. 

But I take notes and pre prepare my eulogy. E mail or snail mail or hand deliver my draft to those closest and they are encouraged to add, subtract, revise to their heart’s content.  Every unknown fact: be it the date of VE Day, the merits of one dance hall over another, the name of the grocer in the High Street fifty years ago; all are checked and rechecked against local history books and websites and consultations with a few wise local buffers, who are generous of mind and spirit and have the time to help me get these things right, if I come up against a brick wall. 

To those who see no merit in paying a different speaker to lead a funeral ceremony for one who, in life, they have loved…caveat emptor. Plan this carefully and appreciate that we all have our limits. I would no sooner suggest that I could conceivably sport a morning coat and brandish a stick with the élan of some FDs, nor embalm to make someone appear as if in repose, than I would attempt an Argentinean Tango, given that I struggle to walk down a flight of stairs without hanging grimly on to both sides. 

I am not all things to all men, rathermore a passionate gobsh*te (Thanks, GM) attempting to offer some small salve to families whose needs might  otherwise be shoddily met. Why on earth should  Funeral Directors consider themselves any different ? 


Brighton & Portchester in the same week

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

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Guest post by David Hall

Vintage Lorry Funerals sent a marketing pack to Mother & Daughter Funerals in Hove on March 10th 2014 and it generated a funeral on April 9th, a record timescale response to a marketing pack, less than 4 weeks! The Deceased had been an avid collector of model lorries so David Hall offered to position two of his own models either side of the Family’s ‘G’ Floral Tribute. The design for the layout had been signed off by the Brighton Family and the support structure was built during Wednesday and Thursday April 2nd & 3rd respectively.

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On Friday April 5th David was having a break, reading his paper, reflecting that all the preparation work for the Brighton funeral had been completed, when the telephone rang.

A Lady apologised for the late notice, however, she wondered if Vintage Lorry Funerals could help her. The funeral arrangements for her Father had been finalised but she wanted to do more for her Dad, who had stated that he didn’t want his final journey to be in a black hearse. Her Dad had been a Fireman until his retirement when he set up business as a Landscape Gardener. She had made enquiries regarding a Fire Engine to carry the coffin, however, these phone calls had proved fruitless. The Lady explained how she had looked at the Vintage Lorry Funerals website and noticed that David had previously carried a Lawn Mower in front of the coffin and she enquired as to what David could do for a Landscape Gardener. David has experienced similar conversations in the past 12 years and often Families tell him what they think they need, however, the skill is to channel their desires into something he can achieve within the tight timescales.

So David asked, ‘What have you got in mind?’

What happened next resembled Bruce Forsyth’s Generation Game, from the 1970’s, in which contestants tried to remember items that they had seen pass before their eyes. The Lady said, ‘A Wheel Barrow, a Spade, a Shovel, Tree Cutting Equipment…..’ David was tempted to say, ‘A cuddly toy’ but he didn’t. It was agreed that David would gather together relevant tools from people near his home in Bradford-on-Avon and assemble the load the day before the funeral. David always works on the premise that if the design stays in place from Bradford-on-Avon to the Funeral Directors, it will stay in place from the Funeral Directors to the Crematorium.

David made a series of phone calls to his support network and identified a number of options for equipment that could be lent to him for this funeral. In order to ensure that the tools could be loaded and held securely, David decided to dissemble the Brighton display that was in place on the lorry and erect the Landscape Gardener’s Theme during Saturday April 6th and Sunday morning April 7th. If all went well, during Sunday afternoon, the Landscape Gardener’s Theme would be documented, dissembled and put aside, with each tool assigned specific securement facilities, ready to reload on Thursday April 10th. Then the Brighton support structure would be put back in place and David would be back to where he was before the phone call about the Portchester funeral.

On Saturday mornings some members of the Vintage Lorry Funerals support team come to David’s garage for their coffee and cakes, provided by his wife. These retired gentlemen have engineering backgrounds and their advice has proved invaluable when major themes are being created. The centrepiece of the display was the Wheel Barrow and a novel securement technique was devised using small pieces of angled wood. Securement of the Spade and Shovel provided the biggest challenge and one of the old guys joked, ‘It won’t be any good if the Spade flew off in a Town Centre, creating next week’s business for a Funeral Director.’ One of David’s neighbours knocked on the garage door and offered her new Wheel Barrow, however, David explained that the look he was attempting to create involved tools appearing to have just completed their last job.

Jim Pethers, Landscape Gardener, arrived on Saturday afternoon and gave David the option of various tools. The final selection was made related to which items were of a similar height, to create a balanced design, and which items wouldn’t mysteriously disappear when David stopped for a comfort break at Sutton Scotney Services. So Jim left with the Chain Saw and petrol powered Tree Cutters still in his van. The Landscape Gardener’s Theme was sketched and the Deceased’s Daughter was delighted with the layout and the price. When she suggested to David to round the price to the nearest hundred, she meant round up not down, as many other people may have done.

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The Brighton funeral worked well as David had organised undercover storage for the 1950 Leyland Beaver less than a mile from the Funeral Directors. David exceeded the expectations of the Family by tilting the cabs of his two model lorries as the coffin was discharged from the lorry at The Downs Crematorium. The lorry arrived home at 2030 hours and David’s wife started to clean the vehicle’s cab, immediately it was stationary. On Thursday April 10th David loaded and secured the tools with a mixture of wooden wedges and cable ties.

David would be interested to hear from you regarding an estimate of the number of cable ties that were used in the Landscape Gardener’s Theme.

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