Category Archives: Uncategorized

Something old, something news

Monday, 29 February 2016


Tear of sadness from the Imaginarium of Tears


In Wales a car crashed into a funeral procession killing the horse that was pulling the hearse –

The CDAS newsletter is out, full of good things. If you’re not already a subscriber, sign up –

Dead women are being dug up in China to be corpse brides for dead bachelors –  This inspired London fashionista to include a corpse bride installation in her recent show –

Cremation is now legal in Greece. Our brothers and sisters in crematoria are intrigued by this cremator –

Over the last 5 years 1.2 million people have taken out payday loans to cover the cost of a funeral, a total of £576 million –

A discussion about funeral sex here –

Sharp-eyed viewers of Happy Valley saw strangled Amelia Bullmore blink on the mortuary table –

The C of E can repulse civil celebrants, says the Church Times –  Letter from civil celebrant here –

Old people who lose a partner are being fed antidepressants –

Kenya has a problem with necrophiliac mortuary workers –

Good article by Rosie Inman-Cook of the NDC here –

Disruptive startups are bringing the French funerals business up to date –

Finally, in the US people are tending to go to visitations and skip the funeral. Has the British memorial service something to learn from this sort of less structured, drop-in event?

That’s it. Have a great week.

Goings on in the death zone

Sunday, 21 February 2016



Some of the stories in the news last week.

The Daily Telegraph took consumer journalism to an all-time low here

A peek inside Melbourne’s oldest funeral home here

Find out about the excellent Free Funeral Services Society in Burma here. Moving video here.

Residents of Lagos were inconvenienced by a corpse at their bus stop – here

Love a gangster funeral (pic above)? Here’s the big one, from Dublin + more pics – here

A corpseless head with red rubber balls for eyes turned up in a field in Pennsylvania – here

In Kenya a drunken mourner was beaten up for making a nuisance of himself. In Yorkshire a drunken mourner dragged his partner along the street by her hair – here

In India a mortuary technician spoke out about his profession: ““Cutting open a dead body or decomposed body or an accident body, is a tough task. It needs courage and mental stability. And we do it under influence of alcohol.” Here

There was an important ruling in Dorset concerning the inheritance rights of common law spouses – here

In Italy a coffee tycoon had his ashes put into one of his iconic coffee-makers – here

There was a nasty funeral-plan scam in Bournemouth – here

At the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge there’s a fascinating exhibition about the evolution of ancient Egyptian coffee design. Here

In Kenya, coffin sellers were urged to move away from a hospital because they were alarming the patients – here

In India a row between neighbours ended up with a 5 year-old boy being lobbed into a funeral pyre – here

The Linder calendar receives a salacious review in the Mail here. I am accustomed to being berated for drawing attention to the Lindner calendar. It’s a mystifying curiosity. Here

There’s a visual history of corpse paint here

Good blog post from Dignity in Dying reviewing the way things are panning out in Oregon – here

Another undertaker has written a book about his adventures – here

The Telegraph asks what happens to people who die in aeroplanes – here

Lastly, Carla Valentine has a book coming in out in, be patient, 2017 – here. If you don’t know of Carla, check out her website and get dating here.

Have a great week!

Screenshot 2016-02-20 at 15

Some of the stories you missed

Sunday, 14 February 2016


Jade McAndrew and Rachel Pollard, owners of homewares company Dead Ringer


Here are some the news stories you may have inadvertently missed in the last week.

In India, a man killed his girlfriend three days before his wedding (to someone else). Such was the stench of her decomposing body, he used 70 cans of perfume to disguise the smell. He was arrested on his honeymoon –

Nice description here of the old corpse road joining Rydal and Grasmere – See also –

As health experts strive to terrify us with the ‘finding’ that a glass of wine can give you galloping cancer, here’s the 107 year-old who proves them wrong –

One for the goths, a shop in Australia specialising in mortabilia –

A court in Belfast ruled that an unmarried partner is entitled to bereavement allowance –

In India a post-mortem was performed by an ambulance driver. A relative of the dead person observed, “When we were putting the body in the ambulance, the head almost came off.” –

Dr Michael Irwin counselled ‘Simon’s Choice’ subject, Simon Binner, about assisted suicide – . Remarkable man, Dr Irwin. If you’ve never checked out his organisation, SOARS, it’s high time you did –

Here’s a man who says that a celebration of life is a denial of the reality of death. Take out the religious content, does he still have a point? –

A man in Nigeria who neglected to marry his partner must now marry her corpse in order to enable her to be decently buried –

A group of people in Farnborough hope to raise £5000 in order to convert a cemetery chapel into a columbarium –

Our friends at Flexmort have created this ingenious pop-up mortuary –

In the wake of the Mortonhall baby ashes scandal, Scotland looks like pulling back from licensing undertakers –

In the US, SCI is losing market share. The GFG prays that nothing like this should befall its spawn in the UK: Dignity plc (hiss) –

Finally, if you didn’t see it (it’s gruelling) you can still watch Simon’s Choice here –

Have a great week.

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.

The good meeting place

Wednesday, 7 January 2015




Posted by our religious correspondent Richard Rawlinson

Where would we be without our Rover’s Return or Central Perk? The Corrie pub and Friends café are what sociologist Ray Oldenburg calls a ‘third place’ in his book, The Great Good Place. They’re neither home nor work, but accessible, accommodating and inclusive neutral ground where we can go to relax and converse with other people.

These third places are useful locations for gathering TV characters together for plot development but they’re now few and far between in real life, at least from my perspective. I frequent a London pub after work but rarely talk to anyone beyond my colleagues. As for solo visits to the local Costa, I never recognise fellow regulars and ensure I have a laptop as my coffee break companion.

Common places don’t exist for conversation, at least not dialogue with strangers. Some blame the internet for us leading increasingly insular lives but it’s just as easy to argue that social media is popular for everything from courting soul mates to fighting reprobates.

God forbid if all third places went from physical to virtual and the next soap was set on Facebook, but forums such as the Good Funeral Guide are indeed the contemporary equivalent of the 17th-century coffeehouse!

Coffeehouses were places where people gathered for caffeine-fuelled discussion of topics ranging from politics and philosophy to fashion and gossip.

From Christopher Wren to Samuel Johnson, they attracted more virtuosi and wits than the taverns, the absence of alcohol creating an atmosphere conducive to serious conversation (apologies for the times I’ve posted on GFG when under the influence!).

While some vocal GFG debaters might wish more regulars shared their wit and wisdom, many would agree that Charles Cowling has provided a welcoming third place in which to discuss the politics, philosophy and fashions of Funeralworld.

Nor is GFG a forum devoid of face-to-face dialogue thanks to the Good Funeral Awards. People who have got to know each other’s views online have met in person.

Not being in the trade myself, I’ve declined an invitation to the awards but I did drop by the Southbank Deathfest at London’s Royal Festival Hall in 2012. Vale, reviewing it on this blog, wrote:
‘Through the door and, whoop! there are old friends and GFG regulars – Sweetpea, Belinda Forbes, Charles (whose phone rings constantly so that he is no sooner there than darting off again) and Gloria Mundi. There seemed to be friends of the GFG everywhere. Our religious correspondent Richard Rawlinson, Ru Callender, Fran Hall and Rosie Inman-Cooke at a very lively NDC stand, Tony Piper and then GFG heroes like Simon Smith from Green Fuse, Shaun Powell from the Quaker initiative in the East End, helping poorer families to a good funeral. James Showers, Kathryn Edwards too. Who have I missed out? Who did I miss?’

It was indeed fun even though this so-called religious correspondent felt somewhat in a minority. Having just been introduced to Ru, he then introduced me to his friend from the British Humanist Association, describing me as ‘on the other side’!

Perhaps I was being paranoid but I also thought Vale observed me as a suspicious curiosity, too! Vale, Charles and the ever-charming Gloria Mundi accompanied me to a champagne reception marking an exhibition of whacky Ghanaian coffins. It’s a small world even when it isn’t ‘your world’ as I happened to know both the party’s host and the photographer hired to snap the event.
Happy 2015 to GFG and all who sail in her.

An Irish Funeral in Birmingham

Wednesday, 31 December 2014




Posted by David Hall

With Vintage Lorry Funerals website displaying David Hall’s contact details, some Families seek to book the 1950 Leyland Beaver directly to avoid the margin that some Funeral Directors seek to impose.

David’s mobile is always switched on, apart from when he is involved with a funeral, when the silent mode is set up. However, some Families ring David in the evening knowing that he will take a call in contrast to most Funeral Directors who transfer their calls to a night service after 1630 hours. On Boxing Day 2011 David was at home with his family when his mobile rang. Initially he thought that it was his Sister wishing him Greetings of the Season, but it was a Birmingham Family whose Dad had just passed away.

When the funeral details were confirmed by the Funeral Arranger, she was surprised that David had asked for the contact details for the Florists and refused to provide this information. David spoke with the Family, got the contact details and quickly had an idea for a layout once he knew the description of the Floral Tributes. Cognisant that the Family were originally from Ireland, David saw a way of including a Tricolour Flag within the display and the Contact Person in the Family thought this concept was amazing and asked David to keep this development secret from the rest of the Family.

On the morning of the funeral David arrived early at the Funeral Directors affording him plenty of time to load the flowers which included three ‘Name Tributes’. When David was in the middle of assembling the display the Funeral Arranger apologised for not being on the same wavelength regarding information on the flowers. She obviously had expected that the flowers would be of low priority and positioned on the deck around the coffin as if they were in a hearse. She explained that she never had anticipated a multilevel display and couldn’t have imagined the amount of work involved building the support structure. Normally David sketches out his ideas on a layout and emails this drawing to all interested parties, however, the secret regarding the use of the Tricolour meant that this procedure could not be followed on this occasion.

In addition to the ‘Name Tributes’ there was a ‘Gates of Heaven’ which David placed near the Head of the coffin to create the image as if the Deceased had passed through the Gates of Heaven and this meant a lot to the Family.


There were a number of  smaller wreaths and a posy which included two Meerkat statues to depict the TV advert featuring these animals which was a favourite of the Deceased.   


The off-loading and re-loading at the Church went according to plan. However, as the vintage lorry approached the graveside at the far end of the cemetery it was evident that something was badly wrong. As David was starting to remove the ratchet straps, he was advised to stop as apparently the wrong grave had been dug. Tragically the Mourners had to wait until a new grave was prepared in a distant location near the entrance. As David had driven into the cemetery a host of cars had followed the lorry and the drivers had deposited the cars hurriedly either side of the cemetery road near to graves. Consequently the way back to the entrance would very difficult with obstacles on either side to be avoided. The Contact Person in the Family accompanied David as he surveyed the route and got some of the cars removed. There was plenty of time to do this as the delay was over 90 minutes.

Having started at 0400 hours and never eaten since leave home, David’s blood sugar levels were getting low at 1400 hours. David needed to eat his sandwiches. However, he felt that it would be inappropriate to eat in front of the mourners, who would also be hungry. David called the Head Mourner across to his lorry and quietly explained his predicament. David offered him his Toffee Crisp but the Head Mourner politely declined David’s kindness, telling him he could eat what he wanted.

Although it wasn’t appropriate to share his thoughts with the Family he couldn’t help relating the events happening before his eyes in the cemetery, with the 1971 Morecambe & Wise Christmas Show, which featured the Andre Previn sketch. In front of David one man was working frantically and a number of people were wondering how this could have happened, telling him that he had dug the wrong grave. David felt the Grave Digger should have responded with, ‘I’ve dug the right grave, but not necessarily in the right part of the cemetery.’


It’s a wrap

Tuesday, 23 December 2014


pic source


The private ambulance is on its way, porters are bringing up the mortuary trolley and the nurses in the ICU are disconnecting tracheostomy tubes, dialysis lines, catheter and ventilator. Soon the Old Year will be flatlining. Farewell 2014 ur a legend RIP. 

Here in the GFG-Batesville Tower, where our annual Christmas party is presently in full wrecking-ball swing, the entire, massed team wishes you a very happy Christmas and an immense New Year. 

Thank you for reading. Thank you for blogging — if you did. If you didn’t, well, there’s a new year resolution for you. We’d love to hear from you. The GFG is for everybody.

Our tongue is stilled. But we’ll be back on 1 Jan 2015* with… David Hall’s latest lorry hearse adventure, of course. 

* Terms and conditions apply


TERMS AND CONDITIONS – In accordance with the terms of the Mortality (Sudden and Arbitrary) Act the Directors of the Good Funeral Guide CIC offer no assurance or guarantee conditional or otherwise, implicit or explicit, that either they or you will be extant in 2015 wherefore the statement “We’ll be back” may be construed as amounting to no more than an expression of conventional seasonal courtesy signifying no other than an aspiration or desideratum and not a binding undertaking. 

We rise again!

Monday, 15 December 2014



Sorry if you missed us. Something to do with hostile action by corporate enemies of the GFG the server. A huge thank you to Ian ‘Harry’ Harris at Carronmedia for his delicate touch with a big spanner and cold chisel. There was an uncomfortable period when we thought there might be no way back. 


The PM who was cremated before his funeral

Tuesday, 2 December 2014




Posted by Richard Rawlinson

Neville Chamberlain (above) died from cancer on 9 November 1940, just six months after he resigned as Prime Minister.

Winston Churchill, his successor, paid tribute to him on 12 November despite the two men having disagreed over the ‘appeasement’ of Hitler: 

‘Whatever else history may or may not say about these terrible, tremendous years, we can be sure that Neville Chamberlain acted with perfect sincerity according to his lights and strove to the utmost of his capacity and authority, which were powerful, to save the world from the awful, devastating struggle in which we are now engaged’. 

This was no funeral eulogy but a speech at the House of Commons, the funeral not taking place until 14 November at Westminster Abbey.

But what stands out in this sequence of events is that Chamberlain was cremated at Golders Green on 13 November, the day before the funeral, and with no ceremony and just two members of his household present. See the newspaper announcement here

This break with convention is confirmed in a British Pathe newsreel showing guests arriving at the Abbey ‘to pay homage to the ashes’ of a man of peace — here

It’s easy to assume this order had something to do with London being under constant threat of German bombing raids. The distinguished funeral gathering was deliberately not publicised in advance. Perhaps fuel rations were a consideration: why waste time and money driving from Westminster to Golders Green and then back again for the interment of the ashes?

However, the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey had some form in being an unlikely champion of cremation due to limited space in a building much in demand for the interment of notable figures. In 1905, the ashes of actor Sir Henry Irving became the first to be interred at the Abbey. By 1911, the dean was insisting the body of botanist Sir Joseph Hooker be cremated if he was to secure a grave in the nave by Sir Charles Darwin. Hooker’s widow declined and buried him in a churchyard at Kew instead.

The practical approach to Chamberlain’s funeral is not the only reason it compares to the modern trend for simplicity. When Churchill awarded him the Order of the Garter, he declined, stating he would ‘prefer to die plain ‘Mr. Chamberlain’ like my father before me, unadorned by any title’. His grave is marked by a modest stone, below.

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Death Poets Society

Friday, 31 October 2014



Love and Loss: Poetry at funerals and in bereavement

Sunday 2nd Nov, 8pm

North London Tavern, Kilburn High Road

Tickets £8 through and on the door

 Bereavement can lead people to seek solace in poetry for the first time, or indeed, to express themselves by writing their own poetry for the first time. Discussing and reciting poems written in anger, confusion, sadness or celebration are:

Roundhouse_Poetry_Slam_Final-391Jack Rooke – stand-up poet and comedian from Watford. Jack is an associate artist of The Roundhouse and a part of Soho Theatre’s Comedy Lab 2014.
Jack hosts the award-winning stand-up poetry night Bang Said The Gun, the poetry/comedy Amphitheatre at Bestival and has created work for The Independent, Cosmopolitan, BBC Radio 1, The Guardian and Channel 4. He is also an ambassador for male suicide prevention charity CALM and curates the ‘Save The Male’ showcases to raise awareness that suicide is the biggest killer of young men in the UK.

kilburn_03Tim Wells – poet
‘London poetry landmark’ – TLS
‘suedehead bard of N16’ – the Guardian
‘bizarre character from the East End’ – The Times
‘a neatly twisted line in rhetoric’ – NME




Catherine Fried – sculptor, writer and authority on the work of her late husband Erich, a best-selling poet in Germany and his native Austria. As a boy of 17, Erich Fried fled the Holocaust for England and settled in Kilburn where he lived and worked for 30 years. Much of his poetry was political.  Later he was celebrated for his love poems.  He also wrote about death.


staff_Richard-PuttRichard Putt – a director of Leverton & Sons.  With 42 years’ experience as a dedicated funeral director, he is the ideal barometer of changing funeral traditions and the increasing importance of poetry in the lives of the bereaved.




 Audience members will also be invited to recite short poems of their own.

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