Category Archives: Uncategorized

It’s what they don’t tell you

Thursday, 13 February 2014



Two questions sent by the GFG to Nottinghamshire CC registrars on 30 Jan 2014. The first relates to the marketing of Notts CC civil celebrants. The second relates to the proposed ‘Living Eulogy’ service as outlined here.

Question 1

In your bereavement guide you advertise (pp 25 28) the services of your in-house funeral celebrants. In the text there is no reference to the existence of independent, freelance funeral celebrants. Inasmuch as there exists a free, open and competitive market in funeral celebrant services, I would be grateful if you would explain to me why this should not be construed as anti-competitive behaviour on the part of the Council amounting to a restrictive practice, which I understand to be, according to the Oxford Dictionary: “an arrangement by a group of workers to limit output or restrict the entry of new workers in order to protect their own interests”

Question 2

The proposed ‘Living Eulogy‘ service will invite people to: “allow individuals to work with registrars to make their own choices about their funeral ceremony”. If this project goes ahead, does the Council intend to make it absolutely clear that funeral wishes are not legally binding on the person who undertakes responsibility for the disposal of their dead body; that that person may make such disposal arrangements as they desire and are under no legal obligation to hold a funeral? This being the case, should the project go ahead, I hope the Council will urge clients to negotiate their funeral wishes with their close family, the people with whom they need to reach an understanding. I hope also that the Council will urge clients to take into consideration that any funeral ceremony is for the benefit for the living as well as the dead; that un-negotiated, prescriptive funeral wishes can have the effect of disempowering the living and inhibiting them from creating a funeral which is meaningful and emotionally and/or spiritually valuable for them. I would be grateful to have your reflections on this.

Reply from Robert Fisher, Superintendent Registrar:

Question 1 – regarding our ‘Bereavement’ publication:

The publication makes clear from the outset that it concerns the services offered by Nottinghamshire County Council.  The Council is able to provide these under the provisions of the Local Government Act 2000 and the Localism Act 2011.   Nevertheless, in the interests of providing comprehensive information, we do include a section on ‘Funeral Options’ including  religious and humanist ceremonies, plus ‘Useful Contacts’ section.   Also, we are happy to accommodate advertisements by others who offer related services, and for example, there is a two-page advertisement of A. W. Lymn Funeral Service.   This is the first time we have produced this particular document, and we will be keeping it under review with a view to possible further expansion and improvement of the information in future editions.  Consequently, I am asking our Service Development Manager to be mindful of your message when reviewing the document.

Question 2:

Thank you for your observations and helpful suggestions regarding our proposed ‘Living Eulogy’ Service.  We have only just now received approval for this service , and so we have yet to take our first booking.   However, feedback from users of our other services indicates there is significant public interest in asking registrars to help individuals to record the sentiments they wish to pass on to family and friends after death.  I understand fully your point that any funeral ceremony is for the benefit for the living as well as the dead, and I will ensure that our lead manager has embraced this point in the detailed operating procedures for delivery of the service.  Equally, from my own personal experience, I know there are occasions when the existence of a record of the deceased wishes would  have been very helpful in settling disagreements amongst relatives regarding the format and content of a funeral service.  Consequently, it is my sincere wish that the County Council’s ‘Living Eulogy’ service will make a useful contribution to the range of options available to the public when planning for and experiencing bereavement.



All that we are not

Friday, 24 January 2014



Back in the day – it feels like pre-history but it’s only 5 years – there was very little buzz around death (poor metaphor, I know).

Now there’s an ear-shattering din.

Back then, in a spirit of open-minded curiosity, I’d blog up anything that caught my eye — arty stuff, Goth stuff, silly stuff, serious stuff, funny cartoons… something for everybody. There’s no trick to it, just a preparedness to slog through Google Alerts, Pinterest, Vimeo, etc. Back then, people liked that – because there was virtually nowhere else to go for death stuff. It was a bit like being the only bar in a quiet, tiny fishing village way off the beaten track. Life was uncomplicated.

The little fishing village became Benidorm. There’s thousands of us, now, it’s got very competitive. Facebook’s been the game changer, the crack cocaine of social media, the essential promotional tool for everybody. The appetite for eyecatching ooh-ah stuff is huge and you can follow the numbers clicking your posts. It’d be addictive if you were a twat. Post anything requiring much more than 4 secs attention and you’re likely to be passed over. I know, I’ve experimented.

It’s not all bad. We had a chat on FB last night about whether Roy, had he followed his heart and kept Hayley at home, would have had to get her embalmed. There was a flurry of comments and the anti-embalmers ran out winners 4-0. There’s a lot of really good stuff on Facebook and there are some great new blogs.

Commentators on social media have their specialisms. The GFG has ceded territory. We don’t do instant-grat stuff from Pinterest any more, newcomers do that. We watch with a grandfatherly and slightly schizophrenic eye. Where does the GFG position itself in all this? Ans: two places at once. Our Facebook/Twitter presence is one place, the blog quite another.

The arty market has been staked out by an incursion of intellectuals, principally the Order of the Good Death and Death Salon. There’s heaps I like about them. Their fondness for morbidalia of all sorts from taxidermy to putrescence doesn’t float my boat, but no matter. The upcoming Salon in London, 10-12 April, looks very interesting. Well worth checking out. Tickets here.

So there’s lots of stuff we don’t do and there’s much that we aren’t any more. Have we lost ground? No. We know where we stand because we know what we are: a little consumer organisation focussed on improving the experience of ‘ordinary’ people needing to arrange a funeral. We’re not clever, we’re not exciting and we’re not fashionable. We try hard. Even if we were better at what we do we’d still be dull and a bit serious. Feels like home.

It ain’t Syria. There’s room for all of us.


In your prayers

Monday, 20 January 2014



Some sharp comment here in Monday’s Times by David Aaronovitch:

Death prattle

Pieties are by no means always religious. I don’t know when the practice began in this country of appending “our thoughts are with etc” to any tribute to the recently departed, but it has gone too far.

No one can argue with saying that someone who has died was brave, or made an important contribution, or even that he or she will be much missed. Nor, in circumstances of traumatic pain, such as those attending, say, a massacre or major terrorist incident, does it seem insincere to mention the relatives, friends and communities from which the victims came.

But now, almost every Prime Minister’s Questions is prefaced by the phrase “today our thoughts (and sometimes our prayers) are with his/her family”, followed by a set of exchanges proving, if nothing else, that the expresser’s “thoughts” were in no such place.

When Ariel Sharon died last week, at the age of 85 after eight years in a coma, Ed Miliband made a statement noting Mr Sharon’s “impact” on the Middle East and then saying: “My thoughts today are with his family after the many years of his illness.” The Norwegian Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, said the same thing.

I do not believe that Mr Miliband’s or Ms Solberg’s thoughts were with the Sharons. Has Ed even met the Sharons? It seems to me not impossible that that family was feeling hugely relieved — for Ariel Sharon and themselves — that this saga was finally over. So, shall we drop this unnecessary new habit?

Down To Earth is looking for a manager

Monday, 20 January 2014



Down to Earth manager

Full time, £30,656, 

One in five people cannot afford a funeral. QSA seeks a full-time manager to deliver an award-winning project, Down to Earth, which provides independent funeral advice for people on low incomes in east London. The position includes management, planning and delivery, as well as monitoring and evaluation. 

The ideal candidate has experience of delivering community projects. Experience of related sectors, such as bereavement, is highly desirable. Knowledge of end of life issues, funerals, bereavement and debt are all desirable. The role involves working with professionals and vulnerable people, so you will also be an excellent communicator, with the ability to engage with individuals from a wide range of backgrounds.

Please download the job pack (PDF) and application form (Word document, includes equal opportunities monitoring form)

The deadline for applications is 10am on Monday 3 February 2014. 

Interviews will take place on Tuesday 11 February 2014. 

Your number’s up and it’s 23

Wednesday, 15 January 2014



The American writer William S Burroughes  met a seaman, a Captain Clark, in the 1960s who told him that he had been sailing for exactly 23 years without mishap of any kind. That very day, Clark’s ship was lost at sea; it went down with all hands. As Burroughes pondered this news he heard a news bulletin on the radio reporting the crash of an airliner in Florida. The pilot was another Captain Clark. The flight was Flight 23.

Ever after, Burroughes became mildly obsessed with the number 23. He discovered, for example, that the bootlegger “Dutch Schultz” (real name: Arthur Flegenheimer) had Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll assassinated on 23rd Street in New York when Coll was 23 years old. Schultz himself was assassinated on 23 October. Charlie Workman, the man convicted of shooting Schultz, served 23 years of a life sentence and was then paroled.

According to Robert Anton Williams in the Fortean Times, “Heathcote Williams, editor of The Fanatic, met Burroughs when he (Williams) was 23 years old and living at an address with a 23 in it. When Burroughs told him, gloomily, “23 is the death number”, Williams was impressed; but he was more impressed when he discovered for the first time that the building across the street from his house was a morgue.”

Is there something peculiarly fateful about the number 23?

It is, after all, the number of a psalm often sung in… funeral services.

Nirvana star Kurt Cobain was born in 1967 and died in 1994. 1+9+6+7=23 and 1+9+9+4=23

However, the number 23 seems not to have been all bad for David Beckham. He wore the 23 shirt for Real Madrid and lives to tell the tale.

The number 5 is gaining ground. There are all those lists of 5 top regrets of the dying. Here are 5 facts about Americans’ views of life-and-death matters. But it’s easier to track this one back to its source: Kubler-Ross’s 5 stages of grief, of course. 

Do you have favourite deathly digit? 


Right, that’s your lot

Sunday, 22 December 2013



As 2013 totters down the pub for a festive pint, it’s time for us to hang up our trocar and call it a day.  

A big thank you to all our readers. An even bigger thank you to all our guest bloggers; you keep us fresh and unpredictable. Biggest thanks of all to Richard Rawlinson, our Holy See correspondent, and to Richard Hall whose monthly adventures in his vintage lorry hearse have already become an eagerly anticipated fixture. 

Please, if you ever feel like sounding off about something, send us your words and we’ll publish them (terms and conditions apply). The GFG blog is the Speakers’ Corner of Funeralworld. 

We know we ought to proudly and painstakingly list our greatest hits of the last twelve months, it’s what everyone does and it’s a proper and businesslike thing to do, but we simply can’t be arsed. My own personal highlight of the year was sitting up in bed one summer’s morning with my two-and-a-half year-old grandson chatting sagely about stuff. Come on, let’s get real, there’s more to life than death. 

We’ll be back soonish. In the meantime, have a terrific Christmas and a corking New Year. We have it on good authority that in 2014 all your dreams will come true. Onwards! 

Team GFG x

Eternal rest




‘Selfie’ at Mandela memorial service

Tuesday, 10 December 2013



Posted by RR

Was it okay or beneath their dignity for Obama and Cameron to lean in to a selfie with the leader of Denmark (Kinnock’s daughter-in-law) at the memorial service of Nelson Mandela? Michele comes across best here, IMHO.

Richard Mark Sage

Wednesday, 27 November 2013



Richard Mark Sage, also known as Mark Kerbey, until recently the owner of the Mary Mayer Funeral Home, Southend-on-Sea, is due back in Blackfriars Crown Court to answer a charge of fraud by misrepresentation on 2 December. He is presently on bail. 

Anyone seeking redress against this man should contact the police now. 

If you have any information about the case, please tell us.

An anxiety has to be the fate of the money Sage has taken for funeral plans. 




The new man fighting for ethics at the bank

Sunday, 24 November 2013



Posted by Richard Rawlinson

It’s a financial institution that should symbolise business and social integrity: mutual co-operation for the benefit of customers, employees and just causes. Instead, it’s scarred by dodgy financial transactions, cronyism and scandal.  

But despair not. There’s one man who may yet sort out the mess, a leader already showing remarkable ROI (return on investment) since taking charge of the wider organisation to which the bank belongs.

Not for him senior ranking officials lining the pockets of criminal drug barons and pimps. Neither hypocritical champagne socialist nor unbridled hedge fund capitalist, he’s bringing decency and common sense to the table. What’s more, he has plenty of experience of the funeral business and of distributing food to the needy.   

I’m referring to Pope Francis, who has brought in outside experts to the Vatican Bank to raise standards of transparency and probity, and investigate rumours of links to Mafia money laundering.

The Pope’s empathy with the downtrodden is resulting in an increase in church attendance around the world. He’s even replacing Obama as the pin-up of the secular left [see here ]

But he might not be so popular with everyone when he’s wearing his CEO hat to counter corruption and excessive bureaucracy within the Vatican itself. Some reports even claim the Mafia is already plotting to kill him.

I hope I’m right to be skeptical about such rumours. Italian mobsters are strangely pious: they do things like kiss their rosary before shooting an enemy’s brains out. They also rarely act before carrying out a cost-benefit analysis, and hitting the head of the Catholic Church would surely be a catastrophic own goal.

The GFG blog represents all points of view. If you’ve got something to say and an urge to say it, we’d be pleased to publish it here. We reach close to 2000 people every day, so this is a good place to get your message out. Send your words

A warrior’s sendoff

Saturday, 9 November 2013



It all started with an announcement in the Blackpool Gazette (above). 

Then it was taken up by Sgt Rick Clement of The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment. Rick lost both of his legs to an IED in Afghanistan. He runs a fundraising website “in order to give something back to the various charities that have helped me and my family on the road to recovery.

Rick put a message on his Facebook page echoing the call for people to attend the funeral of Harold Jellicoe ‘Coe’ Percival, who served in RAF Bomber Command as ground crew in world war two and thereafter led a nomadic life, much of it in Australia, before somehow ending up in Blackpool. He never married. All family ties had dissolved. 

The Facebook appeal went viral and was shared by comedian Jason Manford. It now looks as if there’s going to be a terrific attendance at Mr Percival’s funeral, which is scheduled for 12 midday on Monday (11.11). 

Well done to Mr Clement’s undertaker, Roland Whitehead and Daughter, for  their original announcement. And a big thank you from the GFG to the funeral worker in Blackpool who was kind enough to ring us up and tell us about this. 

Full story here


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