We’ve scoured the known universe for the latest from Funeralworld and do you know, we found nothing worth drawing your attention to. Nothing.
Have a great week (nonetheless).
Did you know that the term coffin lid applies to a type of surfboard? http://bit.ly/1p2stFW
A much needed new funeral home was opened in Sutton Coldfield by local MP Andrew ‘The Pleb’ Mitchell and NFFD MD William ‘Safe Hands’ Eccleston. The new business has adopted the strapline “here to care for you and your loved ones now and forever”, a reflection, presumably, on the size of its mortuary facility – http://bit.ly/1U1h0nb
In Folkestone a Co-op lim was ticketed by a traffic warden – http://bit.ly/1RBwuZ3
The Guardian wrote about death apps like Everest (above): “Everest is just one of a wave of apps and digital services that are emerging to help millennials plan their own #authentic mortal passings, right down to Instagram-worthy funerals. Last fall, rival apps Cake and SafeBeyond were released within one month of each other, and both hope to streamline end-of-life planning into one simple app.” – http://bit.ly/21W1duC
If you were sealed alive in a coffin you’d last about an hour, new research shows – http://bit.ly/1R9qLiJ
A Hampshire woman died aged 104 in the house she was born in and which she had lived in for her whole life – http://dailym.ai/1Xff6NP
Staff at Taunton Deane crematorium took a tough line with memorialised grave: “The memorial was placed without the necessary permit or permit fee being paid, and without the grave owners’ permission. Therefore the crematorium staff removed the memorial.” – http://bit.ly/21l3idS
Times columnist Janice Turner had a chat with her florist: ‘She told me of a woman who every day had to take a loaf of bread to her difficult mother. It was always wrong: burnt, stale, too soft, too hard. And when she died, the daughter had a floral tribute made of a loaf. The florist calls it up on her iPhone, garnished with Babybels. Its implicit, passive-aggressive message was: “So is this bread OK for you, Mum?”
‘Then the florist beckons me into the back room: “You have to see this.” Her colleague is busy making a wreath featuring a silver ashtray. “Apparently this lady really loved a smoke.” Did she, um, die of cancer? “Dunno. But we’re doing the fag so it lights up at the end. It’s all in the details.”’
Is it good PR for an undertaker to give Easter eggs to a children’s hospice? http://bit.ly/1pzLRux
A US evangelical Christian blog carried this observation about funerals: “Our anti-sacramental impulse isn’t well-suited to an occasion that calls for sacrament. This is an occasion that calls for liturgy and ritual, and those just aren’t things evangelicals are inclined or equipped to supply.” http://bit.ly/1LWgq7u
A man in Utah shot himself dead on the lawn of a funeral home – http://bit.ly/1SFeYYJ
An insurance company that sells over-50s life insurance funded a survey that, among other things, discovered that “family and friends in the UK have spent collectively £4.8 billion on funerals for their loved ones over the last 5 years. And the research shows that to fund these funerals 2.7 million people have taken out some form of finance (credit cards, personal loans and payday loans) spending £1.6 billion.” There are other funeral cost findings in the report – Creative campaign FINAL (1)
The Times warned its readers against over-50s plans: “The problem is if you live an average lifespan you will lose out, paying in significantly more than you get out. Heather Morrice wrote to say that her parents always said that their funeral expenses would be met. When her mother became ill a year ago she was given the plan for safekeeping and was ‘aghast to discover that they would only get a fraction of what they paid in.'” (Article paywalled)
In Puerto Rica a dead man attended his funeral sitting in a chair with his eyes open (pic below) – http://bit.ly/1RginIc
Six in ten people ‘see’ their dead partner – http://dailym.ai/1RfipWT
An Australian woman was charged with burying her mum in the garden – http://bit.ly/21pSmf8
How contagious is a corpse? “Contrary to commonly held beliefs, corpses are very poor sources of contagion. It doesn’t matter whether they are fresh or stinking, bloated, green and covered with mould – http://bit.ly/24YwpZa
A grief app was launched in Canada – http://bit.ly/1nHaUKK
Have a great week.
funerals 2.7 million people have taken out some form of finance (credit cards, personal loans and payday loans) spending £1.6 billion.
Proudly flying the flag of the NFFD
Iraqi gravediggers are counting their blessings as civil war rages. One said: “To be honest about it, it makes us happy to do this job. We make a lot of money.” Suicide bombers are especially good for business. Another undertaker said “Many are incomplete. It depends what the family find. Sometimes we get just a leg or hand to bury. A couple of days ago I buried just two feet from one guy. “Saddam helped us a lot,” said another. “If he wasn’t at war he was always hanging people. Sundays and Wednesdays he’d hang men, Tuesdays he hanged women. So if other business was slow, at least we knew which days of the week to wait for the bodies of the hanged.” http://thetim.es/1prmsD7
In the Sunday Times Beatles biographer Hunter Davies wrote about his wife’s funeral. He wanted the minimum of fuss and was pleased with the Direct Cremation package offered by Leverton’s at £1900. The family designed and printed the service sheets and led the funeral ceremony – “I’ve always hated it at funerals when the person in charge has clearly never met the deceased”. The music was recorded on CD by Leverton’s and the final song was a cover version, not the real thing. Leverton’s rang and apologised and made a donation to Marie Curie. Leverton’s publish their prices online, setting an example all undertakers should follow.
Nice piece here on funeral food in the US deep south – http://bit.ly/1QvjtCB
Dead people in the Isle of Man can now travel to their funeral in a Morris Minor – http://bit.ly/1Ssfpp7
What’s a funeral stylist? Find out here http://bit.ly/1QXAHWf
The Undertaker is fighting in select venues in April. Book now – http://bit.ly/1R1u8Za
Scots are invited to be writer-in-residence at a funeral parlour to mixed reactions – http://bit.ly/1TjMWTJ
A funeral service was held on the A303 – http://bit.ly/21Q8wE5
The corpse of Padre Pio is going on tour – http://bit.ly/1QDAkRI
A man died hours after watching a video of his wife’s funeral in his hospital bed – http://dailym.ai/1ROaz3z
Golden Charter is booming – http://bit.ly/1pt0uQb
Cilla’s grave isn’t looking good – http://dailym.ai/21TsRVM
King’s College hospital cremated a man without telling his family he was dead – http://dailym.ai/1U4ZPjp
Two Swedes are proposing a vertical cemetery – http://slate.me/1TKTeuf
A funeral show in New Zealand attracted 2000 – http://bit.ly/1p0sBpB
An Australian man was found guilty of the attempted murder of a corpse – http://bit.ly/1U51BAT
That’s your lot. Have a great week.
I was rung up last year by a newbie undertaker who wanted the GFG to endorse his business. He had opened up in a small market town which already has a respected and established undertaker. Was he aiming to do anything different? No. Had he worked out the size of the market? No. It wouldn’t have taken him more than the few moments it took me. His town has a population of 13,000. The death rate is presently 9.34 per 1,000. So that’s 121.42 funerals a year. Throw in some local villages and you might get that up to 150. Divided between 2 undertakers, one with a big competitive advantage. I asked him why he had set up on his own. Usual story: he’d worked for an undertaker and always dreamed of being his own boss. He hoped it would work out. Why should it?
A little bit of market research goes a long way. We see very little of it in the funerals business, which is why there is such an oversupply of undertakers. The undertaker above is no one-off.
You can possibly help me here because I’ve been AWOL for months and I’m playing catch-up. Has there been any survey by, say, the NAFD or Saif in response to the social trends which account for the ongoing slow death of the traditional funeral as consumers increasingly opt for private funerals or direct cremation followed by a corpseless commemorative event – a celebration of life, a FD-less memorial service? Has anyone conducted a survey to find out what consumers are thinking and why? Considering that the business model of a full-service funeral home depends on people buying the complete suite of services, you’d think a little bit of existential angst might have prompted some market research.
Can any funeral director point to any market research, ever, which shows that bereaved people will beat a path to your door if you buy a new fleet of cars? That they think the marque and newness of your cars is a signifier of excellent personal service? That they give a toss about your cars?
We have regular surveys that tell us what consumers are doing – for example, what music they are choosing to play at a funerals. But precious few asking what they want. None that I can think of.
Progressive funeral people are no better. They think they know what’s best for bereaved people. They work from preconceptions. They like to say things like “Those trad FDs are the reason why funerals are so bad.” Where’s the evidence that these businesses are not giving people exactly what they ask for? “Funerals have been stolen from the people.” Is this what’s happened or did the people willingly hand over the whole shooting match to the undertakers? “I want to help families reclaim the care of their dead from the undertakers.” Is this what families actually want to do? How any of them? “People should be able to arrange a funeral that works for them.” Oh nice, what does that look like? “I want to open a funeral home that does things completely differently.” What’s the market need for that? How big is that market? “I want to help disadvantaged people arrange funerals they can afford.” Is there a living in that?
An element of hit-and-hope is always going to characterise any enterprise that seeks to break new ground. But you can only calculate risk if you have taken the trouble to get to know your market first and estimated the likelihood of being able to bring round waverers to the merits of what you’re offering. You leave as little to chance as possible, so you do the hard yards first.
More surveys, that’s what we need. More focus groups. A lot more marketing savvy. Above all, a lot more humility. Funerals are not the preserve of those who know best (and have nothing to learn) whether they’re old-school types with nothing to learn or middle-class so-called progressives.
A lot of people have set the world to rights on this blog, very cogently and persuasively. But it’s amounted to no more than preaching to the choir. The people we need to reach are the people who don’t take a continuous interest in death and funerals — the ones who check in to this website when someone dies and they need to act faster than they can think. Normal people. We need to ask them what they think.
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 – http://bit.ly/1QHl2Av
The CDAS newsletter is out, full of good things. If you’re not already a subscriber, sign up – http://bit.ly/1LO2aZf
Dead women are being dug up in China to be corpse brides for dead bachelors – http://bit.ly/1oHItNv This inspired London fashionista to include a corpse bride installation in her recent show – http://dailym.ai/1OHGoq0
Cremation is now legal in Greece. Our brothers and sisters in crematoria are intrigued by this cremator – http://bit.ly/1T3AmYt
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 – http://bit.ly/1TLnF4x
A discussion about funeral sex here – http://bit.ly/1QlRx5a
Sharp-eyed viewers of Happy Valley saw strangled Amelia Bullmore blink on the mortuary table – http://bit.ly/215TnZO
Old people who lose a partner are being fed antidepressants – http://bit.ly/1KPD8Ov
Kenya has a problem with necrophiliac mortuary workers – http://bit.ly/1oITP3Q
Good article by Rosie Inman-Cook of the NDC here – http://bit.ly/1RhL5eu
Disruptive startups are bringing the French funerals business up to date – http://bit.ly/20PFuyC
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? http://bit.ly/1VMFmih
That’s it. Have a great week.
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
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 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
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
Have a great week!
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 – http://bit.ly/1mAQBOq
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 – http://bit.ly/1SqcMos
One for the goths, a shop in Australia specialising in mortabilia – http://dailym.ai/1KPhlGq
A court in Belfast ruled that an unmarried partner is entitled to bereavement allowance – http://bit.ly/1KG82Zl
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.” – http://bit.ly/1Kj8SLK
Dr Michael Irwin counselled ‘Simon’s Choice’ subject, Simon Binner, about assisted suicide – .http://bit.ly/1LoomJb Remarkable man, Dr Irwin. If you’ve never checked out his organisation, SOARS, it’s high time you did – http://bit.ly/1SqegPA
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? – http://bit.ly/1Th7uuz
A man in Nigeria who neglected to marry his partner must now marry her corpse in order to enable her to be decently buried – http://bit.ly/1QAUkDK
A group of people in Farnborough hope to raise £5000 in order to convert a cemetery chapel into a columbarium – http://bit.ly/1KNhieh
Our friends at Flexmort have created this ingenious pop-up mortuary – http://bit.ly/1LooSqO
In the wake of the Mortonhall baby ashes scandal, Scotland looks like pulling back from licensing undertakers – http://bbc.in/1oBPP5h
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) – http://bit.ly/1SqfxpW
Finally, if you didn’t see it (it’s gruelling) you can still watch Simon’s Choice here – http://bbc.in/1XjDT3O
Have a great week.
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.
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.’