Category Archives: Uncategorized

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


A price worth paying for good value

Friday, 25 October 2013



How many shops do you know where the goods aren’t priced on the grounds that if you need to know the cost you can’t afford it? Outside a posh, celeb-prowled zone or two in London, my guess would be none.

Would you use a shop that didn’t display price tickets? Or a restaurant that didn’t have a menu in the window?

Or an undertaker who didn’t post their prices on their website?

That last question is a joke, of course. It would take an especially scullionly, vulgar little cut-price upstart to betray the dignity of a noble profession by doing any such thing. A Director of Funerals lives to serve the living by caring for their dead. He (or, okay, maybe she) is a member of a secular priesthood untainted by unworthy worldly concerns.

Enough satire, you protest. Cut it out. All right.

A great many good, decent, likeable undertakers agonise over whether to post prices on their website. They do this out of deference to the notion that to post prices would be to betray the decorum of their calling. Something like that. Nothing to do with upselling, of course. Truly. Good, businesslike undertakers despise upselling and build their margin into their professional fee, so they don’t need to.  

But failure to equip a potential client with what they need to know before they step into the premises places that client at a disadvantage that can only breed insecurity, cynicism and resentment. It looks like lack of openness. It is. It looks puzzling. It is. In an age in which shoppers do their price research on the internet before buying so much as a washing-up bowl, their inability to access this vital information in advance of the negotiation is a matter of angry frustration.

No wonder so many feel expertly ripped off.

The reason why so many good undertakers agonise over whether or not to post their price online is because they are torn between meeting the expectations of the market and deferring to the retrograde opinions of their fellow undertakers. Here’s a dilemma in which there can only be one winner. If you truly place the interests of your clients first, get em up there. Join the real world.

And stop spending so much time trying to impress each other.

This blog is no enemy of the principle of consolidation. A well-conducted corporate operator could bring great benefits to funeral shoppers. It was consumers who bankrupted the high street, remember, not Tesco, who simply offered the alternative of fresher, better, cheaper.

But the corporates operating in Funeralworld aren’t Tescos.  They’re not idiots, either. Their business model thrives because they know that bereaved people shop blind. It crumbles as soon as they start shopping with their eyes open.

If you can offer a handbuilt Morgan for the price of a mass-produced Fiesta, if you can offer a top-notch funeral for £500, £1000 less than Dignity and co, why on earth wouldn’t you tell the world about that? 

The price-savvy consumer is the good undertaker’s best friend. Get em up. 

WE ESPECIALLY LIKE Paul Sullivan, Kingfisher Funerals and Evelyn’s Funerals. Is there anyone we’ve missed? 

Up and coming

Wednesday, 16 October 2013



In Glasgow, Barbara Chalmers of Final Fling is organising a Day of the Dead festival which Barbara describes as ‘A small but perfectly formed celebration of life and death with art, chat and a bit of pop-up drumming.’ Dates are Sat 26 Oct and Sat 2 Nov. Sounds good to us; we are big fans of Barbara. 


Leela Osho


At Leela Osho in Dorset (above) Archa Robinson and team are holding one of their regular Living and Dying Consciously weekends on 8, 9, 10 November

Leela Osho2



Sunday, 29 September 2013



What Salvador Dali and Vincent van Gogh’s innards would have looked like if they looked anything like how they painted. 

Is Dawkins’s refusal to reassess Darwin a sign of unscientific denial?

Friday, 6 September 2013



Piltdown Man


By Richard Rawlinson

Richard Dawkins has said Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is ‘about as much open to doubt as the theory that the earth goes round the sun’. He’s said that ‘understanding evolution led me to atheism’, and that he’s against religion because ‘it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world’.

Many agree: evolution is touted as a reason for disbelieving in divine creation and the eternity of the soul. Most theists also believe in evolutionary theory, and disagree that faith and science are irreconcilable. They disagree they’re blocked from trying to understanding the world on many diverse levels.

Dawkins isn’t very good at uncertainty. He’s a ‘my way or the highway’ kind of guy. I wonder what he thinks about the fact that his views are increasingly under fire—and not by religious people but by scientists questioning his discipleship to Darwin. A staggering 800 eminent scientists from Yale and Cambridge to the Russian Academy have so far signed up as Darwin dissenters, calmly and rationally skeptical about the Neo-Darwinist theory claiming that natural selection, acting on random mutations, is the primary mechanism for the development of the complexity of life. See here

For decades, the media has regurgitated the scientific propaganda that only religious fundamentalists question Darwinian evolution. Clearly not so. And for decades, biology textbooks have been printing the illustrations of Darwinian Ernst Haekel, who distorted the differences between the embryos of worms, fish, birds, four-legged mammals and apes to imply man, like all species, stems from the same first cells emerging from primordial ooze.

This is far from the only time Darwin was propped up by less than scientific means. In order to prove Neanderthals were ancestral to humans, early 20thcentury paleontologist Charles Dawson announced he had discovered, in a gravel pit in Piltdown, the missing link that Darwinists needed. It was a skull which turned out to be a forgery, part human with the addition of an orangutan’s jaw, both chemically treated to make them look like a fossil.

Should educationalists stop propagating Darwin’s theory uncontested? His appeal seems to be that we desperately want to believe slime morphed into spineless worms, became aquatic skeletal creatures with eyes and fins, became amphibious creatures with legs and hair, and so forth. We want to believe Man is nothing more than an animal who happened to make himself supreme by creative brain power aided by manual dexterity.


It’s a theory that provides a neat answer to our deepest questions. But it’s science that’s evolved since the 19th century, and it’s both scientists and we the public who have remained reluctant to admit we may have got at least some of it wrong. Denial is now slowly changing to open receptiveness to possible new truths, even if the biggest truth of all is we still don’t know the answers. The Enlightenment is yet to come.

For an essay from an academic dissenter, see here.




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