Charles Cowling

Photo Copyright © 2011 Lee Mitchell, LMX Creative, All Rights Reserved

No, I’m pleased to tell you. Reports are exaggerated. I remain sentient, mostly. Thank you, all those of you who have emailed to express concern. You’ve added to my guilt, but I am very touched.

I’ve been busy – busy with stuff and busy thinking. It’s the thinking that’s kept me away from the blog.

I’ve been preoccupied with paralysing existential brooding concerning the GFG.  I’ve suffered a major identity crisis. I’d be interested to know what you think.

My first and lesser concern has been sustainability. Can the GFG begin to break even at the very least? It runs at a lean and hungry loss at the moment, and that’s silly. ‘What was your business plan?’ I hear you ask. Never had one. I’m a believer in muddling through and seeing what happens. Even planners look back and agree that that’s the way it actually works. My guiding idea has been that if you can be of value to people then you can charge a little for that. I fancy the GFG to be of value to some FDs and providers of services and merchandise. I am proudest of all that it’s helped to keep Yuli Somme busy making her Leafshrouds. The GFG is of value to consumers, too. There ought to be a revenue stream there. Potentially, there is. The GFG just needs a better business head on its shoulders.

My principal concern has been identity. Does the GFG need to exist? What is it for? Last night I happened upon a Catholic blog which, it seems to me, expresses the idea of the GFG very well. The writer begins by saying, I have had a morbid interest in that particular blog for some time,’ and goes on to say:

‘it is an excellent resource to get to grips with the confused secular world and its prevailing attitudes towards death and dying.’ [Source]

That’s it! That’s what we spend a lot of time doing here. So: the GFG is a little think tank. It is earnest, altruistic, mischievous, angry, sad, sometimes bonkers, always serious, never self-serving. It is rooted in things as they are. It seeks to compete with no one and to respect all (almost). It is capable of influence and even authority – and, dammit, we want to change things.

It is the contributions of its loyal commenters, the discussions they have, which bring, in a good month, upwards of 19,000 people to the site. Sure, not all of those get beyond the home page, and I don’t know how many actually go through to the blog. But the name of the GFG is well and widely known; it has readers in many countries. As they say in smart circles, its brand value is high.

But the GFG is presently not growing and maturing, which means, does it, that it’s dying? If it is to mature, how is it to do that? By transitioning from one-man-band to some sort of partnership which formalises what it already is?  Is that what it actually is? (I’ve never been big on egotism; it would be a relief if it were.) Were it to become a partnership, what would the organisational architecture look like?

Maybe I am toying with ideas above my station. Sure, I am ambitious. I’d like us to shout louder and make an impact on public opinion, not leave the field open to Funeralcare and SunLife. But I am possibly being hubristic, and if so you’ll holler ‘Back in your box, Charles’. I can take it. There’s always something next.

Whither?

 

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Belinda ForbesJehdeiahsweetpeaJanice HuttonJudith Recent comment authors

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Belinda Forbes
Guest

Well said Mr J!

Jehdeiah
Guest
Jehdeiah

Came back here for a prowl via a link on facebook
I heard a nice quote the other day at a tedious film
“It’ll all be alright in the end. and if it’s not alright – it’s not the end.”

sweetpea
Guest
sweetpea

No real practical suggestions at the moment, Charles, but instead some inspiration from Salman Rushdie:

‘A poet’s work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world and stop it from going to sleep.’

Janice Hutton
Guest

Oh my gosh. I have just come back from Holiday, to find Charles Cowling has died. There he is laid in the most awful coffin three sizes too small, I wonder which priviledged FD measured him then???? —- Oh, actually it’s not true – In the words of Joyce Grenfell – Charles “Don’t do that”. You have just given me a terrible shock. Now — on a more serious note. The Good Funeral Guide is a wonderful site, the book is fantastic, a MUST for any bereaved family, and in a prominent position on our company book shelf. If you… Read more »

Judith
Guest
Judith

Well, you could always make money out of people like me!

I am a researcher into contemporary attitudes to death and dying and the practices that represent them….

If you were to say ‘young lady, I will host an online questionnaire for you and encourage my nice online friends to respond for x pounds’ I would be there with my donation faster than you could say ‘ethical approval committee!’

gloria mundi
Guest

Charles, fruitful new ideas for consideration from James.Some blogs, I notice, just have a Paypal thingy for donations – why not? We’d all trust you to use it to defray expenses, and although it won’t pull in thousands, it might help a bit. Sponsorship – why ever not? Membership – ditto. You might not want to charge for recommendations by the GFG, but membership would be a simple matter of showing one was part of something – The Good Funeral Society, as it were. Set a good sensible sub for us, and issue your nice calligraphic logo to all members… Read more »

james
Guest

Dear departed – I hope you are buoyed up by the enthusiatic comments from all sides. I – like others- am not an the least surprised. You, and the GFG and the Blog are fab. Noticeably absent, however is much advice, which if followed would plug up the drain on your hard-won pension that GFG apparently represents. Kindle? Ads for things/services? Sales of something? All good food for thought perhaps. But more ideas needed I think: * Fee for membership? (Sign me up please) * Roadshows/workshops for professionals to upgrade their skills to meet the expanding counter culture? * After… Read more »

Charles Cowling
Guest
Charles Cowling

Thanks GB. My publisher seems to be too ivory tower to do this. I’ve urged, but to no avail. Lovely people, they inhabit a C18 mindset.

Graveyard Bunny
Guest
Graveyard Bunny

“Does the GFG need to exist?” Yes!! Also, to be slightly more helpful, have you considered publishing it in Kindle format? I’ve heard that it can be quite lucrative.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

One of the things I love about GFG’s commenters is we all seem to start not by thinking, “I need money, what can I do to get it?”, but, “I need to do this to realize a vision, how can I pay the rent from it without compromising it?” A concordant voice is the one that ulitmately gets heard because it’s the only one not adding to the cacophony, the only one comfortable to listen to. And I think the reason we keep going is that we can always hear it in our heads above the din, and know it… Read more »

Gail Rubin
Guest

Charles, you know we love you over here in the U.S.A. too! Don’t give up. I think all of us funeral bloggers are struggling to find a way to make this endeavor pay off monetarily. The immediate rewards of helping people – “priceless.”

Great photo, by the way!

Paul Hensby
Guest

John, you certainly can speak for me, and I couldn’t do better than this fantastic phrase: “(Charles’s blog) blog is our voice in a discussion about reclaiming our property – death – from its medical, religious, legal, professional and other purloiners, and returning it to our human community and embracing it in the loving and healing arms of the heart.”
A profound, subversive and utterly correct statement.
Thank you Jonathan and thank you Charles.

gloria mundi
Guest

Well, mon vieux, I hope the response so far has persuaded you to get out of that bloody box! You’ve succeeded in bringing together a bunch of people with overlapping interests and concerns in an important area – happily, we disagree from time to time, but we all support the GFG. Without it, I wouldn’t even be writing comments, reading good stuff, and thinking and learning all the time from you and your commentators. The GFG has helped my funeral practice to grow and mature, and to continue doing so, and it and its satellites have helped me progress my… Read more »

Rupert Callender
Guest

Monitored by the Roman Catholics! How very Dan Brown..

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

First things first, old chap, I’m sure I can speak for many of us when I say: a) We’re glad you’re not dead after all, and b) we’d all have been miffed if you hadn’t asked us to conduct your funeral, so c) please don’t die. As to the sustainability of the GFG; if hard cash is an issue then I for one would be glad to stump up a few bob to keep this unique resource active (architecture and business head assumed to be in place) and help it become more pro-active. It may not be strictly irreplaceable, but… Read more »

Comfort Blanket
Guest
Comfort Blanket

The fact that you have been much missed gives you a clue as to the value of your blog, your website, your book and, most importantly YOU! The sustainability of GFG in hard cash may be a conundrum (for the moment) but your contribution to both consumers and those of us ‘in the business’, in one form or another, is priceless. Perhaps you need to change the name – from The GOOD Funeral Guide to The UTTERLY BRILLIANT Funeral Guide. As for ‘ideas above your station’, that’s crazy. You, of all people, are living proof that ‘a man’s reach should… Read more »

Kingfisher
Guest

Chin up Charles. You don’t fit in that coffin, and the lid won’t go on. Likewise the GFG.

Paul Hensby
Guest

Never go into the box…you are much better thinking outside it, not ticking it, leaving the lid off, opening it from the wrong end, turning it into post modern installation art. As for a business plan, I didn’t get where I am today having a business plan! You’ve got a brilliant idea and it will work…everybody will have a funeral. There are good ones and there are bad ones. Increasingly we will want, and our loved ones will want us to have, good funerals. And who will they turn to when you turn away? Sorry, that’s a Last Song. Who… Read more »