Hail and farewell to the Mystery Mourner

Charles Cowling


Inspired by the format of Come Dine With Me, Guardian commenter BaddHamster is “currently developing a variation on the theme called, Come Pine With Me, where four recently bereaved people take turns visiting each others’ funerals and rating each other on the booze, grub, style of coffin, service, general mourning etc…” 

It’s a nice idea, and as I contemplated it my mind moved sideways and recalled the mischievous website Ship of Fools, for people who “prefer their religion disorganized. Our aim is to help Christians be self-critical and honest about the failings of Christianity, as we believe honesty can only strengthen faith.” 

One of Ship of Fools’ gently disruptive activities is to dispatch a Mystery Worshipper to churches all over the world to appraise their worship packages. The reviews are arch, sometimes waspish, but essentially affectionate. Anyone can sign up to be a Mystery Worshipper. 

Which brings us to what would be a very interesting and revealing experiment. Wouldn’t it be fun if the GFG could open up another front and somehow do the same for funerals? Our Mystery Mourners could report back candidly and drily on ambience of venue; mood of mourners; comportment of undertaker; type of coffin; description of ‘floral tributes’ (what we used to call flowers); type of officiant; style of ceremony; quality of delivery; general upliftingness; poems and readings; music; content of eulogy… 

It falls at the first fence, of course: too tasteless and intrusive for words.

But it doesn’t invalidate the role of subversive, humorous examination of the way we do funerals. Where there is complacency, let there be laughter. 

Find Ship of Fools here

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gloria mundi
10 years ago

Er…was that you lurking at the back of the crem last week, Charles? Do it again, and I shall call you out…

Just a brilliant idea.

10 years ago

May Harold of “Harold and Maude” fame live on.

Paul Hensby
10 years ago

Serial funeral junkies, mystery mourners, rating the funeral for quality of food, booze, music…I love where this is going, guys.

Rupert Callender
10 years ago

Not such a bad idea Charles. As you know, a funeral is technically a public event, though it is obviously easier to unobtrusively infiltrate a church or crem than it is a huddle of mourners around a grave. Alan Coren’s funeral was targeted by a group of serial funeral junkies, written up brillaintly by his daughter Victoria. Bring it on.