Charles 35 Comments


From a Co-operative Funeralcare press release:

Staff at The Co-operative Funeralcare in Copson Street are holding an open day between 10am to 2pm for residents to find out more about the work of a funeral director.

The horse-drawn hearse and  Only Fools and Horses’ fan hearse will be on display to illustrate how funerals can be tailored to individual needs and can help reflect the life of the deceased. A jazz band and piper will also be present, as other examples of how funerals can be personalised.

Visitors will be offered a guided tour of the funeral home, which features an arranging room and a remembrance room, be able to ask questions and view the distinctive hearses.

This is not the first open day Funeralcare has staged recently. They held one at Crouch End in September with the same format. The words of the press release are mostly interchangeable, showing how such a communication can be personalised. “Visitors will be offered a guided tour of the funeral home, which features an arranging room and a remembrance room.”

 They held one at Stockton, too: “It was a huge success,” said Manager David Knowles. “Around 60 people came throughout the day and were given a guided tour of the funeral home, which features an arranging room and three remembrance rooms.”

 The Good Funeral Guide applauds this spirit of openness. We think it will go a long way towards demonstrating to funeral shoppers that their dead will be beautifully looked after when in the tender care of Co-operative Funeralcare. 



  1. Charles

    ‘The horse-drawn hearse and Only Fools and Horses’ fan hearse’

    ‘how funerals can be tailored’

    ‘reflect the life of the deceased’

    ‘how funerals can be personalised’

    ‘distinctive hearses’

    These, Charles, are the things that evoke my own sarcastic comments, only I’m tired of makikng them!

  2. Charles

    It’s weary work, belabouring Funeralcare, Jonathan. I feel your fatigue. It’s only a spirit of penitential duty that keeps me at it.

    We could have a lively debate about the difference between a personalised funeral and a personal funeral if you like?

  3. Charles

    If by personalised you mean accessorised with lifestyle indicators, yes, Jenny. I definitely entertain misgivings about their generic nature. They seem to get no further than saying he/she was one of them (and one of them and one of them).

    But bespoke printed coffins and Crazy Coffins — they can be very personal.

  4. Charles

    Oh yes. My point, I think, was that most of the best ways of personalising a funeral I have come accross cost either nothing or very little. I hadn’t thought about it like that before, but you’re right…..a lot of the ‘personalisation’ has to do with which pidgeon hole you are put in. Ironic.

    1. Charles

      I’d love ‘a lively debate about the difference between a personalised funeral and a personal funeral’, Charles, soon when I’m not so busy with a funeral, which declares no defining identity for itself, including that one; and if I’m ‘personalised’ at my funeral, Jenny, I’ll come back and haunt them no matter how much or little they spent doing it!

  5. Charles

    I definitely want to have this debate. Some moving things have been unexpectedly happening at our simple cremations when close family and friends come to say a private, informal, unstructured goodbye. On separate occasions: a 25 year old daughter putting lipstick on all the women who then kissed the coffin, friends bringing pens and writing goodbye messages on the coffin, grandchildren writing letters and painting pictures to go on top of the coffin, a 9 year old grand-daughter pressing the button for the committal. None of these activities were suggested by us. They just happened. I think something to do with the lack of formality and structure. Either way, it’s the families making the experience personal, not us.

  6. Charles

    Poppy – it all sounds amazing – how lucky we are to do the jobs we do. Your comment is very thought provoking….I guess often that people feel constrained not only by us but perhaps by our very presence. One of the best things I have experienced was when an adult son wanted to be the one saying the last words before the curtains closed, and so to avoid the swap over for me to press the button I asked him if he would like to do it – his eyes instantly filled with tears as he whispered “Yes, yes I would.” It was as if I’d handed him the most precious gift ….and I discovered it quite by chance. I’ve been thinking about the physical ritual thing since Ru’s post ‘Naming Billy’. We need to have some more ideas like this.

  7. Charles

    One one blog you praise the Only Fools & Horses hearse, and on another you knock a funeral directors for letting the public know that it’s available………….. Its a funny old world……..

    1. Charles

      Personal vs personalisation is a digression, Simon. Let’s not get sidetracked. (Personalisation is definitely towards personal; but it takes more than just stuff to get there, as Poppy has demonstrated. It takes engagement.)

      The thrust of my argument, which seems to have fallen on stony ears, is that Funeralcare’s reputation has been rocked by the perception that they do not look after dead people with reverence and care. There’s not a single mortuary on display here, according to the press releases. (I admit my argument was implicit.)

      For that reason, I am inclined to describe this as distraction marketing.

      I love all alternative hearses.

    1. Charles

      I’d be happy for a funeral director to display the reverence and care that s/he brings to her or his custody of the dead.

      1. Charles

        Isn’t that because you’re on the inside Kathryn? What I think we constantly forget is that the vast majority of people would abhor the idea of seeing a mortuary. And many, many people would hate the idea that their relative was being ogled at an open day. In fact, it probably goes against the ethical code of practice that funeral directors ‘respect the confidentiality of the deceased’.

        And how does one show ‘reverence and care’ in a stack of mortuary fridges as exist at many funeral homes?

  8. Charles

    I was very impressed when, a few years ago, a funeral director local to me held an open day and included the mortuary. A number of people went to look and were impressed and, I dare say, relieved. The dead people were all snug in the fridge. The name board had been taken down. Their privacy wasn’t disturbed. There wasn’t anybody in the chapel of rest, either. I think a lot of FDs are happy to show enquirers their mortuary. A nothing-to-hide policy after all that we’ve seen on telly this year would seem to be advisable.

    1. Charles

      ‘Snug in the fridge’: exactly. With everything that is visible in the mortuary to be clean and tidy, so that processes can be explained, and such visitors as are interested in that department can glean that the ‘care’ is psychically wholesome.

  9. Charles

    I don’t really ‘get’ the relevance of the photo with this post. I assume it’s meant to be a bad thing? But why?

    If you showed a pile of cereal boxes or toilet rolls at a supermarket would that cause a stir? So why coffins at a funeral director’s? Funeral directors have deliveries of coffins, it’s a fact. It’s not distasteful or disrespectful or unhygienic or anything else is it?

  10. Charles

    I would think that most funeral directors would have the sense not to display deceased people to the general public. I would think that most funeral directors would have the respect and dignity to ensure they are resting and not been ogled at. Care and Dignity are so important when looking after peoples loved ones.

  11. Charles

    The photo references the Dispatches film Undercover Undertaker, Andrew. It was widely used in connection at the time and may even be a still from the film. I chose it for its resonance.

  12. Charles

    I take, and respect, everyone’s points of view, but still hold that there is a difference between being asked to see a mortuary (no problems with that) and having a mortuary open day (some issues there).

    Undercover Undertaker. Was that the one on which you told the world that embalming was shoving a 6 foot metal spike into their deceased relative Charles? It might not be, I just seem to have a memory of it.

    1. Charles

      The difference, to my mind Andrew, is that a lot of people wouldn’t like to ask but would be pleased to be offered the opportunity. Better, surely, for people to have a mental image of a reality that they must subject their dead relatives’ to, than a conjured picture built up of assumptions, fears, expectations, speculation….?

      1. Charles

        Better, yes, to our minds Jonathan, but we are on the inside of the profession. In the spirit of openness I often ask my clients if they would like to see my mortuary. The answer is, in all cases bar one, no.

        1. Charles

          That ‘one’ is interesting!

          And surely it’s for people in advance of their becoming ‘clients’ that the offer might be more timely?

        2. Charles

          And that’s the crucial thing isn’t it? That the offer is made. And, in making the offer, even if only one in a hundred take you up on it, there is an additional motivation to maintain your high standards and make sure everything is being done correctly.
          One of the problems highlighted by the television programmes was the evidence they provided of the culture that can grow up around areas that are regarded as private, where the bereaved don’t visit and the dead can’t complain. The offer of openness surely reduces the risk of poor practice emerging, encourages that sense of accountability that you find in the best practitioners.and will help build trust with your customers too.

    2. Charles

      My experience of embalming is that yes, a sharp metal aspirator is rather briskly poked around the abdominal cavity. Certainly not 6 foot, but in the cases I’ve seem ‘shoved’ is not an inappropriate description.

  13. Charles

    I think with regards Embalming being an embalmer myself the Trocar is inserted into the Right Atrium of the heart in order to remove blood from the deceased person. Some embalmers make a small incision before inserting the Trocar and others go directly through the skin. Embalming is a surgical procedure and many of the instruments used in Embalming are used in operating theatres for the living to have their surgery.

  14. Charles

    You would have thought that a family wanting to do the pall bearing was a pretty standard request.

    I have just got back from a day on the road and scaned my NDC emails. A family are asking for help because their undertaker wants an extra £700 for insurance to allow them to carry out granny’s wish.

    Waiting for them to get back with details. Giggling with disbelief into a glass of red. Any bets on who it will be?


  15. Charles

    the ‘Crouch End shop’ initially mentioned isn’t a ‘full scale hub facility’ simply a shop with a chapel – big deal, so what? and it certainly isn’t what I would call ‘a funeral home’, since that implies that all of the prep is done there, which as we know is far from the case

    yet more ‘trumpets’ from the mighty Funeralcare who continue to spend part of their profits on all of this media speak – if they really wish to make their mark in ‘broadcasting their wares’, then replies to Charles’ long outstanding ‘open letters’ will be far preferable – so how about it F’care??

    anyhow they’re clearly trying to muscle in on Dignity who have had the only F/D’s shop in Crouch End since gawd knows when


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