If you’ve always supposed you’d have to be weird or warped to be an undertaker you’d be exactly wrong. Weirdoes may be attracted to the trade—there are some—but they don’t last. Emotionally needy people are drawn to it, too—those who feed off the grief of others. They don’t last, either.
Some are born to it—those who go into the family business. These may, some of them, lack the zeal of their undertakerly ancestors, but they are seduced by attractive financial returns for comparatively little hard work. They can pay other people to do that.
Those not born into funeral directing, let’s call them the vocational undertakers, are drawn to the work, most of them, not because they like being around dead bodies but because they like being around living people. That really is ninety per cent of their motivation. It is important work they do, helping the living through difficult times by looking after their dead.
They probably like putting on a bit of a show, too. The dressing-up bit can be a catch.
Of course, there are those who are just in it for the money. But it is difficult to get rich quick in undertaking. It takes years to build up a business. And most Brits reckon the only good funeral is a cheap one, so margins are small.
You don’t need to be an academic high-flier to become a funeral director. There are few other jobs that could make many of them feel so important. It’s not the sort of job that attracts middle class people, and most of them aren’t.
Every day is different. There’s variety. Every funeral is a drama. The hours aren’t brilliant—you can be called out in the middle of the night—but, except in big cities, the work for most is not grindingly hard unless you work for one of the conglomerates, Dignity or Co-op Funeralcare.
There is normally a lull in the summer and a busy patch after Christmas.