result of that was yours truly constantly having to dodge the unwanted
attentions of some goon dressed in knight’s armour welcoming everyone to the
show. In an effort to avoid him I tried making a break for the bird of prey
display, only to be snared en route by representatives of a printing company
specialising in bespoke memory books. That was fifteen minutes of my life I
won’t get back again.
due no doubt to austerity measures, the ‘high-heeled hotties’ on the vehicle
coachbuilders’ stands were conspicuous by their absence. They’d been replaced
by ‘earnest chaps in corporate polo shirts’. This sinister and wholly unwelcome
development didn’t do anything to deter the constant stream of dreamy-eyed Top
Gear devotees gathering to admire the latest space-aged hearses and limousines,
but it did cause an interesting side-effect: it meant they all gave the
chocolate fountain a wider berth. With no leggy temptresses there to lure them,
the visitors who’d really only pitched up for their fix of chocolate were
instead hovering round the fringes of the stand like a herd of Zebra who’ve realised
there are crocodiles lurking in their favourite watering hole.
the thing that struck me most this time around was the huge shift in emphasis towards
‘after market’ merchandise. And in saying that I should point out that was
actually the terminology some of those exhibitors used! The concept of ‘after
sales’ has traditionally been associated with the automobile industry,
consisting of the totally necessary elements of servicing, spare parts or
accessories. But the emergence of a similar market for funerals is to me
symptomatic of the creeping commercialisation / Americanisation (choose your
preferred adverb) of the funeral profession and I have to admit it’s a development
I’m a bit suspicious of.
the thing is, the idea of having a sample of your loved one’s ashes infused into
an item of memorial jewellery, added into decorative glassware, or even turned
into a memorial diamond if you feel so inclined, has been around for a while
now. But the Diamante-finish ashes casket is an altogether newer and to my mind
slightly garish concept. I’m no fan of Diamante-anything anyway, but just
because you can stick Swarovski crystals all over something doesn’t mean that
if that bit of ‘The Only Way Is Essex’ styling wasn’t enough, it seems that for
monumental masonry the coming thing is to have a ‘QR’ code plaque fitted, so visitors
to the grave can scan it with their smartphone and instantly access a digital
tribute (complete with photo’s or even video’s). I honestly don’t know whether that
sort of thing has a value or not.
thing is certain though. I can well imagine a disturbing sea-change happening
in cemetery tourism as a result. At the moment people find hours of entertainment
in searching out humorous Victorian epitaphs such as:
Here lies I and my
Kill'd by drinking Cheltenham waters;
Had we a'stuck to Epsom-salts
We’d not a bin lyin in these 'ere vaults
it’s not hard to imagine the mobile phone-obsessed, next generation will probably
go round looking for QR codes that link to a YouTube video of the deceased’s
last moments obligingly captured by a passer-by with a smartphone.
Treasured memories of
Tragically taken from us
on 10th July 2015,
aged 50 years.
(scan the QR code to
watch a video of the moment
he lit a cigarette in
a petrol station)
my mind, the emergence of the ‘after market’ concept could end up becoming a significant
downside to the increasing personalisation of funerals. It will inevitably open
the door to further rampant commercialism. If I displayed every leaflet from
every prospective supplier that approaches me I wouldn’t have time to be arranging
funerals. Instead I’d be running a showroom for bespoke-designed coffins,
online memorials and a jewellery shop for diamonds made from ashes.
I love your engagement ring!”
it’s my mother.”
mean it was your mother’s ring?”
it’s my mother.”
James Baker owns and runs Fred Stevens Funeral Directors of Nailsworth, Glos.
He is the author of “A Life In Death – Memoirs Of A Cotswold Funeral Director”