Monday, 27 April 2009

It was painful but it was worth it!

In April I joined the NAFD (Nation Federation Of Funeral Directors) as a supplier. Last Wednesday was the AGM and the first time I was to meet the Chilterns members. I’d been informed that these meetings were generally a chance have a catch up over a laid back beer and curry. In my eyes this was a perfect way to introduce myself to all the local funeral directors that I had not yet met and charm them with my good looks and talent!

I walk into the pub and see 2 men ‘fully suited and booted’ perched at the bar with a couple of pints - Ah ha, I can spot a funeral director a mile off! I smile and ask them if they are here for the NAFD meeting. They respond with a shy mumble! I interpret this as a very confused ‘yes’!

I go on to chirpily introduce myself and my company and explain that I had been invited to join the NAFD as a supplier. I asked their names and they managed to inform me in all of 4 words who they are and where they are from. I tell them that I recalled having spoken to them on the phone in the past – neither of them seemed to remember and then the conversation (if you could call it a conversation) slides into a somewhat uncomfortable silence! Both men seemed to be gazing desperately into their pints as if they were trying to summon a genie to get this strange girl out of their face!!!

I took the shunning on the chin, smiled and caught the eye of the barmaid. I ordered an orange juice and soda but if I was to be honest with you, all I wanted was a pint Guinness followed by a shot of anything from the top shelf!

So with my OJ in hand I smiled at the 2 men, who rapidly look back into their pints desperate for the genie to arrive! I once again I (painfully) tried to make conversation, and like a good English girl, I talked about the beautiful weather we were having. But they clearly did not want to respond. I was sinking and my confidence was taking a serious battering so I did what any girl does to get out an awkward situation ... I get my mobile phone out of my handbag and with an air of ‘professional busy business woman’ I check my emails while praying to the good ‘whoever’ above to make it ring so I can get the hell out this situation!!

3 or 4 minutes later a young funeral director walks through the door, suited and booted with a friendly smile on his face my heart lifts ‘ thank god’, I know who this guy is! We met a few years back. He says hello to the 2 men and chirps on about what a lovely day it is outside. It takes him a few seconds to look at me , I suppose he didn’t really click who I was, or why I was stood smiling at him like an eager puppy! I hold my hand out and say hey I’m Louise from Sentiment we met a few years back... babble babble babble and he sort of looks at me in a confused way, shakes my hand, orders a pint and starts a conversation with the other 2 men.

The 3 men didn’t include me in their conversation so I smiled and included myself... someone had to finally take note that I was there and I wasn’t going to go away!! More funeral directors came through the door and each time I was greeted with the same odd look, quick handshake and swift exit to the bar!! I wasn’t going to give in. Thank god a few guys walked in who I’d worked with in the past, they met me with a friendly warm greeting that filled my drained confidence tank up a few notches! Within minutes I was included in their conversations, and they started link me to funeral directors I had work for in the past. Soon they started to realise that I really do work in their industry and that I am a) not competition and b) actually quite interesting to speak with!

After the meeting the ‘quiet’ funeral directors that I had first encountered left ... it turns out it wasn’t just me they were being awkward with – I think they were just very shy, shocked I was there and I think maybe a bit old school?!

By the end of the night my stomach muscles hurt so much from laughing, and I’d managed to land myself as the party planner for the Christmas party. All in all it was a job well done and I’m actually looking forward to the next AGM in 6 months time.

Thanks to all the lovely funeral directors in the Chilterns area for making me feel so welcome.... ooh and for Peter who paid for my dinner!!!

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Radio gaga!

Just as I was running out the office on Thursday morning, I received a phone call from BBC Radio Berkshire asking me to speak live on air... I knew what it would be about straight away as I'd had 3 calls from various sources in the past 24 hours regarding the launch of the Co-operative Funeralcares survey regarding Music in funerals).

I was interviewed by Henry Kelly - here is the link:

(about 33.09 on the time line).

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Dont bring me flowers...

I’ve never been a massive fan of flowers for funerals. In my family we have always said no to flowers and asked people to donate to charity. I could never understand why people would spend £100 on a wreath that would be seen for an hour. I even tried to convinced a local florist a few years back to make ‘ reusable fake wreaths’ just to go on the coffin during the ceremony... I’m a bit of a scrooge!

Yesterdays funeral consisted of about £10,000 worth of flowers! I had never in my life seen so many flowers. There were 3 lorry’s, each over flowing with outstanding floral tributes. Each tribute was made into something unusual from the Tower of London, speed boats, Lorry’s, hearts, teddy’s, angels, shirts, cars and even Coke Cans – not a cellophane wrapped bunch of flowers in sight, just grand floral tributes in their hundreds! This could have been perceived as tasteless and over the top, especially as they dominated the entire cemetery, however I thought it was bloody wonderful - what a send off? How amazing that all these people emptied out their pockets to pay their respect with flowers to a good old working class man of the community... this is not a celebrity we are talking about just a great guy!

Yes, I’ve changed my mind - bring me flowers by the bucket load for my funeral, they are fab!

(I will post a still from the film as soon as I get permission from the family)

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Comin' for to carry me home

When I first set up Sentiment 3 years ago one of the first things I did was write my funeral plan. 3 years have since flown by, so last night I settled down to see what has changed... Surprisingly nothing drastic - other than the amount of input a funeral director has. In my original plan I had requested that the family call in the local FD and have them do everything - but not use their hearse because I want a bus!

Recently I decided that I didn’t really want the local FD to take over my funeral because I have come to believe it’s really important to have everyone involved (if they so wish). I added to the plan some information and advise so my family can carry out most of their own arrangements from transporting my body , washing it down right through holding ‘viewing’ at our home.

Today’s blog from the
Good Funeral Guide coincides with what I had written... and I’d like to stand up and give Charles a round of a applause for making it sound logical!