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Undertakers

Can't be much possibility for promotion working for an undertakers, it really would be dead mans shoes
 

FEASG

LE

I don't work for just one firm, but provide cover to 14 firms in the SW London and Surry area. We only work for small to medium independent firms, so get to see what is happening over a fairly large area. In short this has been the quietest Summer that I can remember. We were very busy during the spike in Apr /May but it has dropped right off. This could be in part due to the fact that we tend to do a lot of holiday cover in July/ August. That has just not happened. But generally the feeling is that his year will even out to be pretty normal one for deaths.
It seems that while it is quite virulent, COVID-19 is not nearly as deadly as they first thought. Back in March the Extra Deaths team were warning us to expect up to 80,000 deaths in London. This would cause a 35 week back log at Crematoriums, meaning we were faced with the prospects of mass graves. This never happened. We were also told to expect the bulk of the deaths to happen between week 6 and 8 of a 17 week cycle. I was on call (24 hr readiness to collect the dead), just as week 6 started and was out on the hour every hour for the Easter Week end then it just stopped.

There were tons of resources put in place, from the PMAT's (Pandemic Multi Agency Teams) to help us (Or take over once we had become infected) They were stood down on the 15th of May. Many Swimming pools were marked to be used as temporary mortuaries. There were a number built, and used . But also a number built but not needed. For instance one was built in the grounds of Putney Vale Crematorium, never used and dismantled in September.

Some of the biggest mistakes have been made by management in the NHS. The worst was clearing the decks of patients (un tested into nursing homes) this euthanised many of the residents and will probably be found to be the cause of a great deal of the deaths. I estimate that 95 to 99% of all the COVID reported death that I dealt with would have died this year of other causes. I dealt with a suspected C-19 death this week, but the last one before that was 4 months ago (and she had been dead 6 weeks at that point).

This is no great plague. The 1918-19 Flu killed 250, 000 in the UK. Many firms now believe that they have been borrowing from the future, in that all the basic funerals that they did in May, Should have been more elaborate (£) ones in the the next few years. But I am coming to the opinion that it will be a minor blip and next year will continue as normal.

We don't really get too bothered when dealing with a C-19 and have adapted our TTP's by using a modified version of the ones we would use for a TB case. In part I think my industry has adapted well to the challenge, Those of us that actually have to go out and deal with the dead have a wealth of experience to dealing with other more dangerous but common things such as Hep -C etc.. Also many of us remember the panic from the early days of HIV/AIDs when a trip to collect a body was, made out to be something akin to shovelling the Graphite off the roof of the Chernobyl reactor. Where we have got it wrong, is the widely reported over reaction s of Crematorium and Cemetery staff, who never see a body.

My view is that this has been blown out of proportion by political point scoring, and the desire by some to turn a crisis into a drama , that they play a staring role. Something that will be only too familiar, to anyone that has spent five minuets in the Armed Forces.
 
I don't work for just one firm, but provide cover to 14 firms in the SW London and Surry area. We only work for small to medium independent firms, so get to see what is happening over a fairly large area. In short this has been the quietest Summer that I can remember. We were very busy during the spike in Apr /May but it has dropped right off. This could be in part due to the fact that we tend to do a lot of holiday cover in July/ August. That has just not happened. But generally the feeling is that his year will even out to be pretty normal one for deaths.
It seems that while it is quite virulent, COVID-19 is not nearly as deadly as they first thought. Back in March the Extra Deaths team were warning us to expect up to 80,000 deaths in London. This would cause a 35 week back log at Crematoriums, meaning we were faced with the prospects of mass graves. This never happened. We were also told to expect the bulk of the deaths to happen between week 6 and 8 of a 17 week cycle. I was on call (24 hr readiness to collect the dead), just as week 6 started and was out on the hour every hour for the Easter Week end then it just stopped.

There were tons of resources put in place, from the PMAT's (Pandemic Multi Agency Teams) to help us (Or take over once we had become infected) They were stood down on the 15th of May. Many Swimming pools were marked to be used as temporary mortuaries. There were a number built, and used . But also a number built but not needed. For instance one was built in the grounds of Putney Vale Crematorium, never used and dismantled in September.

Some of the biggest mistakes have been made by management in the NHS. The worst was clearing the decks of patients (un tested into nursing homes) this euthanised many of the residents and will probably be found to be the cause of a great deal of the deaths. I estimate that 95 to 99% of all the COVID reported death that I dealt with would have died this year of other causes. I dealt with a suspected C-19 death this week, but the last one before that was 4 months ago (and she had been dead 6 weeks at that point).

This is no great plague. The 1918-19 Flu killed 250, 000 in the UK. Many firms now believe that they have been borrowing from the future, in that all the basic funerals that they did in May, Should have been more elaborate (£) ones in the the next few years. But I am coming to the opinion that it will be a minor blip and next year will continue as normal.

We don't really get too bothered when dealing with a C-19 and have adapted our TTP's buy using a modified version of the ones we would use for a TB case. In part I think my industry has adapted well to the challenge, Those of us that actually have to go out and deal with the dead have a wealth of experience to dealing with other more dangerous but common things such as Hep -C etc.. Also many of us remember the panic from the early days of HIV/AIDs when a trip to collect a body was, made out to be something akin to shovelling the Graphite off the roof of the Chernobyl reactor. Where we have got it wrong, is the widely reported over reaction s of Crematorium and Cemetery staff, who never see a body.

My view is that this has been blown out of proportion by political point scoring, and the desire by some to turn a crisis into a drama , that they play a staring role. Something that will be only too familiar, to anyone that has spent five minuets in the Armed Forces.
Cheers mate.
 

FEASG

LE
Are corpses buried with Jewelry/valuables?

Any truth in the rumour that crematoriums can switch the gold embossed, mahogany, silk laden coffin for a cardboard box, before they torch it?
No, However Titanium hip joints, remain intact after the cremation prosses and are re cycled.
 

FEASG

LE
Last time I was a pall-bearer for a posh box with brass handles, I went to lift it aloft and the undertaker shouted at me "Not the handles!".

Guess they're just fixed on with hot-melt for easy-off then.
Cremation handles are plastic, burial handles proper metal so (if fixed properly) can be used to lift the coffin.
 

FEASG

LE
I’ve got some friends who run a family firm of undertakers. They’ve buried my Mum and my Dad in recent years.

A lot of undertakers firms are run by large companies operating under the old name. These people are still the real deal genuinely family run business.

They’re based in Southall and in normal times are always busy. There is a standing joke if they are in the pub. Don’t lie down or you’ll be taken away.

I haven’t seen them for a while but I’ve heard the pandemic is keeping them very busy. Very down to earth and thoroughly nice people.

The Big three (Co-op, Dignity and Funeral partners) Have done this in the past, but now they have to clearly display that they are part of of a larger group. Normally this is done by a corporate Logo in the shop windows. Sometimes independent firms buy out other firm and keep the old names. For instance one of the firms I work for has shops in three different names, of Firms that have traded in there local areas from back too 1832. However the new owners are a family firm of several generations.
 

HCL

War Hero
I don't work for just one firm, but provide cover to 14 firms in the SW London and Surry area. We only work for small to medium independent firms, so get to see what is happening over a fairly large area. In short this has been the quietest Summer that I can remember. We were very busy during the spike in Apr /May but it has dropped right off. This could be in part due to the fact that we tend to do a lot of holiday cover in July/ August. That has just not happened. But generally the feeling is that his year will even out to be pretty normal one for deaths.
It seems that while it is quite virulent, COVID-19 is not nearly as deadly as they first thought. Back in March the Extra Deaths team were warning us to expect up to 80,000 deaths in London. This would cause a 35 week back log at Crematoriums, meaning we were faced with the prospects of mass graves. This never happened. We were also told to expect the bulk of the deaths to happen between week 6 and 8 of a 17 week cycle. I was on call (24 hr readiness to collect the dead), just as week 6 started and was out on the hour every hour for the Easter Week end then it just stopped.

There were tons of resources put in place, from the PMAT's (Pandemic Multi Agency Teams) to help us (Or take over once we had become infected) They were stood down on the 15th of May. Many Swimming pools were marked to be used as temporary mortuaries. There were a number built, and used . But also a number built but not needed. For instance one was built in the grounds of Putney Vale Crematorium, never used and dismantled in September.

Some of the biggest mistakes have been made by management in the NHS. The worst was clearing the decks of patients (un tested into nursing homes) this euthanised many of the residents and will probably be found to be the cause of a great deal of the deaths. I estimate that 95 to 99% of all the COVID reported death that I dealt with would have died this year of other causes. I dealt with a suspected C-19 death this week, but the last one before that was 4 months ago (and she had been dead 6 weeks at that point).

This is no great plague. The 1918-19 Flu killed 250, 000 in the UK. Many firms now believe that they have been borrowing from the future, in that all the basic funerals that they did in May, Should have been more elaborate (£) ones in the the next few years. But I am coming to the opinion that it will be a minor blip and next year will continue as normal.

We don't really get too bothered when dealing with a C-19 and have adapted our TTP's by using a modified version of the ones we would use for a TB case. In part I think my industry has adapted well to the challenge, Those of us that actually have to go out and deal with the dead have a wealth of experience to dealing with other more dangerous but common things such as Hep -C etc.. Also many of us remember the panic from the early days of HIV/AIDs when a trip to collect a body was, made out to be something akin to shovelling the Graphite off the roof of the Chernobyl reactor. Where we have got it wrong, is the widely reported over reaction s of Crematorium and Cemetery staff, who never see a body.

My view is that this has been blown out of proportion by political point scoring, and the desire by some to turn a crisis into a drama , that they play a staring role. Something that will be only too familiar, to anyone that has spent five minuets in the Armed Forces.

Those MBEs don't nominate themselves you know.
 
Sort of related......

A bloke I work with has a side hustle as an archaeologist. He mostly does surveys of land when someone wants to build on it, making sure they’re not putting a Tesco’s on a Viking burial site etc.

He’s also the first port of call for plod when they find ancient remains.

Another big chunk of his work is exhuming bodies, he has the contract with the local diocese which means every consecrated graveyard in the area is his territory.

Happens more than you’d think and it’s not just grizzly stuff like murders that need reinvestigating. Recently he dug up a kiwi airman who died in an RTA in WW2 so he could be repatriated back to NZ. He also had to dig up and replant an entire graveyard so the water board could fix a pipe that was running through it.

Good money by all accounts, up to 2 grand per job. The water board job paid off his mortgage.

I used to have an office in the gatehouse building of an old cemetery in Uxbridge many years ago. I was on very good terms with the gravediggers who also had a small office in part of the same building.

Some of the stories they could tell you would either make your toes curl or have you rolling around in fits of laughter.

It was always the exhumations or what the grave diggers called the re-openers that provided the best stories.

Once a body has been placed below the surface of the ground into the grave, it cannot be taken back out of the ground for any reason without the necessary documentation including special documents and licences from various authorities ranging from the church to the home office to local Councils etc.

And they all want significant fees for their agreement to the re-opening of the grave.

Coffins depending on the type of ground and various other conditions sometimes disintegrate very quickly. If the ground is wet or marshy, a cheap coffin can last not much longer that several months so a re-opener often means finding the deceased lying in the ground with the remains of the coffin collapsed around them.

A re-opener is always supervised by someone. Often, the supervisor will be someone with experience of these things but occasionally, the supervisor may be a new person not really sure of what’s going on in what are unusual circumstances. Despite the atmosphere of officialdom because of the circumstances, these procedures are often carried out at times when there are unlikely to be members of the public around. Privacy and respect for the dead and that kind of thing etc.

That doesn’t mean that it needs to be a dull day though. The first thing that usually rots on a corpse is the neck. It has been known for a gravedigger to get down to where the body is, call out, “we’re there”, and then suddenly stand up and lob the detached head to the supervising person shouting , “here he is, catch!” As the head goes sailing through the sky towards a goggle eyed supervisor suddenly going weak at the knees.

There was an occasion at one cemetery when someone was buried facing in the wrong direction. It would have been ok except for the fact that one of the grave diggers let that fact slip to the undertaker. The undertaker decided that the Council should pay out for the expensive business of exhuming the body and re-interring it lying in the correct direction.

The undertaker hadn’t been told though that the problem had already been rectified. At the time of the burial after the relatives and the undertaker had left to go to the wake, the cemetery staff decided to sort out the mistake straight away.

As I’ve already said, once a body has been placed in the ground, it can’t for any reason be taken back out of the ground unless the rather expensive exhumation process has been followed.

So the cemetery staff jumped in the grave and simply stood the coffin up on end, twisted it around and laid it back down again. Problem solved. The deceased was now lying in the right direction and no rules had been broken about taking the coffin out of the ground.

Meanwhile the undertaker entered into an argument with the Council insisting that the Council pay for an exhumation to resolve something that he wasn’t aware wasn’t any longer a problem. The officers had made inquiries to the staff about whether the coffin was correctly buried and were assured that it was. They were also quietly told why there wasn’t a problem.

So the Council‘s response to the undertaker was that there wasn’t a problem. The undertaker was becoming insistent that the exhumation should take place at the Councils expense and after several written exchanges, the Council made an offer that the exhumation happen and if the coffin was lying in the wrong direction, the Council would pay for the exhumation but if the coffin was lying in the ground in the right direction, the undertaker should pay for it.

The undertaker decided after some deliberation that the Council seemed very certain of it’s facts and perhaps he might have been misinformed so in the end, he decided to leave things as they were.

He had also unknowingly saved himself some considerable expense. When I was told this story by one of the cemetery managers, I said to the manager, “I don’t know what all the fuss was about, the bloke in the box never said anything!”

The cemetery manager with a wide grin on his face responded, “no he didn’t. Not even when he was lying upside down on his head, he didn’t!”
 

Ravers

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
I used to have an office in the gatehouse building of an old cemetery in Uxbridge many years ago. I was on very good terms with the gravediggers who also had a small office in part of the same building.

Some of the stories they could tell you would either make your toes curl or have you rolling around in fits of laughter.

It was always the exhumations or what the grave diggers called the re-openers that provided the best stories.

Once a body has been placed below the surface of the ground into the grave, it cannot be taken back out of the ground for any reason without the necessary documentation including special documents and licences from various authorities ranging from the church to the home office to local Councils etc.

And they all want significant fees for their agreement to the re-opening of the grave.

Coffins depending on the type of ground and various other conditions sometimes disintegrate very quickly. If the ground is wet or marshy, a cheap coffin can last not much longer that several months so a re-opener often means finding the deceased lying in the ground with the remains of the coffin collapsed around them.

A re-opener is always supervised by someone. Often, the supervisor will be someone with experience of these things but occasionally, the supervisor may be a new person not really sure of what’s going on in what are unusual circumstances. Despite the atmosphere of officialdom because of the circumstances, these procedures are often carried out at times when there are unlikely to be members of the public around. Privacy and respect for the dead and that kind of thing etc.

That doesn’t mean that it needs to be a dull day though. The first thing that usually rots on a corpse is the neck. It has been known for a gravedigger to get down to where the body is, call out, “we’re there”, and then suddenly stand up and lob the detached head to the supervising person shouting , “here he is, catch!” As the head goes sailing through the sky towards a goggle eyed supervisor suddenly going weak at the knees.

There was an occasion at one cemetery when someone was buried facing in the wrong direction. It would have been ok except for the fact that one of the grave diggers let that fact slip to the undertaker. The undertaker decided that the Council should pay out for the expensive business of exhuming the body and re-interring it lying in the correct direction.

The undertaker hadn’t been told though that the problem had already been rectified. At the time of the burial after the relatives and the undertaker had left to go to the wake, the cemetery staff decided to sort out the mistake straight away.

As I’ve already said, once a body has been placed in the ground, it can’t for any reason be taken back out of the ground unless the rather expensive exhumation process has been followed.

So the cemetery staff jumped in the grave and simply stood the coffin up on end, twisted it around and laid it back down again. Problem solved. The deceased was now lying in the right direction and no rules had been broken about taking the coffin out of the ground.

Meanwhile the undertaker entered into an argument with the Council insisting that the Council pay for an exhumation to resolve something that he wasn’t aware wasn’t any longer a problem. The officers had made inquiries to the staff about whether the coffin was correctly buried and were assured that it was. They were also quietly told why there wasn’t a problem.

So the Council‘s response to the undertaker was that there wasn’t a problem. The undertaker was becoming insistent that the exhumation should take place at the Councils expense and after several written exchanges, the Council made an offer that the exhumation happen and if the coffin was lying in the wrong direction, the Council would pay for the exhumation but if the coffin was lying in the ground in the right direction, the undertaker should pay for it.

The undertaker decided after some deliberation that the Council seemed very certain of it’s facts and perhaps he might have been misinformed so in the end, he decided to leave things as they were.

He had also unknowingly saved himself some considerable expense. When I was told this story by one of the cemetery managers, I said to the manager, “I don’t know what all the fuss was about, the bloke in the box never said anything!”

The cemetery manager with a wide grin on his face responded, “no he didn’t. Not even when he was lying upside down on his head, he didn’t!”

When we were planting the mother in law last year I went to the church the day before to make sure everything was in order, flowers in place etc.

I saw the gravedigger doing his bit and we had a chat.

I noticed that the grave was full of bones already. its a 13th century church and the family burial plot dates back to Viking times. In previous family funerals they’ve dug up Viking “Hog back” tombstones.

The gravedigger reckoned there could be hundreds of bodies already in that plot.

The next day the vicar gave me and the other pallbearers the brief about getting it right when lowering the coffin into the grave. As you mention above, once it’s gone past the point of no return you aren’t allowed to pull it out again. Important to get it right first time and especially important that the gravedigger makes the hole wide enough all the way down.
 
Main one to avoid is a punch up between deceased’s wife and mistress at graveside. ( this happened at an ex fleet air arm Wocca pilot We knew’s
funeral) not grown up or pretty.!
 

Issi

War Hero
When we were all doing paper rounds and cleaning pubs for some teenage beer money, a friend of mine used to work part time in the local undertakers.
He now owns a couple of them, and lives in a very large house in Clifton.
 

Ravers

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Main one to avoid is a punch up between deceased’s wife and mistress at graveside. ( this happened at an ex fleet air arm Wocca pilot We knew’s
funeral) not grown up or pretty.!

One of our staff at the hotel had an unfortunate incident earlier this year.

Husband of 20 odd years is rushed into hospital with a heart attack.

Dies on arrival at Carlisle.

She rocks up an hour or two later and is asked who she is by some random woman:

“I’m his wife.”

“Er no you’re not love, I’m his long term partner, we live together.”

“I don’t think so......”

Turns out the bloke had a 4 or 5 different birds on the go. I’m not talking random mistresses and the occasional dirty weekend in a Travel Lodge. Proper long term relationships. He had houses, kids in some cases, the works.

He’d managed to juggle them all by pretending he was working abroad.
 
One of our staff at the hotel had an unfortunate incident earlier this year.

Husband of 20 odd years is rushed into hospital with a heart attack.

Dies on arrival at Carlisle.

She rocks up an hour or two later and is asked who she is by some random woman:

“I’m his wife.”

“Er no you’re not love, I’m his long term partner, we live together.”

“I don’t think so......”

Turns out the bloke had a 4 or 5 different birds on the go. I’m not talking random mistresses and the occasional dirty weekend in a Travel Lodge. Proper long term relationships. He had houses, kids in some cases, the works.

He’d managed to juggle them all by pretending he was working abroad.
What a bloke!
 

Longlenny

War Hero
Book Reviewer
My Dragon is a vicar and she has had one or two odd ones. There was one in particular that caused a quiet chuckle. A well to do local family wanted the full works including a brick lined grave. No worries, the coffin is measured, the grave is dug the brickie does his bit. The Dragon does her mumbo jumbo the pall beares take up the tapes and start lowering the coffin,..... there was a resounding clunk as the coffin wouldn't go in the hole. Whoever had measured the coffin had forgotten to add on a few inches to allow for the brick lining either end. They all retired to the pub to allow the brickie and gravedigger to sort things.
 
One of our staff at the hotel had an unfortunate incident earlier this year.

Husband of 20 odd years is rushed into hospital with a heart attack.

Dies on arrival at Carlisle.

She rocks up an hour or two later and is asked who she is by some random woman:

“I’m his wife.”

“Er no you’re not love, I’m his long term partner, we live together.”

“I don’t think so......”

Turns out the bloke had a 4 or 5 different birds on the go. I’m not talking random mistresses and the occasional dirty weekend in a Travel Lodge. Proper long term relationships. He had houses, kids in some cases, the works.

He’d managed to juggle them all by pretending he was working abroad.

Probably bluffed that he was in the Navy reserves.
 

giatttt

Old-Salt
An acquaintance of mine, Scottish and a decent sort of chap, mentioned to me that his father had died a few days before Christmas the previous year and how they held off the funeral until the New Year.

I must have appeared aghast, coming from a tradition where you bury a person a day or two after death, no matter what time of the year, and he said to me quite matter-of-factly that no one wants a funeral in the middle of Christmas and it was better to wait until January, when things would be settled and calmer and his dad could get a proper send-off and that a funeral in the middle of Christmas would be somehow rushed and undignified.

I suppose I could see his point, sort of, but to me the idea of having a family Christmas dinner, popping crackers and drinking and feasting while my old man lay cold on some mortuary slab just freaked me out. I think I would happily skip the turkey and ham one year just to get my father decently buried, but each to their own.
First question I asked the undertaker was did he have a fridge and was there a limit on how long he could keep my dad in it. Yes and no. Brother could come back from parts foreign without being robbed by the airlines. Didn't seem to bother anyone apart from those that had assumed it would be in the next few days and cancelled holidays etc.
 

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