Wednesday, 31 July 2019

A Funeral in Barnton Part One (Preparation)


David Hall received an email from a Funeral Director in Crewe requesting a price for a funeral in Northwich, however, before David provides a price he undertakes detailed research regarding the location of the Funeral Home, family house and crematorium or cemetery. The Funeral Director worked for a large company with many locations throughout Britain and it was very difficult to speak with him as he was always conducting a funeral. After speaking to two helpful ladies David eventually found out that the funeral was not in Northwich but Barnton just outside Northwich and a lady called Claire confirmed that the funeral would be departing from her location, but she had no further details as she had no contact with the family.
It transpired that this large company had decided to make the Funeral Director the sole point of contact with the family, which David felt was wrong. The normal situation is that a Funeral Director may request a price but all other details are with the Funeral Arranger, whose prime function is to arrange the funeral. David had to accept the situation, which was far from ideal and sent an email to the Funeral Director with a guideline price.
Nothing was received back from the Crewe Funeral Director and David thought that the opportunity had gone, however, after three days David received an email to say that the family were considering using the lorry but a date had not been finalised. Some two days later, David received a short email from the Funeral Director specifying the date and time of the funeral. No one ever told David that he had got the job, he just had to infer it from the email!
So David had the location of the Funeral Home and the crematorium together with the time and if David was a normal Carriage Master he would have had all that he would need. However, unlike other Carriage Masters who just arrive with their vehicle, load the coffin and stuff the flowers around the coffin, David’s main aim is to personalise a funeral using the flowers to create an eye-catching display with perhaps a picture of the Deceased somehow incorporated.
It was the Tuesday before the August Bank Holiday and David knew that he had to have all the information he required before the end of Thursday. Friday would the last working day, given that Monday was a holiday and that the Tuesday needed to be a day of rest to prepare for the 180 miles journey to Barnton on the Wednesday.
The Funeral Arrangers at Barnton Claire and Pat were very good, however, it was difficult for them to pull information from Rob, the Funeral Director, because he was always focusing on the funeral he was conducting at that time, rather that arranging a funeral some days in the future. David couldn’t understand it, in his simple mind a Funeral Director is there to conduct a funeral and Funeral Arrangers should be there to arrange them. He told Claire and Pat that in his experience he has met only one Funeral Director who retains all the contact with the family and does the dual role successfully and that is Catherine Benefield in Bristol. Catherine conducts funerals up to 1600 hours and then arranges future funerals in the evening and if she receives an email she will answer it the same day irrespective of the time of day. Catherine always gives David a contact number for the family and from this everything flows, the Florist is contacted, the detail of the flowers is established and a design emerges.
David had no problems with Rob personally, it was just the position he was placed in. David believes that in some situations a Funeral Director may be the first person to meet a family, say if a home visit was required and the family lived in a remote farm building. However, when David found the location of the family home he reckoned it was only walking distance from the Funeral Home and this fact was proved on the day of the funeral when the Funeral Director paged the lorry from the Funeral Home to the house.
The deadline of 1630 hours on Thursday passed with no information received and whilst he was waiting for details of the Florist and a picture of the Deceased he did some research on the area He found that less than a mile from the house was the Anderton Boat Lift, built in 1875 to transfer barges from the River Weaver up through a height of 50 feet to the Mersey and Trent Canal. David had longed to see this piece of Victorian Engineering since he was a little boy and he felt it would be wonderful if he could fit in a visit on Wednesday afternoon the day before the funeral. Ideally David wanted to get a picture of his Leyland Beaver in front of the Boat Lift, however, detailed research proved that it was not possible to get the lorry close to the structure. In looking at Google Maps David spotted that Anderton Concrete was situated just across the wharf from the Boat Lift and he envisaged that a good picture could be stage from their yard.

David rang the Anderton Concrete switch-board and spoke with a young lady, telling her what he did with his lorry and how he wrote a blog about interesting people he had met on his travels or the interesting places he had seen. David told her, ‘You won’t get anything more interesting than that marvellous piece of Victorian Engineering behind you.’ She told him that she would speak with the Manager and get back to David as soon as she had any information. Within 15 minutes David received a phone call advising that he could bring his lorry on site provided it was after 1600 hours and that he was wearing a hard hat, hi-vis jacket, steel toe cap boots and goggles. David was also given the mobile number of the Yard manager Rob Green so that he could ring Rob on the Tuesday to finalise arrangements.
David felt it was amazing that people who were supposed to help you couldn’t and people who had no reason to help you, stepped up to the plate.
Luckily on the Friday afternoon David received an email from Claire detailing the mobile number of the Daughter of the Deceased and he immediately phoned Kate. Kate took the call and was happy to speak with David and within 15 minutes he received pictures of her Dad, Ted. David was told how Ted had been influenced by pictures of starving, head shaved, terminally ill Romanian orphans that had appeared on TV News Reports in the 1990’s. Whereas, most people were horrified by these images, Ted decided to do something about it. Ted, a Tanker Driver, took early retirement from ICI, hired a Tractor & Trailer and undertook 15 trips to Romania taking out building materials, spending up to a month there helping to create an Orphanage before returning for the next load. Kate also told David that Ted was one of ten children and he had nine Sisters, seven of whom were still alive. David asked Kate if she could also email a picture to the Funeral Director as it was needed for the Order of Service document and if David had not said what he did the Funeral Director would have struggled to get the Order of Service printed.
It was now around 1600 hours on the Friday and David’s Wife changed her priorities to work on the picture of Ted, which needed to be cropped before sending it to Andy Walden who owns Tech Office in Trowbridge. David phoned Andy and told him the urgency and Andy said he would enlarge it and laminate it as soon as it arrived. David jumped into his car and arrived at Tech Office before the email had landed and Andy did his usual brilliant job before he closed for the night.
David still did not have any details of any flowers beyond the sheath of red Roses from Ted’s widow and he was running out of time. But fortuitously Claire, the Barnton Funeral Arranger, knew the Florist socially and sent David an email which landed at 2030 hours to inform him that in addition to the sheath of red roses there would be two ‘Names’ ‘DAD’ and ‘TED’, however, he didn’t have name of the Florist, which Kate then provided at 2100 hours.
It is tricky for David to decide which ‘Name’ should be given preference when designing a layout and normally ‘DAD’ would be the highest positioned Floral Tribute, however, given that Ted had nine Sisters David felt that both ‘TED’ and ‘DAD’ should be at the same level. David also felt that the two names side by side wouldn’t look right so he scrapped his idea about fixing the picture of Ted onto the head-board and create a display in front of the coffin which had Ted’s picture between ‘DAD’ and ‘TED’.
The sketch was sent to Kate on Saturday morning and she immediately responded that she was very happy with David’s ideas.
Next month David will reveal some interesting details about his journey up to Barnton
and the funeral itself.

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