KEN WEST

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Can the British laugh in the face of death and funerals? Do they really want to know what happens when they hand their body over to the men in black? You are a short time alive and a long time dead! Go on, risk it; read this irreverent fictionalised tale of real and astonishing events beginning in 1993. At times, deadly serious; at times, deadly funny. It’s the mysterious world of the funeral directors, as they try to kill off burial under trees and oppose DIY funerals. It’s a world of embalming, pink glitzy shrouds, crappy coffins, brawling at funerals and girl power. Nobody’s resting in peace. It spawns a revolution but twenty years later, who is really in control? Find out; if you dare!

 

Having been involved with over 100,000 funerals, and keeping detailed diaries of incidents that truly happened to him, Ken West has become somewhat of an expert on the matter. R.I.P. Off! provides a unique insight into the world of death and funerals that readers cannot gain by any other means.

 

R.I.P. Off! features the impact of divorce, religious dogma and belief, road and drug deaths, family disputes, poverty, obesity, health and longevity, commercialism and how death has a significant environmental impact. It shows how people deal with death in a myriad of ways, an approach that attempts to demistify death to some degree.

 

Written as a counter view to Jessica Mitford’s The American Way of Death, West’s novel is an easy read that sets the scene for the UK’s own industry, which is acknowledged as a world leader in green and alternative funerals. The book will appeal to those with a penchant for black humour, who enjoy television programmes such as Six Feet Under and who possess a (not always healthy) morbid interest in death and dying.

R.I.P OFF! OR THE BRITISH WAY OF DEATH

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A GUIDE TO NATURAL BURIAL

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Since 2000, natural burial has been called the single greatest environmental initiative in the UK. Whether an exaggeration or not, the concept has advanced and daily becomes a realistic funeral option for people in many parts of the UK. This book is the first to offer a perspective on natural burial and its effect on the whole death industry. It is a book for those who are unsure whether natural burial is their personal funeral choice. It is also the principal source of advice for present and future site owners to enable them to understand their obligations and to avoid the problems that crippled traditional cemeteries.

 

This book is invaluable to anyone who wants to have a greater understanding of the funeral market. This might be to appreciate the historical perspective of funerals and their current commercial, environmental and social impact; or it might just be a desire for the empowerment to control personal funeral arrangements.

 

There are detractors of natural burial; others who find it a step too far, and those who are unable to access a site because they reside in an urban area. For them, this book will give an awareness of natural burial, and how its principles can also help to create a conventional burial or cremation that is less damaging to the world and more financially and environmentally sustainable. For the eco-warriors out there and those concerned about ever rising funeral costs, it will give the information to lobby councillors and politicians for change.

 

The seed of natural burial was set in a different period. It was when we all shopped at Liptons and Home & Colonial, and if poor, bought broken biscuits at Woolworths. It was a period when farm workers were forced off the land and many became the mainstay of the cemetery workforce, when 80 year old men still went to work on ‘sit up and beg’ bicycles, the last of those who could use a scythe. They lived in towns where a barn owl screeched at night; where children in new socialist council houses played in long grass full of butterflies and ‘blood suckers’, those harmless soldier beetles; where bats clustered around street lamps clouded with moths. This arcadia was not hundreds of years ago, but the 1960’s, the era of the Beatles and Twiggy. The 1960’s is not so far away that the good from that period cannot be recreated! Natural burial is not about harking back to some dreamy arcadia but about taking the best from the past, adding present day knowledge, and creating a new sustainable way forward.

 

This is the history of the death industry based on the experiences of one man’s working life. It reflects a society in transition, from a simple way of life to one dominated by commercialism and marketing. It is a story in which even a bunch of flowers and a wreath can no longer be bought in innocence; of how a relatively clean industry becomes part of the problem of pollution and global warming.

 

Our society is based on constant annual growth, on increasing population and increasing demand, regardless of sustainability. The death industry with all its inherited problems is now poised for expansion due to the baby boomers and the burger boomers; two cohorts of current society, each reflective of great changes, the former of optimism for the future, the latter of a fat eating consumer society living on a struggling planet.

 

This book is also a tribute to Carlisle City Council and its staff, and to the residents and media of Cumbria in the early 1990’s, without whom I could never have started natural burial. My experience of other local authorities since that period assures me that it could not have been developed anywhere else. Carlisle City Council was innovative, brave and supportive, all essential ingredients when opposition was aggressive and at times vindictive.

 

The natural burial site in Carlisle cemetery was opened in 1993 and is now flourishing, with oak trees, and bluebells appearing each spring, an entirely new habitat precisely one mile from the centre of the city. The Council wanted to widen burial choice for the community, with easy access for the bereaved. It will be a future green lung and an educational resource.

 

The natural burial site in Carlisle was a response to an environmental challenge that did not lose sight of human needs. Excessive eco actions that demand responses that actually make day to day life difficult or impossible, are no real solution. However, people now realise that we must treat the earth more lightly in the future, and natural burial can fit this perspective. The fact that over 220 (now 260) natural burial sites now operate in the UK is evidence that people believe that this is a way forward. In the UK there are a variety of natural burial choices. They include burial within established woodland, in fields to create nature reserves, forests and orchards, and in farmland to be grazed by stock. New and innovative ideas arise and each burial, by replacing conventional burial or cremation, reduces harmful emissions, the use of finite fuels and unsustainable practices. It can also give deep psychological satisfaction to people who feel that through their death they are supporting the collective good of humanity and often expressing their philosophy in life.

 

Finally, I want to apologise for at times using the all embracing word ‘green’ when I refer to something which has environmental, sustainable, or iconic value. Most readers will accept the word, even if it is seen by some as superficial and literally careless. I also have to remind the reader that in the absence of relevant research, many of my assertions are based on anecdotal evidence arising through my experience”.

 

 

 

 

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