Troubador R.I.P. Off!

Released: 01/10/2013

eISBN: 9781783068821

Format: eBook

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R.I.P. Off!

Or The British Way of Death


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 an 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.

My website includes a number of journal articles on death and funerals. These define green funerals, the changing nature of death, as well as spirituality and funerals. There is also information on my first book called 'A Guide to Natural Burial', the definitive guide to opening and managing a site, or chosing that kind of funeral. I have added a guide to Home (DIY) Funerals, focused unapologetically on low cost. Also, an advanced funeral directive, an extensive document in which a person's funeral wishes are expressed.

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Ken West

My writing is also my story, perhaps less a biography and more a social history; 1950's council house poverty; eleven plus failure; buying broken biscuits from Woolworths;nervously riding my BSA Bantam during the Cuban Missile crisis, but at least I had a job. In a cemetery!

Shrewsbury Cemetery, aged fifteen, watched the bullying of a conchie gardener; destroyed the environment,and the barn owls, using American herbicides; married and bought a new semi. To Wolverhampton, my first managerial post, as head of cemeteries and crematorium; it's not called the Black Country for nothing; negotiated with intimidating childish unions taking their cue from Red Robbo at British Leyland; racial hatred in senior management. Am accused by local maternity hospital of interfering in 'time honoured arrangements', (120 years!) when I replaced the burial of stillbirths in mass graves with individual burial in the 'Babies Memorial Garden'.

Moved to the Lake District, improved the environment through conservation management and brought back the owls; invented woodland (natural) burial and opened the world's first site. Created the first green funerals, promoted cardboard coffins, sent shrouds to Turin, introduced a re-usable coffin, wrote the Charter for the Bereaved and promoted DIY funerals. Call funeral directors gatekeepers and they say I say that they are a rip-off. Away from work, athlete; Northern Veterans 10K road race champion; fell runner; strong and fast on peat bog; poor on steep, rocky descents, but still hold the Stretton Skyline fell race record 27 years later.

Somebody noticed; awarded MBE for services to burial and cremation, and I am grateful. Retired, lifestyle green, organic gardener, godless and childless, in Croydon. Watch natural burial spread worldwide, its virtue defiled by increasing commercialism; me, its godfather,accused of being an eco-warrior and uncompromising. The augur, my wife Ann, says write the definite book on natural burial, so I do. This causes me to reflect on my career of over 100,000 funerals and my conviction that a good funeral is built on awareness. Other people tell me that humour is the only way that people will read about death, so turn some of my story into black humour and write my second book, R.I.P. Off! or: The British Way of Death. Conceived in 1961,it had a confinement of 52 years experience. It's a snapshot in time, when the British started a revolution in funerals, which is continuing across the world.

Now, I'm an anonymous coffin dodger, resident in the town with the oldest population in the UK; Christchurch, a place of virtuous bungalows, where a survivor can manage when half the team dies. Statistics suggest that's me, the physically strong yet physiologically weak male, and my grave in the natural burial plot is purchased; it waits, unvisited. My obituary is embellished when Durham University award me an Honorary MA, and a prescient reporter on the Manchester Guardian pens a line for me, a journeyman writer, to envey in perpetuity; a man who put his body where his mouth is!

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