Eddie Mair on reviewing a funeral service

"I did wonder whether crematorium complaints would be extraordinarily picky"


A day off PM to attend the funeral of a friend. The persistent cough turned out to be stage four lung cancer. Life’s everyday cruelty leaves a family bewildered. My sadness nothing compared to their pain.


It’s 2014, so news of the funeral location arrived in a text message and, being the modern man I am, I went online to search for the location of the crematorium. Not yet being at the age where all I do is attend funerals, this felt a strange thing to be doing.

As with all of death’s rituals, what is extraordinary for us when we occasionally bump up against them, is an everyday occurrence for those in the business. This would explain why the crematorium had its own website. Its own website! I don’t know why this shocked me. In fact it was extremely helpful. Opening hours, parking information, details of nearest bus stops and Tube stations. A map of the grounds and gardens, and guides for the bereaved on the crematorium’s procedures for flowers, music and the hushed question of ashes. You can even take a virtual tour of the place. I decided not to, in order to leave some mystery for the day itself.

Better than that, my Google search turned up two reviews of the place! In the style of TripAdvisor or The Good Food Guide, you can now compare how Britain’s crematoriums stack up.

I did wonder whether crematorium complainants would be extraordinarily picky. “An otherwise excellent funeral was ruined because the curtains closed fractionally too slowly.” “Pew legroom disappointing.” “Deathly quiet.”

Perhaps in the style of authors who secretly go online to big up their latest work, people in the death business do the same. “Another excellent funeral at the Acme Cremmy. I cannot wait for my own demise so I can fully enjoy all their facilities.” “Superb service. I laughed, I cried, I nearly died.”

Happily the two reviewers each gave this particular crematorium five stars. I would, too, though is it fair to judge on one visit? I’ll maybe pop back next year to be sure.

Breaking Bad

“8.56pm. Lionel’s enjoying some alone time,” intoned Marcus Bentley, wickedly, on a recent episode of Celebrity Big Brother. We see the great Lionel Blair relaxing in the garden, away from his housemates. There is a glass of wine on the table, cigarette in his hand. Then we hear the beloved star of Give Us a Clue and a million tap- dance routines exclaim: “Oh!” before he lifts one buttock off the sofa to let rip with a wind-break that literally leaves him breathless. Like a 100m dash, the whole thing is over in about ten seconds but it was probably the highlight of the series. Do look for it on YouTube. It’s matched only by the moment a very angry Lionel yelled to Big Brother down an angry red telephone. It was like seeing the Queen Mother swear.

Guilt trip

A Catholic friend of mine informs me of a recent change at his local church. It has long been a tradition that a list of church-goers who are unwell is posted at the door of the church, in order that people can include the names of the sick in prayers. No more. Apparently the list might breach the Data Protection Act.

Eddie Mair presents PM, Mon–Fri 5pm, and iPM, Sat 5.45am, both Radio 4