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The Final Farewell

The English way of death is changing. The manner of our going has never been cheap. But now it is becoming a hugely profitable enterprise.

Suppose, for example, you pass away in the seafaring city of Plymouth down in the far South West. Chances are you supported the local football club, Plymouth Argyll, to your dying day.

Well Plymouth Argyll can now give you the send off you always wanted. Your casket will be draped in the club's colours - green and black. You'll be carried onto the pitch itself, to the cheers of the crowd, and your family can mourn you from the terraces in style - at a fat price.

Alternatively there is a company called Heavens Above Fireworks, that offers the opportunity of sending your ashes into space accompanied by a display of impressive pyrotechnics just to wow your surviving relatives - $3,000 for the cheapest deal.

Even the stuffy old Church of England is beginning to relax its rules. The Reverend Paul Sinclair is founder of Motorcycle Funerals, a Christian niche marketeer catering for those who espoused two wheels and big engines in life, and seek to go out in much the same style. The Reverend can arrange for your casket to be strapped to a motorcycle sidecar and driven in hells angel convoy to your chosen resting place. All good credit cards accepted.

And that's the point. Corpse for corpse we are spending more and more on funerals. And there's growing evidence that we simply can't afford it. In the big industrial town of Wigan, up in the north, the main firm of undertakers - R Banks and Son - is now demanding full payment for lavish funerals in advance. Which means serious financial planning for the very event you won't be able to attend in person - well not consciously, anyway.

But there is one reassuring and very English fact to even up this tale of fiscal woe. Last year the British Government paid out $110 million dollars in state benefits to people who'd already died - and never got a penny back. Whoever said you can't take it with you!
By Ed Boyle

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