New Zealand. Ashes to ashes, dust to smiles at a modern-day funeral

17.01.2020
New Zealand. Ashes to ashes, dust to smiles at a modern-day funeral - Похоронный портал
Francis and Kaiora Tipene are the stars of The Casketeers, a series of simple moments well shared.


Malcolm Hopwood


OPINION: About 40 years ago someone was seen to smile at a funeral. How dare they. But it started a quiet revolution in New Zealand.

What was happening? Were there changes in the "ashes to ashes, dust to dust" business? As a young TV journalist in Christchurch I was sent to investigate.

While mourners wore black, the winds of change were blowing. Someone had said "let's celebrate a life instead of commemorating a death". Dangerous thinking, but the idea was gathering support. A funeral director's teeth – were they his – were seen in public as he embraced a bereaved member of a family. He didn't lose his licence.

I had my story. It was about hearses changing from black to British racing green, people weeping and laughing in public, mourners wearing colour, jokes in church, families celebrating a deceased's life and not intoning their CV and sausage rolls afterwards. A funeral is judged by the quality of its sausage roll. In all, the stiff upper lip had lost its Viagra.

Now there's been a further change. It's called The Casketeers (TV One, Sundays). Funerals are no longer a grave undertaking. While I'm not entirely convinced about the title, calling it The Incinerators might be worse.

The stars of the new series are funeral directors Francis and Kaiora Tipene. They are casual, laid back and completely on song. They've taken my informality and celebration one step further. This week, they returned the bodies of both Judith Blundell and Daniel Waipouri to the family.

Wonderful. Back at home they were venerated before being returned. What's more natural than granny lying in state in the front parlour? She keeps her dentures.

Kaiora might like Harley-Davidsons, but Francis' budget only extends to a second-hand scooter for their anniversary gift. He wants it to be special. He remembered his early days when she wrapped her arms and legs around his L plate as he took off, faster than a Lime e-scooter. Simple moments like that make The Casketeers special.

The series does more for funerals than Country Calendar does for free-range chooks. It's not a dead-end job.

There was once an expression "packed together like sardines". Now it's walruses. I have this incredible image of 100,000 of them, tusk to tusk, whisker to whisker, crammed together on a small beach somewhere near the Arctic Circle. It was Waikiki for walruses.

As the ice melted, they looked for land. But there were hungry polar bears about, causing a stampede back into the water. With loss of life, the bears fed on the carcasses. This haunting image began another episode of the splendid Seven Worlds, One Planet series (TV One, Sundays).

I've previously believed the walrus had an IQ of room temperature, but Sir David Attenborough explained their predicament due to climate change and the ice caps melting.

The doco, featuring the Asian continent, was an ideal mix of information and entertainment. We saw how the blue-faced, snub-nosed, golden-coasted, snow monkeys of northern China huddle together to keep warm, the endangered Sumatran rhinos sing like Lady Gaga to attract a mate, the Himalayan orangutans enjoy termite entrees and the psychedelic lizards of Northern India fight each other for top spot on the rock to pull the girls.

But above all it showed how we're destroying the planet by felling its forests and starving its animals. Just go and plant a tree and stop releasing CO2 into the atmosphere.

I found Inside The Ritz Hotel (TV One, Tuesdays) an indulgence. It teetered on expensive bad taste.

Unadulterated decadence, as one guest fondly described it, with a Ritz cocktail in his hand. I'm sure wealthy Brits would give their Phuket implants to be seen there and attend one of the five sittings of afternoon tea.

It's also the home of The Firm – the one that Harry and Meghan escaped from. When you stay at The Ritz, actor Richard Grant, commented, "you're being royally fleeced". Too true.

Malcolm Hopwood is a Stuff columnist

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