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The Comedy of Errors

One foot in the grave

23 May 10 words: Yvonne Lake
What's it like to be Paris Hilton's CBF (Cryogenic Best Friend), wonders our disillusioned book reviewer
The new and improved Paris Hilton, courtesy of a makeover from the undead...

Spike Milligan’s gravestone reads ‘I told you I was ill’, and when Monty Python’s Graham Chapman ceased to be, kicked the bucket, snuffed it (etc) his funeral famously featured a eulogy full of John Cleese’s put-downs, followed by a sing-along to ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’. If meeting the grim reaper can be the subject of mirth, then, there is no reason why Ian Shipley’s A Gravediggers Tales shouldn’t entertain with its anecdotes about the author’s macabre profession. The following quote, however - “From time to time I’m asked if I have ever dug a grave for anyone famous. The answer is no” - sums up how the book falls short of the mark.

Shipley, a gravedigger for 28 years, has an easy to read style, but unfortunately there is too little material of interest here to warrant a whole book. Some anecdotes create intrigue, such as when the author writes about the more bizarre elements of his job – the odd regulars who frequent the graveyard, for example, are particularly interesting – but too little detail is given, which leaves the reader a little frustrated. On the other hand, there is simply too much information about – well, digging graves.

I found this book got me thinking about my own demise, and as someone who sides with Woody Allen in that ‘I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.’ this is not an especially desirable side effect. I’ve always liked the idea of having a New Orleans style send off with a marching jazz band (preferably followed by a Voodoo resurrection), but the control freak in me would worry that one wouldn’t be available and instead I’d end up with some Jamie Cullum-alike scatting all over my coffin (double entendre intended). Shipley’s descriptions of the ‘human soup’ to be found in waterlogged graves also got me thinking about alternative methods of disposal. Being cryogenically frozen appeals, until I remember that Paris Hilton has chosen this method of preservation, and upon defrosting the future generation would probably house us together, giving me the opportunity to squabble with the other housemates over why I should be her CBF (Cryogenic Best Friend) on a reality TV show. At this point I would throw myself into the nearest shallow grave, the thought of human soup suddenly appearing so much more dignified…  
A Gravedigger's Tales in available from Grosvenor House Publishing

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