Dead Centre

Two of the most senior masters of livery companies, speaking at last night’s Mansion House dinner given to Masters by the Lord Mayor, commented on the elections and urged the livery to play a greater part in guaranteeing the welfare of the City. The Ward of Bedspread is well ahead of the game. At the heart of the Ward is the livery hall of the Worshipful Company of Undertakers, Embalmers and Monumental Masons. Embalmers’ Hall will actually be used as the polling station for next week’s highly contested election. As you might expect, Embalmers’ Hall is a slightly odd place, a sort of combination of the Sir John Soanes’s Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields and an old-fashioned music hall, like Hoxton Hall, with unbleached candles in the chandeliers and a slight smell of – well, I suppose it must be – embalming fluid!

The sitting member to whom I was speaking the other day at Guildhall is, in fact, a Past Master Embalmer, and a number of the younger liverymen – more usually known these days as Funeral Directors – have decided to stand for election. (I do not mean by this that they are Standers, though funeral directors do stand around quite a lot, while waiting for the clergy to finish or for the deceased’s favourite CD track to finish playing; I think they are mostly Bobbers.) What, I wonder, will they bring to Common Council?

Some might argue, though I wouldn’t be one, that they can assist in the funeral rites of an outmoded institution. Others might see them as providing future stability, keeping the historic structures going for a bit longer, but behind the traditional conservative appearance – top hats, long black coats, and silver topped canes – we may find both business sense and a real grassroots understanding of human life – and death, of course. Embalmers are not what they seem! Indeed, embalming is enjoying a bit of a revival, and the company’s members have also developed a sideline in cryostasis, freezing bodies for later repair and recovery. A number of bankers, I am told, have expressed an interest in this.

So what is in their election manifesto? It states very simply:

“We undertake to work for you, the electors of the Ward of Bedspread. We will be there for you when you need us most. We will take time to understand your needs. We will provide an excellent service.”

They will get my vote. I notice they also provide lovely floral tributes.

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