I can't work at home for a full week, so .....

Don't know about you, but my empty home complainants seem oblivious to the fact that 'normal service' isn't an on thing right now. I reckon some of them haven't clocked that Hitler invaded Poland or that England split with Rome. 

So, I can't do business properly workign at home. I'm usless. So I redeployed. Here's a little taste of what I do now.

Redeployment with Bereavement Services. A Learning Opportunity.

I’ve landed a redeployment right where I offered myself to be. I’m providing ad hoc support at the Council’s  Cemetery and Crematorium in Caversham. It is an enriching experience.

I’ve met mourners. One is a TEAM Reading colleague who looked like she needed a big hug. Separately, I’ve smelt the molasses of ‘Uncle Ray’ in the air before happening on a Jamaican graveside gathering, all socially-distanced as much as they could at a sad send-off for their relative. I’ve also seen numerous individuals deep in thought and chat as they tend loved ones’ memorials. And I’ve seen many who come to the Cemetery simply to walk, scoot or exercise in this vast and tranquil green space.

I’ve met the staff who do the paperwork, and boy do they have to be meticulous. This attention to detail is obviously the right way. It’s also the way required by laws brought in as a direct result of the crimes of Dr Harold Shipman. All documents are checked by staff, by the manager and finally by a visiting ‘Medical Referee’...

I meet the grave-diggers who dig the graves to precision. From them, I’ve learned about terms like ‘shoring’ and ‘headstone socketing’. We even got onto the challenges of different soils, sub-soils and sub-strata.  

I meet the ground-staff who keep this large cemetery in beautiful order. I’ve learned that every 20 or 30 days, they return to where they started their mowing and strimming to do it all over again. Never mind a third Reading bridge, this outfit have their own Forth Bridge with the added chore of working around numerous outlandish or wind-strewn graveside memorials. There are some epic trees and shrubs to look after too.

I’ve met the funeral directors and seen their fine motors, including a motor-cycle side-car hearse.

At lunch break, I walk the mile-round Cemetery boundary. I’ve spotted the nests of song thrushes, jackdaw and red kite, and the national flags of Ireland, Barbados and Jamaica. I found a steel pigeon and a memorial to Ronald Allen, star of nearly 200 episodes of Crossroads.  

But I spend most of my time in the crematory with the Crematorium workers. I’m not hands on, but am there to assist when required, act as a witness, answer the door or phone but most of all to ensure that none of them have to be lone workers. Bringing in ‘buddies’ means that the full-time qualified pros have shifts that are spread out and so they get a break. With the Crematory running from 05:00 to 22:00 some days, you can appreciate the need for this crew to be able to step out of the role. I’m awestruck at these colleagues’ work which, though it is a seemingly repetitive process, is carried out with genuine care and requires a deep understanding of powerful machinery that needs constant love. These workers are far, far busier than normal. Like Scotty in Star Trek, they have quite some responsibility.

I've sat in a cupboard and pressed 'Play' on Obitus, the Spotify app for funerals. It is sad viewing a sparely attnded service through CCTV. The toughest thing is seeing a widower or widow sitting alone, while their family have to sit 2 metres away.

It is a profound place where you are reminded of mortality and sadness all the time, but where an important ‘life event’ is attended to. Partly because the service in relatively unseen to most, and partly because no one wants to talk about death, the service rarely registers on the roll call of plaudits in normal times.

If you’ve mulled over your own mortality lately, make a promise that as soon as you get the chance, set out clear plans for the end of your life. It’s not morbid. It helps the people you leave behind through a jarring experience. Write your Will (link is external). And if you’re really keen on covering other unwelcome scenarios, look into Lasting Power of Attorney (link is external).

I’m privileged to get this freakish chance to meet and work with these good people who are blessed with diligence, wit and compassion. I’m lucky to have a legit reason to get away from my house and from playing VPN-bingo. I’m fortunate to be learning about a whole new profession and I as a bonus, I get to do something more useful than I would normally be doing. But if this all sounds smug and self-important, I can assure you I don’t want it to last.


Wow Nick!  What a fascinating change for you from empty homes work.  My 'redeployment' isn't half as interesting, but for what it's worth...

We've been trying to find extra temporary accommodation for people who have become homeless due to the current situation.  Some through domestic violence, some where things haven't gone well for them financially and they've fallen through the net. 

One way we've been doing this is to contact all the owners of our holiday lets and ask them if they'd be willing to let their holiday home be used for tempoary accommodation, but just for the shutdown period.  Replies have been very varied, with many not replying at all, others wanting to be able to choose the actual people who would be staying there, and then some really generous offers from owners.  One lady offered her holiday cottage but also said we could use her 6-bed guesthouse - she wasn't looking to make a profit, just to cover costs.  Some people's generosity of spirit is always heartening.

Has anyone else been helping out with other roles during shutdown??

Lynne Leach, South Lakeland District Council


Lynne Leach