Apparently, there is a move to provide professional mourners at funerals, just so that it looks as if the deceased and his/her surviving family members were/are much loved folk, greatly missed by those around them.
There's nothing new in this concept. Dickens spoke of young Oliver Twist as having the right sort of sorrowful face and harrowed expression that made him a fit choice to lead the funeral cortege - a sort of professional orphan.
And, didn't the ancient Greeks have professional mourners to lead the ekphora or funeral procession? (Well, "there's posh" as they allegedly say in Wales).
An undertaker in Essex started the current trend and has found that Hull is the epicentre of demand. Hull? I ask you?
Twelve funerals have taken place in Hull, attended by these 'mourners' and you could say that it's been a tearaway success (oh, please).
So much so that it has prompted me to design a short course for those wishing to take up this profession and gain a National Vocational Qualification in Lachrymosology or, weeping if you prefer.
Here's a course outline:
Module 1 - Crying
This is a two day unit requiring delegates to undertake a series of crying modes.
These include: Gentle sniffing, heavy nose blowing, profuse tears down cheeks (known as the poke digit in eye technique), wailing, shrieking, blubbing, rolling on the ground and teeth gnashing.
Jewish delegates may opt for the garment rending session also.
Module 2 - Manifestations of grief
Half a day is dedicated to soot smearing and to rubbing ashes through hair. More advanced students (NVQ Level 1.5) may elect for the 'Iranian Massage' - that is, self flagellation with a rusty metal chain.
In the afternoon there will be sessions involving coffin clinging and banging head against any hard surface.
Module 3 - Processing and graveside routines
Special emphasis is placed on handkerchief style (wiping eyes, blowing nose and general waving around). Delegates will also get to experience the ancient 'mourner's walk', a sort of aimless ramble involving frequent falling on knees to give a solemn air of a profound sense of loss.
At the graveside there will be special 'holding back from the abyss' sessions whereby mourners appear to attempt to accompany the coffin into the grave. Earth eating is an optional extra.
There is also a module for orthodox Catholics.
It may take anything from one to two hours.
It's called, a Requiem Mass.