IN this requiem week I’m directed to the jolly, if somewhat esoteric, website belonging to a company called Farewill Funerals. The firm is rightfully proud of its status as reigning champions in the coveted “Low-cost Funeral Provider of the Year” category at last year’s Association of Green Funeral Directors Awards.

Farewill seems to rest within the humanist burial tradition, a sector which, in the business of interment, is often unfairly regarded as being austere and perfunctory. Yet, there seems little that’s spartan or frugal about the Association of Green Funeral Directors (AGFD).

This year’s awards ceremony is to be held next Saturday at the gloriously-named Crazy Bear Hotel in Stadhampton, Oxforshire. Among the categories up for grabs are those you might expect to see in a championship such as this: Crematorium of the Year, Funeral Director of the Year and Coffin Provider of the Year. Then there’s the slightly more adventurous Anatomical Pathologist Technician of the Year, Carriage Masters of the Year and Minister of the Year (“any religion”).

There’s also a “Lifetime Achievement Award”. I wonder, though, if it might actually be more appropriate to give an award such as this to a recently deceased stalwart.

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I feel sure that the Association of Green Funeral Directors might appreciate an old Neapolitan custom that’s vividly described in Naples ’44, the powerful military memoir by Norman Lewis. The book recounts the author’s days as a military intelligence officer in the blasted streets of Naples, during which he forms a friendship with Lattarullo, a penurious scion of Italy’s minor aristocracy.

In order to maintain a trickle of income, Lattarullo poses as a Zio di Roma – an uncle from Rome – at funerals. Lewis reports that Neapolitan funerals are “obsessed with face” and that poor families go to extraordinary lengths to ensure that the obsequies of their dearly departed are provided with status and prestige. Thus, a stranger of suitably patrician appearance and manners is paid to pose as the designated “uncle from Rome”.

Lewis writes: “The uncle lets it be known that he has just arrived on the Rome express, or he shows up at the slum tenement or lowly basso in an Alfa Romeo with a Roman numberplate … out of which he steps in his well-cut morning suit, on the jacket lapel of which he sports the ribbon of a Commendatore of the Crown of Italy, to temper with his restrained and dignified condolences the theatrical display of Neapolitan grief.”

In these straitened times some ingenuity may be required of enterprising West of Scotland citizens to eke out a decent living. Perhaps, inspired by the “uncle from Rome” there may be a market for the “uncle from Glasgow”.

This chap, an edgy but gregarious customer, would be paid to enliven Edinburgh weddings which – as every self-respecting Glaswegian knows – are traditionally less festive than a Glasgow funeral.

The “uncle from Glasgow” would thus alight at the wedding reception from the back of a private hire taxi, somewhat dishevelled in a stained, light-coloured Versace suit and in the sparkling early stages of insobriety.

As groups of Edinburgh guests quietly disputed whose turn it was to buy the next round of drinks, the “uncle from Glasgow” would breenge in and order a “couple of bottles of that Moet” while loudly telling the bartender to “get one for yourself”.

After a forceful but whispered conversation, the DJ would be prevailed upon to play Sweet Caroline. One by one, several female guests who had been hoping to ease themselves slowly into the proceedings would be swept around the dancefloor inelegantly to the consternation of their rugger-playing swains. Each of them would be addressed by the same Christian name: “Sweetheart”.

Inevitably, an aggravated confrontation would threaten to ensue before the “uncle from Glasgow” would relieve the tension with an improbable order of 24 tequila slammers. Eventually he would be escorted out while shouting “Right! Outside now!” but not before the previously lacklustre occasion had started to shimmy and shake. A job well done.

Growing up in an Irish-Catholic household in the 1970s, the thing to be was an altar boy.

The trick here was also to volunteer for the less glamorous Saturday masses or Friday Benedictions. Thus, you stood a better chance of being selected to serve at the lucrative Hollywood events like weddings, funerals and baptisms.

Funerals were always the best as they tended to occur on weekdays and so you could look forward to a school-free morning.

An older lad in the altar boy corps told me that the best way to ensure a decent tip from the mourners was to invest in a cigarette lighter. You would then be on hand quickly to proffer a light to mourners eager to have a cigarette after the notoriously lengthy Catholic funeral rites.