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Rugby's Brightest Star

If you’ve ever visited Niagara Falls or seen Vesuvius erupting, you’ll know that it’s something you remember for the rest of your life. The New Zealand rugby-player Jonah Lomu was like that: an awesome power of nature who astonished and humbled anyone who saw him in action. He was a giant who could run like a gazelle, able to power through the heaviest tackles and leave the swiftest opponents trailing in his wake.

Now, far too soon, he’s left the country that adored him, the sport that idolized him and the world that was awed by him. Lomu was born only forty years ago, the son of Tongan immigrants to New Zealand. He was from a warrior race and for a time in his youth he found it difficult to channel his energy and strength in socially acceptable ways. He was involved with gangs in Auckland, but he moved on and found the right stage for his outstanding physical and athletic gifts: international rugby.

New Zealand is a small country with only four million inhabitants, but it punches far above its weight when it comes to sport. Godzone – or “God’s own”, as it’s sometimes jokingly called – has produced world-class performers in everything from cricket and mountaineering to athletics and yachting, but Lomu may be the greatest of them all. He certainly chose the right sport to win the hearts of his fellow countrymen, because rugby has always been the best way for New Zealand to make its mark on the world. The All Blacks are the country’s most famous and most popular ambassadors. They’ve been striking fear into the hearts of their opponents for over a century now and their dominance of world rugby has rarely been threatened.

When Jonah Lomu entered the side in 1994, that All-Black dominance looked to be guaranteed for many years ahead. No player had ever combined such enormous strength and size with such speed and acceleration. He was rugby’s first superstar, amazing even veteran commentators with his running ability and try-scoring prowess. He attracted new fans to the sport, confirmed old fans in their allegiance, and gave all of them sporting memories to last a lifetime.

But if he was a force of nature, he was more like Vesuvius than Niagara, because he blazed briefly and then faded away. He erupted onto the international arena, dazzling and awing team-mates, opponents and spectators, but his career was far shorter than it should have. He suffered from a rare and serious kidney disorder that limited both his appearances as an All Black and, it’s now sadly apparent, his time on earth. His early death hasn’t come as a total surprise to those who knew of his illness, but it will have been mourned by millions of people around the world. Lomu was given exceptional sporting talents and far too short a time to exercise them. But he did more in his few years than most people could achieve in a dozen lifetimes. The tries he scored were fast, furious and utterly unforgettable, and the world of sport is now mourning perhaps the greatest player ever to set foot on a rugby field.

Leave your own thoughts and memories of Lomu here -

The Plane Truth - I aint gettin' on no plane

Fear of flying is a common condition. Fear of travelling by car is much rarer. Logically you might expect it to be the other way around, because the risks are so much smaller in the sky than they are on the roads. But it’s hard to govern your life and emotions by logic. And the media don’t help: they feed fear of flying and mostly ignore the risks of the roads. Car-crashes happen every hour of every day in every country on earth, killing many thousands of people year after year, but they rarely make the national news unless several people are killed at once or a celebrity is involved.

A jet-liner crash, by contrast, wins immediate international headlines and can stay in the news for days. It’s a rare event, but it’s a spectacular and memorable one. This focus on a rare but shocking danger contributes to the fear many people feel about flying. But there are other factors at work too. In a plane we depend entirely on the pilot, the ground staf and the technology of the plane. If something goes wrong high in the sky, there’s no possible escape. If the plane crashes at high speed as it’s coming in to land, the chances of escape are little better.

It doesn’t seem like that in a car. Safety seems much nearer at hand. We’re still on the ground after all and advancing technology – airbags, computer-assisted steering and so on – means that cars are much safer than they were twenty or thirty years ago, let alone in their early days. So it becomes hard to remember that planes – those giant pieces of metal that leap into the sky – are much safer still. Cars feel more natural and when we are the driver we feel confident and in control.

There may be another consideration, however. If we die in a car-crash, we may subconsciously feel that our death will have a kind of importance and significance that it would lack if we died in a plane-crash instead. When a plane crashes, the dead are sometimes numbered in the hundreds. That is why plane-crashes can seem so horrible and attract so much attention in the media, but they also mean that the deaths of individuals seem less significant. It’s like the differences between a war and a duel. Both wars and duels have opposing sides, but in a war the opposing sides are huge groups. In a duel, it’s one person against another person.

So a duel is obviously more personal and has a significance for the individuals involved in a way that a war doesn’t. And perhaps this reasoning also applies to car-crashes and plane-crashes. When we pass away, we want our departure to have meaning and significance. We don’t want to be lost in a crowd and to have our lives overshadowed by the horror of a huge event like a plane-crash. Maybe it’s not rational or logical to think like that, but human beings can’t behave like robots. Emotions matter and so do our feelings about whether we have control over our lives – and over what happens to us when we pass away.

That’s where a funeral plan comes in. We can’t remove all danger from life and we can’t live for ever, but we can try to make our own choices and we can certainly choose the way we are buried and the kind of funeral service we have. By doing so in good time, we can make the best possible choices and save the maximum amount of money. Despite the advance of technology, life is becoming less certain and secure, not more so, and funeral plans offer us an ever more valuable space to find security and peace of mind.


Candle in the Wind - Brief Bright Light

As tickets go on sale today for Elton John's 2016 Tour, this blog seemed somewhat apt.

A troubled childhood is often the fuel for a successful career in show business. Many actors and actresses are searching for the love and attention they missed in their earliest years. That certainly seems to apply to one of the most famous actresses of all time. She was born as Norma Jeane Mortensen on June 1st 1926 in Los Angeles, but she rose to world-wide fame as Marilyn Monroe.

That was when she was an adult; as a child she never knew her father and lived only briefly with her mother Gladys, who struggled with mental illness and was eventually sent to an insane asylum. So instead of a happy family life, the future Marilyn Monroe was bounced between relatives and even lived for a time in an orphanage. The sense of loss she felt then may have driven her quest for stardom in her later years. Her quest succeeded, but she didn’t enthral the world for long. Like James Dean and John F. Kennedy, two other icons from the post-war era, she went far too soon. Dean died in a car crash and Kennedy was assassinated, but Marilyn died by her own hand, taking an overdose of sleeping-pills in 1962.

Or did she? Some say the overdose was an accident or that she was murdered. Figures like Marilyn Monroe attract conspiracy-theorists in the way bright lights attract moths. Marilyn shone very brightly, but very briefly too. She had leading roles in Hollywood for only a decade before her death, after beginning her climb to fame in 1945. She working in a factory when a visiting army photographer spotted her potential as a model. He encouraged her to apply to a modelling agency and she decided to dye her hair blonde from its natural brunette.

Her new look helped her become one of the agency’s most successful models and she attracted the interest of the film company Twentieth Century Fox. Now she transformed herself again, changing her name to Marilyn Monroe. It’s a catchy, attractive and memorable name, but its magic took some time to work: her early roles were small and fleeting until her breakthrough film Clash by Night in 1952. Now her unhappy childhood began to work in her favour. News of her early struggles helped win her sympathy and attention from the media and general public. One magazine described her success as a “Cinderella Story”.

And by then she was dating a handsome prince: the baseball player Joe DiMaggio, the David Beckham or Ronaldo of his day. Publicity bred publicity, and Marilyn began to fill a role that she would never lose, becoming a universal symbol of glamour and sex-appeal. As many people noted during her lifetime and afterwards, she wasn’t an outstanding actress or a true natural beauty, but she had something even more valuable to an actor: the camera loved her. She looked wonderful on film and in photographs, and her image filled newspapers and magazines right around the world.

At first she had had only bit parts in films. Then came supporting roles. Finally, she was ready to be a leading actress – a genuine star. In 1953 she appeared with Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, singing and dancing in the role of a scheming show-girl. As she sang in the film: “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend!” Her other iconic films included The Seven Year Itch in 1955 and the comedy Some Like It Hot in 1959. But fame, success and adulation didn’t bring her the contentment she might have hoped for. Her marriage to Joe DiMaggio early in 1954 was over before the year ended. As Marilyn said: “He was jealous of me because I was more famous than he was.”

After all, baseball is popular in only a few countries around the world. Beauty is a universal language and Marilyn’s appeal could be understood everywhere from Amsterdam to Zanzibar. In 1956, two years after her divorce from DiMaggio, she tried to find marital happiness again with the playwright Arthur Miller. She even converted to Judaism to get closer to her husband and his family. This marriage lasted five years, ending shortly before her death. She had affairs too, most famously with President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert. But she always felt that her real self could never live up to the promise of her film self. Fame had turned into a trap and she tried to break out using psychoanalysis, drugs and alcohol.

But nothing worked and her film career was harmed by her growing reputation for unreliability and emotional fragility. Her problems were piling up and her career was beginning to fade – were many people surprised when news of her death flashed around the world in August 1962? If she had lived to seventy or eighty, perhaps few people in the twenty-first century would remember her: “Marilyn who?” But that’s unlikely. If you see Marilyn Monroe on film or in a photograph, you remember her and want to see her again. She bursts in the brain – that’s why she was called a blonde bombshell, after all.

And early death did for her what it did for James Dean and Princess Diana: held off old age for ever. All three of them died while they were still young and attractive. The camera loved all of them and they continue to light the world with their images, bringing smiles and fond memories to countless millions who never saw them in the flesh.


Getting Our Message to Customers

It’s the information age and with more information comes more power to the consumer. Safe Hands is not just one of the UK’s largest funeral trade bodies: we are the only one whose primary objective is to improve value for money and pricing fairness within the funeral industry. We want to do this by communicating with potential customers as powerfully and honestly as we can.


We have recently made two important appointments: TV’s Dr Hilary Jones is now the Official Ambassador of the NFFD and will be using his national profile to bring even greater exposure to our cause. Meanwhile, England’s 1966 World Cup winning goalkeeper, Gordon ‘Safe Hands’ Banks, will be fronting Safe Hands’ forthcoming national TV advertisement.


Having spent over 2 decades working in TV and media, Dr Hilary is familiar to the nation as a trusted and credible expert on all matters to do with health and wellbeing. One of Dr Hilary’s key aims is to help bring our unique, revolutionary, and subsidised ‘Terminally Ill’ plan to the attention of families suffering the imminent loss of a loved-one in end-of-life care.


If you are affiliated with the NFFD, you have the chance for Dr Hilary to appear on your website, giving potential customers additional reassurance that they are engaging the services of a credible supplier.


Gordon ‘Safe Hands’ Banks is perhaps even more of a household name, famous for countless astonishing saves, his modesty, and of course being a hero to the many millions who watched him lift the World Cup trophy in 1966. Being, as he is, of a certain age, he has a particular empathy and rapport with the older generation – many of whom find comfort and peace of mind in purchasing products that are endorsed by a recognised face.


With the appointments of Dr Hilary Jones and Gordon Banks, Safe Hands upward trajectory can only continue. We’re proud and delighted to have them join our team.

Rapid Growth in NFFD Membership

In business, people vote with their feet. If they like what you’re doing, they’ll join you. That’s why the National Federation of Funeral Directors is gaining more and more members. People like what we are doing and want to become part of it. Membership is completely free and the benefits we offer are designed to equip funeral directorships to flourish in a new internet-focused and consumer-driven business environment.

The NFFD know that social media and rapid technological change make it essential for businesses to be flexible, responsive and nimble. With this in mind, we have built an experienced team of social media experts who can run the accounts members have already established or create them from scratch. We assign each new member a dedicated account manager to guide them in building an audience and winning leads by taking full advantage of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the new sites that will surely appear in the future.

But consumers want more than easy access to information and price-comparison when they’re choosing a funeral service. They like to be reassured by a friendly and familiar face – someone whose judgment they can trust. We are delighted to announce that we have secured Dr Hilary Jones as the new NFFD ambassador, who will fill this role to perfection. And in the summer, TV advertisements for the NFFD will feature the 1966 World Cup winner Gordon Banks, the goalkeeper who is a well-merited hero to the age-group now beginning to use funeral services in increasing numbers.

Generating new business through social media and advertising is a first essential benefit of NFFD membership. What comes next? A lot! We also offer our members the chance to take advantage of our partnership agreement with Funeralstore, the UK’s top supplier of funeral and mortuary equipment. Whether it’s body-bags or giant fridges, you’ll receive a 10% discount on already heavily discounted products, enabling you to cut costs without sacrificing quality.

Lower costs mean higher profits and with the NFFD you’ll enjoy both. Our members can also pay drastically reduced admin fees on funeral plans sold through SafeHands Funeral Plans. Charging an admin fee of just 1% – one per cent – SafeHands allows you to receive almost the entire purchase price of the plan and to reap the excellent returns on their multi-million-pound trust fund investments. While you do not have to be an NFFD member to sell SafeHands funeral plans, membership will guarantee that SafeHands offer all funerals in your area to you first.

The benefits of joining the NFFD don’t end there. As a member, you’ll become part of an ever-growing network of funeral businesses, enabling you to draw on the experience and expertise of hundreds of firms right around the country. We can introduce you to new contacts from every part of the business. They will benefit you and you will benefit them. Interconnection is an essential part of modern business and is at the heart of the NFFD’s dynamic and innovative business model.

The future is here now. By joining the NFFD you become part of it.

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