The fabulous thing about my job is that I get to meet plenty of characters; the type of people who make this country unique.
John Gill and his staff at Crazy Coffins are a fine example. They aim to take the very serious subject of death and allow people to design their own send off in a fun way. Lets be honest, we are all going to die and we may as well let other people have a little smile on a very sad occasion.
Have you even thought about being buried in a skateboard shaped coffin ? Probably not, but if you do, Crazy Coffins produce bespoke coffins and urns in any shape and size requested by the customer. Over the years they have produced ballet shoes, mobile phones, skips, narrow boats, corkscrews and even an aeroplane.
Crazy Coffins is an offshoot of Nottingham firm Vic Fearn & Company Ltd a manufacturer of veneered and solid timber coffins. The company’s first decorated coffin was made in 1990. It was so unusual at that time, with its stags and swags of flowers, that in featured in a national newspaper. Such decorated coffins are now commonplace.
John Gill told me how an elderly Scotswoman turned up at the door about 10 years later clutching a part built Red Arrows coffin. She asked if they could finish it. A month later, the coffin was complete. They heard no more; but slowly complete strangers came forward with requests. A man wanted a canal-boat coffin, followed by a second for his wife. They built a sledge coffin, and a coffin modelled on a kite.
Orders trickled in and art galleries approached Crazy Coffins, with a view to staging exhibitions, leading to a two week exhibition at the Royal Festival Hall.
They still to build conventional coffins but the Crazy Coffin market continues to develop and with it the market in decorative ashes urns. At the time I visited the workshop was building a coffin in the shape of a bottle of Jack Daniel’s which can see on the image below.
Over in deepest Lincolnshire you can find Ron ‘the gnome’ Broomfield.
The 79 year old retired window cleaner has over 1,700 gnomes in his collection and he even dresses like one to do his shopping. His collection started It started 50 years ago when Ron was on his way to watch a football match at Tottenham Hotspurs, seven gnomes caught his eye at a garden centre so I he ordered them and collected them after the match.
Ron’s home, gnome cottage, is full of gnomes in all shapes and sizes. During the summer he sets some of them out in his garden. Each winter he repairs and re-paints his collection to keep them in top condition.
Ron told me he first started bringing them into the house because he was worried they might get broken outside. Friends and family like to buy him gnomes for his birthday and Christmas but they struggle to remember which he already owns so he does get some duplicates.
When he first started buying the gnomes they cost about £1 each but they now cost up to £250 each. He is terrified by the thought of how much he must have spent over the years.
Ron’s biggest gnome is a German four-footer, and the smallest a cake decoration. He takes them around in his gnomemobile, a converted shopping trolley, to raise funds for the NSPCC.