WE begin this week with endings. Specifically, our own.

 “We’re the last people to spend any time with the deceased before they go through the cremation process,” Jenny Hamilton, manager of the Clyde Coast and Garnock Valley Crematorium told Aleem Maqbool on Beyond Belief on Radio 4 last Monday.

“So it’s the last time that anybody can put a hand on their coffin and speak to them as their families know them to be,” she continued. “So for us it is very important to tell them how loved they were. We always put a hand on the coffin and use their name. Tell them how many people turned up at the funeral. We tell them that their music choices were fabulous. We tell them how beautiful their flowers were. It’s just important for us to have that last final conversation with them. And then just as the door opens we wish them well on their journey.”

Listening to this I found myself rather moved. Because that sounds like a respectful farewell for anyone. I’d say. 

Beyond Belief, which examines religious issues in the contemporary world, has had quite a Scottish flavour of late. The previous episode had been based around an interview with Kate Forbes and asked the question whether people of faith are being squeezed out of British politics? (The answer seemed to be no, as far as I could work out.) 

As for last Monday, Jenny Hamilton’s comments led to a discussion about funeral practices, how various faiths viewed the human body in death and asked at what point in the world’s faith traditions had cremation had become acceptable?

The answer? It varies, according to custom, social needs and history. Sally Berkovic, who volunteers to prepare Jewish bodies for funerals, pointed out that in her community the shadow of the Holocaust is such that there is a visceral reaction to the very idea of cremation, “because,” as she pointed out, “it conjures up such terrible trauma.”

The programme also revealed that the next fashion in how we deal with our dead may well be what’s called water cremation or resomation, a process that involves the use of chemicals and water to return the body to its basic organic elements. This also has the advantage of being more environmentally friendly than other procedures, though some may baulk at the idea when they hear the use of the word “composting."

Scotland’s game with England on Tuesday night brought out a curious example of the Englishness of the BBC on 5 Live. On Monday night commentator John Murray, who is one of the more reliable and entertaining voices on the station, brought up the Battle of Bannockburn of all things as a gateway into discussing the game. It was a theme picked up by sports reporter Katie Smith on Tuesday morning who said she had had to do a “dangerous deep dive” into the battle after hearing Murray’s comment.

“Do you know this was 1314, Rick?” she asked 5 Live Breakfast presenter Rick Edwards. A reminder that the most notable dates in Scottish history don’t necessarily resonate south of the border in the same way as they do up here. (Edwards neither confirmed nor denied). 

“Decisive victory for Robert Bruce,” Smith did point out. “Will it be the same tonight?”

The answer turned out to be no, unfortunately. To use another crass historical analogy, the game at Hampden was more of a 1746. 

But kudos to Willie Miller on Radio Scotland’s commentary of the game. When the luckless Harry Maguire turned the ball into his own net for Scotland’s only goal of the night, Miller chuckled “good old Harry.” BBC objectivity is thrown out the window when it comes to football, on both sides of the border.

And finally … My favourite radio anecdote of the week came from the Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller, who was the guest of Radio 3’s Private Passions last Sunday. Discussing his artwork Sacrilege, a bouncy castle version of Stonehenge, Deller admitted, “I was very worried about the Druids.

“I actually thought druids would turn up with, like, huge swords and try to slash it. I’m a very pessimistic person, clearly.”

But, it turned out, the druids loved it.

Did they bounce on it, Private Passions presenter Michael Berkeley asked? “They did,” Deller confirmed. And then they asked him, “Could we have it for our druid get-together in a forest the following year?”

I’ve been visualising bouncing druids all week since.


Listen Out For: Radio 2 in the Park, today and tomorrow

Two days of live music from Leicester kicks off today with music from the likes of Soft Cell, Busted, Deacon Blue and James Blunt. Tears for Fears are tonight’s headliners at 8.30pm. Tomorrow Simply Red, Sam Ryder and the Pretenders are among the live acts with Kylie headlining at 8pm.