by Harry Pope

My audition photo

My audition photo

When I was 69, I had a pacemaker fitted, which transformed my life. Before, I was fainting a lot in inconvenient places when my heart beat became irregular, after the operation I realised that I had been given another chance to continue.

Six weeks after the insertion came the medical news that I could return to a normal life, so the first thing I did was write a book. The funeral profession had been my way of earning a modest income off and on for forty years or so, writing a book about my early career was a way of informing readers how not to do it. With a lot of anecdotes to share, such as falling into the grave with a coffin half on top of me as the rain poured onto my unmoving increasingly annoyed torso and all finding my predicament extremely amusing as I failed to share their laughter. Or reversing a vintage limousine into an unyielding lamp post and explaining the damage to my guvnor. And the years spent working for the premier London company in their overseas office, arranging repatriations to weird destinations and even stranger customs.

Buried Secrets cover

Buried Secrets cover

To market this book, I started a Facebook page called UK Funeral Forum, which two years after founding now has over 2,300 funeral professionals who share knowledge and information, in the meantime guiding Buried Secrets to over 5,000 copies sold, when few books manage to reach 200. So the page has served to bring together people who help each other learn more about their day to day life.

I already had a publisher, but had not bothered to previously market any of my writings, so have learned a lot about how to successfully promote a book, adding a new knowledge that I will share with you in a future article.

Arcadia

Arcadia

Having been involved with the funeral profession for so many years, I am now a celebrant, which means that I take services in a bespoke way instead of a clergyman. My way of taking the service is to write lots of notes, turning them into a funeral that reflects the life of not just the person who has passed, but also that of the family that remain. This is an area that I have been expanding since the magical 69, becoming more motivated to help families, while at the same time earning a fee.

Some years ago Pam and I started enjoying cruising holidays, so it was a natural progression to apply to become a lecturer on these cruise ships. At the time there was an agency owned by a man living just under an hour away, every now and again he had a day long session for would be speakers. My day there were five of us, me auditioning on the subject of creative writing. I was rubbish. My talk was boring, there were no slides, I said erm too often, as time progressed my confidence ebbed away so ultimately I petered out in a blaze of ignominy. The other four were far better, so instead of giving up, I went back to basics, decided on a far more interesting topic, which was me and my amusing funeral career, and applied to be a speaker with the Women’s Institute. I passed my twenty minute audition, all would-be speakers have to present themselves to a room of 120 ladies from all the clubs in the area, gaining a minimum score of eight out of a possible ten.

Brisbane

Brisbane

When I was 69 and fainting, I had to defer the talks, fortunately knowing a very able substitute who stepped in for me. Jim is a versatile man, having worked in clubs in the Manchester and surrounding area as singer and comedian, also a smaller role actor, specialising in Coronation Street. My friend has a wealth of stories to share, so it was a good day for me when despite my inability to perform along came Jim.

Back on my feet, I decided to apply again to be a cruise ship lecturer, this time approaching P&O directly. To date Pam and I have appreciated three cruises, with seven different talks researched, learned, and presented. I am now on their books for short notice when others are unable to go for one reason or another, coming close to going on the Arcadia world trip with three different sections requiring a speaker. It was very disappointing not to ultimately be accepted to fly to Sydney, a day at sea with talk, a day in Brisbane, another talk at sea, followed by a day at the Great Barrier Reef, then four more talks at sea before flying back from Manila. But at least I am on their books and they are thinking of me.

Coral Sea

Coral Sea

There is an entertainment agency based in north Yorkshire that book lecturers for a lot of cruise lines, so I have applied to be considered for an audition. That would really broaden the horizons – literally.

Amazon have promoted Buried Secrets on three different occasions, boosting sales considerably, so I had a word with my publisher, asking if he thought it was time I got myself a literary agent. He said a definite yes, so I have submitted to one of the very best, now waiting to hear.

Just because you get older doesn’t mean that you have to have an older mentality. There is always something you can do to improve your life, why not write to me at harrythewriter@btinternet.com and I will be happy to share my philosophy with you.