Stiff talking-to

I thought it was a joke at at first, the sort of thing PRs do when they're being scurrilously witty. The invitation card shaped like a gravestone with a big lily on top - just that little too close to the sort of thing the B3tards get up to when they're designing comedy willies.

I thought it was a joke at at first, the sort of thing PRs do when they're being scurrilously witty. The invitation card shaped like a gravestone with a big lily on top - just that little too close to the sort of thing the B3tards get up to when they're designing comedy willies. The gruesome copperplate script. The words "Journalist Opportunities" where the deceased's moniker would normally go.

But no. As I dug deeper into the envelope, a press release fell out - and a piece of gruesome publicity-seeking bandwagonalia that would have transcended bad taste, if only it wasn't so clearly genuine. I'll get onto that later.

But tell me - am I over-reacting? The product is a social website intended as an online memorial garden for the dead: would you have called it Friends Remembered - or would you have found the echos of Friends Reunited rather too glutinous?

The business model is something, too. Let me quote: "Users of the site can develop an online memorial of 250 or 500 words and for a nominal annual subscription can contribute to the memorial as often as they wish." It's that word 'nominal'. Gives the game away, rather. The "Let's pretend it's not really money" word. And I can think of nicer ways to celebrate the anniversary of someone's death than getting a bill.

It comes as no surprise to find that the brains of the outfit is someone with diplomas in Gestalt and Transpersonal Psychotherapy - go and look 'em up if you want to see why this triggers my resolutely rationalist alarm bells - and specialisations in Emotional and Spiritual Intelligence (their caps).

The tagline for the whole enterprise? "Why Are We So Terribly British About Death?". Well, that's because we are British. Terribly.

And that's why the coup de grace for me was the final piece of promotional bumf I mentioned earlier. It's a postcard-sized glossy in blue, black and white, entitled "Keeping her memories alive" and replete with happy smiling pics of... oh, you can guess. Yes, these transpersonal gestalters have 'facilitated a secure, private area within their memorial website devoted to her memory... the strong passion that we had as a nation for her still lives on and we want to cherish it forever with you". No mention of a nominal annual subscription.

Gestalt me with a spoon, mama.

If I ever get wrapped around a load-bearing member in a Parisian underpass and anyone - ANYONE - suggests this, you have my permission, in fact my unshakable request, to take the very largest memorial stone you can find, carve it in the shape of a particular turgid willy, and drop it from a helicopter on the perpetrators of such an unholy act.