Sometime earlier this year I noticed an event being held in Winchester during the summer of 2017. The Death and the Maiden Conference immediately caught my attention, especially when I noticed that one of the speakers was Caitlin Doughty.
I had read Caitlin's book Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and am a fan of her YouTube Channel 'Ask a Mortician'. I consequently made a booking to attend the conference.
So off I went to Winchester University in July, in the pouring rain. The rain, however, did not dampen the enthusiasm of the delegates, who were passionate about the topic of death, and many had travelled a long way to attend.
The Death and the Maiden Conference was advertised as an interdisciplinary conference exploring the relationship between women and death. My only preconceived thoughts about the weekend were that there would probably be a lot of women there.
I was right, but it was not restricted to women. There were men there too.
This was the display that greeted me on arrival, along with some very friendly ladies who helped me find my accommodation and gave me a pack of information about the weekend. I was also given this attractive pink thermal cup, which is made from recycled chewing gum!
I spoke to Lucy ColemanTalbot, who made me feel welcome and was also wearing the pinkest of coloured lipsticks.
Pink is one of my favourite colours, I felt comfortable about my arrival and went off to get settled in my room at the University.
Things, however, did not stay pink for long! There was a lot of black waiting for me. A gothic dress code was not in place for the event, but it certainly was dominant.
I arrived a little late for the first talk, due to having to walk up a rather steep hill to where the conference was being held. I met Dr Chrisitina Welch, who kindly showed me to where I was meant to be.
Suddenly I was listening to a passionate Soul Midwife talking about her work with the dying. From then on the scheduled talks and presentations filled my days and evenings. Balanced with workshops, films, theatre and exhibitions the excellent programme was varied, absorbing and interesting.
On the Saturday at breakfast I met Caitlin, who had drawn me to attend in the first place. Caitlin said in her smooth chocolatey velvety voice: "Sandy you are not wearing black, I am having trouble processing that" and I knew that her on screen humour was real. Caitlin's talk that followed was right up my street as she was talking about transhumanism, cryonics and artificial intelligence.
On the Sunday morning I had a go at the craft of felting, in shroud decorating workshop. I had met Yuli Somme at the Good Funeral Awards in London last year, so was looking forward to seeing her again. Her business Bellacouche is based in Devon, where she runs workshops and you can buy and decorate your own shroud.
I am not sure which of the talks I enjoyed the most, all of them were stimulating and interesting. Thank you to all the speakers who took part, and to Lucy and Christina for organising the event, at which I felt included and welcome.