Dead Pool 3rd December 2023

What a week for deaths! The first real cold snap of the year and it seemed like they were dropping like flies! 

Let’s award some points! With the passing of Henry Kissinger, 50 points to the following: Dave, Paul C, Shân, and myself. However Nickie had him down as her Cert, so an amazing 150 points go to her tally! 

But let’s not stop there!!! With Shane MacGowan’s death, I can award 85 points to each of the following: Neil, Abi, Martin, Nickie, Debbie, and Lee. 

Which means Nickie has toppled Jamie from the top the leader board, with only a few weeks to go! What excitement!!!! 

Look Who You Could Have Had:

In Other News

The grieving family of Benidorm legend Sticky Vicky have described the performer’s last moments in hospital before she died of heart failure aged 80 last week.  The mother-of-two, 80, passed away at the Villajoyosa Hospital near the Benidorm resort where she rose to international fame. Her daughter, María Aragüés Gadea, said Vicky sadly died on her 42nd birthday, adding it was a day she will ‘remember for the rest of my life’. ‘My mum was in hospital for the last 12 days of her life and as a family we’ve been with her and have been able to say goodbye to her. I was by her bedside when she died this morning. She passed away as they were changing her morphine bottle,’ she told The Flying Monkeys. ‘She has gone, surrounded by her family, with all of our love. I thank God for being able to always be by her side, I am left with a broken heart. Vicky retired from her act in 2016, aged 72, after stunning generations with her X-rated tricks that made creative use of household objects including ping-pong balls, razor blades and beer bottles. She endured health complications as she got older, fighting cancer and undergoing at least two hip replacements. Maria, who took over her mother’s act after her retirement, confirmed two years ago that her mother had ‘won her fight against cancer with radiotherapy and chemotherapy’ but had since been diagnosed with dementia. Born in 1943 in Tenerife, Victoria María Aragüés Gadea, a trained ballet dancer, became an icon in Spain’s touristic city of Benidorm thanks to her exotic, x-rated performances of her vaginal magic show. The mother-of-two moved to the city in south-east Spain in 1980 where she became a legend of the holiday hotspot visited by millions of British tourists. Her show – which ran for move than three decades – involved pulling a variety of objects from her vagina, including ping pong balls, razor blades, eggs, handkerchiefs and machetes. It would end with the lights dimming and her producing a lit light bulb. An estimated six million people saw the show – which she would invariably perform six times in a night, six days a week – since she started it in the mid-1970s. And she once marked the third series of ITV’s comedy show Benidorm starring Johnny Vegas by officially opening Mel’s Mobility Shop before it caught fire. She was once described by a guide to Benidorm as such a ‘must-see’ that leaving without experiencing her show would be like buying fish without chips. Vicky finally retired in 2016 aged 72 after she was diagnosed with uterine cancer. 

A mortuary worker was left horrified after a 90-year-old woman appeared to come back to life in a body bag. Norma Silveira da Silva was gasping for breath when the worker found her hours after she was pronounced dead at the Sao Jose Regional Hospital in Brazil on Saturday. He rushed her back to her hospital bed to recover but tragically she died just a day later. Norma’s friend and caregiver Jessica Martins Silvi Pereira, 30, said the family plans to sue the hospital. She said: “It’s a case of neglect that I would not wish on anyone. When he opened the bag she was breathing very weakly. And, as she was no longer conscious, she couldn’t ask for help, she tried to breathe and couldn’t. I mean, from 11.40pm until 1.30am she was inside the bag almost dying asphyxiated.” Norma’s second death certificate, seen by local media, suggests she died of sepsis — a deadly reaction to an infection. Doctors initially listed an infection as the cause of death on her first death certificate before she was taken to the mortuary. After her horrific ordeal in the morgue, she was taken back to her ward. Jessica told local media: “On Saturday afternoon, I went to visit her and she opened her eye. She didn’t have much stimulation, but she managed to open her eye and saw that we were there.” Tragically she passed away the following day and Jessica said Norma’s family have still not been told what her cause of death was. Her case will be investigated by Brazil’s Medical Ethics Committee and the Death Commission, according to local media. The Regional Council of Medicine of the State of Santa Catarina said it “was aware of the situation and will institute appropriate procedures to monitor the case”.

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is expected to survive a stabbing attack he suffered while serving time for the 2020 killing of George Floyd. Chauvin was attacked on Friday at the Federal Correctional Institution in Tucson, Arizona, a medium-security prison that has been plagued by security lapses and staffing shortages. A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office told the Flying Monkeys over the weekend that the convicted former law enforcement officer is expected to survive the injuries he sustained, but declined to elaborate on Chauvin’s condition. An earlier press release by the correctional facility stated that guards had initiated life-saving measures upon finding the victim at around 12.30pm on Friday and that the inmate was later transported to a hospital. Prosecutors who successfully pursued a second-degree murder conviction against Chauvin at a jury trial in 2021 condemned the attack. “I am sad to hear that Derek Chauvin was the target of violence,” Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said in a statement on Saturday. Chauvin’s mother Carolyn Pawlenty told us that she had learned about her son’s stabbing on the news. Visiting at the facility, which has about 380 inmates, has been suspended in the aftermath of the stabbing.

On This Day

  • 1697 – St Paul’s Cathedral, rebuilt to the design of Sir Christopher Wren following the Great Fire of London, is consecrated. 
  • 1942 – During the Manhattan Project, a team led by Enrico Fermi initiates the first artificial self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. 
  • 1982 – At the University of Utah, Barney Clark becomes the first person to receive a permanent artificial heart. 
  • 1993 – Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar is shot and killed by police in Medellín. 
  • 1999 – The United Kingdom devolves political power in Northern Ireland to the Northern Ireland Executive following the Good Friday Agreement.  


  • 1814 – Marquis de Sade, French philosopher, author, and politician (b. 1740). 
  • 1982 – Marty Feldman, English actor and comedian (b. 1933). 
  • 1986 – Desi Arnaz, Cuban-American actor, singer, and television producer (b. 1917). 
  • 1993 – Pablo Escobar, Colombian drug lord (b. 1949). 
  • 1997 – Shirley Crabtree, English wrestler (b. 1930). 

Last Week’s Birthdays

Brendan Fraser (55), Amanda Seyfried (38), Julianne Moore (63), Daryl Hannah (63), Ozzy Osbourne (75), Lucy Liu (55), Lesley-Ann Brandt (42), Britney Spears (42), Connie Booth (83), Nelly Furtado (45), Zoë Kravitz (35), Riz Ahmed (41), Sarah Silverman (53), Bette Midler (78), Ridley Scott (86), Kaley Cuoco (38), Ben Stiller (58), Woody Allen (88), Mandy Patinkin (71), Gemma Chan (41), Diane Ladd (88), Jeff Fahey (71), Don Cheadle (59), Gena Lee Nolin (52), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (39), Alan Ritchson (41), Karen Gillan (36), Ed Harris (73), Judd Nelson (64), Martin Clunes (62), Ellie Taylor (40), Armando Iannucci (60), Jon Stewart (61), Fisher Stevens (60), Sharlto Copley (50), and Robin Givens (59). 

Dead Pool 26th November 2023

Last week I threatened to send out the Flying Monkeys, and they didn’t disappoint. Even diplomatic immunity couldn’t spare Joss Ackland his chance to meet his maker.   

Look Who You Could Have Had:

 In Other News

One of the fattest men in the world has been found dead in his home just days after he vowed to shed the weight. Leonid Andreev, 60, weighed more than three baby elephants and had been trapped in his own home for five years. The 44-stone man was found at home in the village of Armizonskoye, Russia, only a day day after he told local media how he was planning a new life of losing weight and moving apartments. But on Friday, he was found dead in his home after reportedly suffering from a heart attack. He said he planned to start a new diet with just a cup of light soup for lunch. It came after a doctor warned him he had to lose at least seven stone in order to live normally again. Andreev said: ‘I tried to lose at least a little weight – I ate less and did not indulge in flour products.’ The 60-year-old was married and divorced twice and had no children. He also shocked reporters by revealing that he used to be an athlete and weighed just 11 stone. Tragically, just ten years ago Andreev was a hunter who ran his own farm and took part in harvesting the crops. Andreev said his weight problems began when he left a career in the army and in just three months, his weight nearly doubled to 16 stone and never stopped rising. His weight gain was caused by a metabolic disorder and five years ago his size was so much that he had to quit work. Then he began his reclusive life on the sofa where he lived and slept while watching TV all day as his neighbours helped clean and take care of his house. At one point, Andreev’s blood pressure soared so high that he called for an ambulance. However, after controlling his symptoms, paramedics refused further aid because of his weight. He said: ‘In the morning, I get up, cook food, eat a little, watch TV. Tried to move here, move there. I used to have porridge – the heaviest, well, and buns, potatoes, bread. That’s how I got fat, probably.’ Even though Andreev was extremely heavy, there have been fatter people in history. American Jo Brower Minnoch was the fattest man who ever lived and weighed 100 stone (see below).  

Each year, fans are left scratching their heads when I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here contestants are excused from some of the trials. Before the series kicked off, former UKIP leader Farage was asked about the trials he could avoid due to his severe injuries from a plane crash in 2010 that he sadly survived. He said: “Anything involving weightlifting, I’d be out. I’ve obviously had some quite serious physical injuries and neck reconstructions, and goodness knows what else. So they are fully aware that I’m a little bit damaged when it comes to bodily structure. But having said that, I can still do most things. I doubt any of the trials are actually going to kill me, although I don’t think they’ll all be a bag of fun. But look, I signed up for this. It’s in for a penny in for a pound. So let’s go.” Farage suffered long-lasting injuries after an aeroplane he was flying, displaying a banner with the slogan ‘Vote for your country – Vote UKIP’, crashed on polling day for the general election in 2010. He managed to escape the wreckage but suffered from a punctured lung, two chipped vertebrae, several fractured ribs and a fractured sternum. Three years later, he underwent an operation to help with the health problems caused by the crash, and told the Flying Monkeys that he had a “couple of discs removed and replaced” in his back. In 2015, he admitted that he was experiencing tremendous pain in his shoulder and back and had been prescribed the strong sleeping pill Temazepam. He had been visiting the hospital twice a week for treatment and was struggling to raise his arms above a 45-degree angle. He added: “I think I am going to have to have medical treatment for the rest of my life.” Before the accident, the 59-year-old also had a serious car crash in his 20s, and problems from the accidents combined have left him with the ‘body of a 70-year-old’. Let’s hope he does the decent thing and dies on the show. 

On This Day

  • 1820 – An 80-ton sperm whale attacks and sinks the Essex (a whaling ship from Nantucket, Massachusetts) 3,200 kilometres (2,000 mi) from the western coast of South America. (Herman Melville‘s 1851 novel Moby-Dick was in part inspired by this incident.)
  • 1947 – The Princess Elizabeth marries Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, who becomes the Duke of Edinburgh, at Westminster Abbey in London.
  • 1974 – The first fatal crash of a Boeing 747 occurs when Lufthansa Flight 540 crashes while attempting to take-off from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya, killing 59 out of the 157 people on board.
  • 1985 – Microsoft Windows 1.0, the first graphical personal computer operating environment developed by Microsoft, is released. Windows has now been shit for 38 years.
  • 1990 – Andrei Chikatilo, one of the Soviet Union’s most prolific serial killers, is arrested; he eventually confesses to 56 killings.


  • 1910 – Leo Tolstoy, Russian author and playwright (b. 1828).
  • 2003 – Robert Addie, English actor (b. 1960).
  • 2006 – Robert Altman, American director, producer, and screenwriter (b. 1925).

The Heaviest Man Who Ever Lived

Jon Brower Minnoch was an American man who was the heaviest recorded human in history, weighing approximately 635 kilograms; 100 stone at his peak. 

Minnoch was born in 1941 in Seattle, Washington, as the only child to John Minnoch and June (née Brower). Minnoch’s father worked as a machinist and died of a heart attack in 1962. Minnoch’s mother was a graduate of Seattle Pacific University and worked as a registered nurse at Providence Hospital and later as a telephone operator. June died in 1986, three years after her son. 

Minnoch suffered from obesity since childhood. At the age of 12, he weighed 133 kilograms (21 stone). By age 22, he weighed 178 kilograms (28 stone) and became 320 kilograms (50 stone) in 1963. Minnoch stood 6ft 1in in height and had a body fat percentage of about 80%. Minnoch said water retention was the primary cause of his obesity, however British obesity specialist David Haslam contends Minnoch’s water retention was a consequence of his severe weight, not the cause of it. 

Despite his condition, Minnoch tried to live a conventional life and stated that he was “in no way handicapped”. He drove taxi cabs for 17 years and married his wife, Jean McArdle, in 1963. The couple operated the Bainbridge Island Taxi Co. together, the only taxi cab on the island at the time. According to a friend, Minnoch had a reputation as a “warm and funny family man” on the island. In March 1978, Minnoch weighed twelve times his 50 kilograms; (8 stone) wife, breaking the record for the greatest weight disparity between a married couple. Minnoch and McArdle divorced in 1980 and he married Shirley Ann Griffen in 1982 and fathered two sons, John and Jason. 

Minnoch eventually “got so tired” of being heavy that he decided to cut his food intake to “almost nothing”. Under a doctor’s prescription, he went on a 600-calorie-a-day diet of only vegetables. He also took large doses of a diuretic that failed to eliminate excess fluid in his body. After about three weeks of weakness and being bedridden, he listened to his wife’s pleas to enter a hospital. Minnoch was admitted to the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle in March 1978, suffering from heart and respiratory failure. Firefighters were forced to remove a window at his home and place him on a thick piece of plywood. By now Minnoch was unable to move or speak. It took over a dozen firemen, rescue personnel, and a specially modified stretcher to transport him to the hospital. There, he was placed on two beds pushed together, and it took thirteen attendants to roll him over. 

At the hospital, Minnoch was diagnosed with a massive oedema, a condition in which the body accumulates excess extracellular fluid. Due to his poor health, measuring his weight with a scale was impossible. However, endocrinologist Robert Schwartz estimated his weight to be about 635 kilograms (100 stone). According to Schwartz, he was “probably more than that. He was by at least 300 pounds the heaviest person ever reported”, and “probably the most unusual thing about Minnoch’s case was that he lived”. He reached a peak body mass index (BMI) of 186kg/m2 and spent several days on a respirator. His doctors described his medical state as “critical”. Schwartz said Minnoch displayed symptoms of Pickwickian syndrome, where insufficient breathing causes one’s level of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream to rise. 

Minnoch remained in the hospital for two years and was put on a diet of 1,200 calories day. When discharged from the hospital, he weighed 216kg (34 stone), having lost 419kg; (66 stone), the largest human weight loss ever documented at the time. He hoped to eventually reach a weight of about 95 kilograms (15 stone), stating, “I’ve waited 37 years to get this chance at a new life”. Despite this, he soon started to gain weight again. He was readmitted to the hospital just over a year later in October 1981, after his weight increased to 432kg (68 stone); he had managed to gain 91 kg (14 stone) in just seven days!!!

He died 23 months later on September 4th 1983, aged 41. At the time of his death, he weighed 362kg (57 stone). According to his death certificate, Minnoch’s immediate cause of death was cardiac arrest, with respiratory failure and restrictive lung disease as contributing factors. He was buried in a wooden casket made of plywood 34 inch thick and lined with cloth. The coffin took up two cemetery plots, and eleven men were needed to transport his casket to his burial place at Mount Pleasant Cemetery. 

Last Week’s Birthdays

Rita Ora (33), Kristin Bauer (57), Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (35), Christina Applegate (52), John Larroquette (76), Kristian Nairn (48), Bruno Tonioli (68), Sarah Hyland (33), Katherine Heigl (45), Colin Hanks (46), Stephen Merchant (49), Denise Crosby (66), Billy Connolly (81), Conleth Hill (59), Dwight Schultz (76), Kayvan Novak (45), Michelle Gomez (57), Miley Cyrus (31), Scarlett Johansson (39), Mark Ruffalo (56), Mads Mikkelsen (58), Jamie Lee Curtis (65), Terry Gilliam (83), Goldie Hawn (78), Alexander Siddig (58), Björk (58), Sean Young (64), Ming-Na Wen (60), Joe Biden (81), and Bo Derek (67).

Dead Pool 19th November 2023

Another quiet week, I believe it might be time to send out the Flying Monkeys!  

Look Who You Could Have Had:

In Other News

Pete Doherty has admitted that years of drug and alcohol abuse have taken their toll on his body, telling documentary presenter Louis Theroux: “Death is lurking.” The Libertines frontman, 44, was notorious in the Naughties and 2010s for his drug-fuelled public antics, and was arrested multiple times for possession. Now mostly sober, Doherty is one of the subjects of new BBC series Louis Theroux Interviews…in which he discusses his colourful past and his new, quieter life in the small town of Etretat, Normandy. At one point, while the pair sit in his studio, the musician got up to take a swig from a bottle of blackcurrent rum, then proceeded to cough and clutch his chest. “Why has your voice gone like that? Are you OK?” Theroux asked, as Doherty leant over the table and appeared to groan in pain. “Did it go down the wrong way? What’s happening? How’s your health in general?” Theroux asked, once Doherty had settled back down on the sofa. “You are looking at a very sick man,” Doherty replied. “I’ve battered it, haven’t I, I’ve fucking caned it. The heroin and the crack… I surrendered to that, and then it was cocaine and the smoking and the alcohol, and now it’s cheese and the saucisson, and the sugar in the tea. It’s all gotta go. They told me a little while ago if you don’t change your diet then you’re gonna have diabetes and cholesterol problems,” he continued. “Death’s lurking, you know what I mean? That’s why I carry that stick.” Doherty seemed doubtful that he will live to see his daughter, Billie-May, grow up, telling Theroux he would love to hear her say her first words. “Maybe watch her grow up and start a family of her own. That’s 25 years,” Theroux suggested. “That’s a stretch though, isn’t it,” a doubtful-looking Doherty responded. Asked what he would tell someone curious about experimenting with drugs, he remarked: “My life in using was so chaotic and the consequences of it… you’ll be in prison and you’ll fuck your body up, and you’ll be skint, and you’ll lose your family and you’ll lose everything you love. Is it really that good? That’s beyond curiosity, that’s a right mess. I still get tingles thinking about it, but I’m able to talk to you rather than running off and scoring,” he told Theroux. Doherty also revealed he currently takes blockers that would prevent heroin from taking effect: “I like to think I could do without it, but that level of trust has to be earnt, doesn’t it,” he said. “At the moment I think I’m still reeling a bit – it’s almost like I’m still in shock from having got clean. Maybe in 10 years I’ll be able to talk with pride about being clean.”   

Shane MacGowan’s wife Victoria Mary Clarke has shared some heartfelt words for fans of the Pogues star as he continues receiving hospital care. The singer behind the Christmas anthem “Fairytale of New York” was diagnosed with viral encephalitis, an uncommon and potentially life-threatening condition that causes the brain to swell, last December. He has repeatedly been admitted to the hospital, with Clarke providing occasional updates. In June, MacGowan, 65, was admitted once again and has received inpatient care ever since. On Tuesday, Clarke shared a new image of MacGowan wearing a hospital robe and assistive breathing apparatus, while thanking his Pogues bandmates Spider Stacy and Terry Woods for visiting him. “I just wanted to say a massive thanks to everyone who has been messaging me and @ShaneMacGowan and thank you @spiderstacy and Terry Woods for coming to visit him,” she wrote alongside the picture. “Love and prayers for everyone who is struggling right now. Hang in there!” Clarke, a journalist, has been in a relationship with MacGowan for decades. They married in 2018. Last month, she shared her gratitude for improvements in MacGowan’s condition, as well as her hopes that he’d be discharged soon.

On This Day

  • 1969 – Apollo program: Apollo 12 astronauts Pete Conrad and Alan Bean land at Oceanus Procellarum (the “Ocean of Storms”) and become the third and fourth humans to walk on the Moon.
  • 1994 – In the United Kingdom, the first National Lottery draw is held. A £1 ticket gave a one-in-14-million chance of correctly guessing the winning six out of 49 numbers.
  • 1999 – John Carpenter becomes the first person to win the top prize in the TV game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.


Last Meals

Just before 8pm, prison guards swarmed into the ‘death cell’ holding inmate Kenneth Smith and summarily prepared him for execution. He’d been on the phone to his wife Dee as they both waited to hear any updates on legal efforts to delay his death warrant for that day.

‘We need the phone, Kenny,’ one guard told him and he quickly said goodbye to her for what they both assumed was the last time.

The 10-strong squad of guards put handcuffs and leg irons on him for the short walk to the nearby execution chamber of the William C Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama, where he was to die by lethal injection.

It was November 17th last year and, after decades of legal wrangling, the convicted killer who’d found God during his 33 years on Death Row had resigned himself to dying that night.

Over the next four hours, he’d need his faith as never before. For he was to endure what he says was searing physical pain and unbearable mental torture as bungling executioners fumbled hopelessly in their efforts to attach two intravenous lines to his body, and then ran out of time to kill him before his death warrant expired. 

Smith, 58, is in the extraordinary position of being able to describe what it is like to be executed in the U.S. — because he survived.

America’s ‘double jeopardy’ rule forbids the justice system trying a defendant twice for the same crime, but there’s nothing in the U.S. constitution to say they can’t try to execute them twice.

And so Smith is now fighting the Deep South state’s plans for him in January to become the first person in America to be executed by a new, untested method — forcing him to breathe pure nitrogen until he suffocates.

Proponents and critics argue over whether the process, known as ‘nitrogen hypoxia’ — sometimes used to kill pigs — is painless.

Opponents say killing Smith in this way is ‘astonishingly reckless’ and the equivalent of ‘human experimentation’. His lawyers claim the method would breach the U.S. constitution’s ban on ‘cruel and unusual punishment’.

Without doubt, Smith’s horrific ordeal during last November’s botched execution was inordinately cruel, whatever his crimes, and will form an important part of their case.

In a rare interview from prison this week, Smith told the Flying Monkeys that with the first anniversary of his bungled execution approaching, memories of that night have been flooding back. ‘I’ve tried to keep it out of my mind for the past year but I’ve been reliving this shit for the past week. I’ve been sick to my stomach and not eaten. And I’ve been struggling with depression and nightmares — I’m in pretty bad shape,’ he said.

The lethal injection execution of a close friend and fellow Death Row inmate there on Thursday had compounded his misery, he said. 

Astonishingly, given his circumstances, Smith revealed that one of his executioners a year ago had actually reassured him after they gave up trying to kill him that lethal injection was a much better way to die than being gassed. 

‘He was trying to comfort me and we got into this bizarre conversation. He said: “Oh, you know, man, if you got to go, this is the way to go.” Lethal injection, he said, is painless. And he said that gas is suffocation and that nobody knows what is going to happen. I’ve not been able to get that out of my head.’

Given what happened a year ago and the fears over using nitrogen, he sees little hope that his second execution attempt is ‘going to end well’ and was ‘absolutely terrified’. He added: ‘I have to deal with that and I have to find a way to comfort my family.’

In 1988, the father-of-four admitted murdering 45-year-old Elizabeth Sennett in the northern Alabama town of Sheffield.

He and another man, John Parker, were paid $1,000 each by her husband, Charles Sennett, a local church pastor who was having an affair with another woman, to kill his wife so he could collect insurance money.

Told to make it look like a robbery, the then 22-year-old Smith took home the Sennetts’ video recorder — a crucial error that led to his conviction.

Smith is being held at the Holman prison deep in  the thick marsh forests of central Alabama where, on the scheduled day of his execution, the warden laid on extra security with dog patrols around the perimeter.

Smith spent much of the day with his family and friends in Holman’s visitation area as his lawyers went through the process of last-minute legal appeals.

He had a last meal — his choice of fried catfish and shrimp — before being visited one last time by a local lay minister who has been his spiritual adviser. 

As the door of his cell is made of metal bars, that important final meeting was disrupted, Smith said, by the guards noisily feasting on sandwiches, crisps and fizzy drinks outside. But by the time they came to collect him, he had been alone for several hours. He told them he wasn’t going to fight them. ‘We know you aren’t, Kenny,’ one replied.

He would undoubtedly have resisted rather more vigorously had he known that, two minutes before he was taken into the execution chamber, an appeals court had actually agreed to stay his death sentence. 

Given Alabama’s alarming history of botched lethal injection executions, the judges suspected the team in charge of connecting him to intravenous tubes for the killer drugs would have ‘extreme difficulty’ in accessing his veins and he would consequently suffer ‘super-added pain’.

For some still-unknown reason, the message to hold the execution never got through and Smith was strapped ‘painfully tight’ to a gurney by his arms, legs and feet. There he remained for two hours, immobilised and unaware of the legal wrangling behind the scenes. All the while, two men and a woman, clearly officials, silently observed him — one clutching a file and the others armed with notepads and pens.

Feeling that his circulation was being cut off by the straps and worried that his family witnesses — his wife, son and daughter-in-law — hadn’t arrived, after an hour he asked the three guards in the room what was happening. They said they didn’t know either.

According to a court filing by his lawyers, Smith ‘started descending into hopelessness and despair’.

He was convinced he was going to die without his loved ones there to see him go. In fact, it appears the delay was because senior state officials were waiting to see if the U.S. Supreme Court would overturn the appeal court ruling — even if that meant keeping Smith in agonising suspense strapped to the gurney.

At 10pm — 23 minutes before the Supreme Court did indeed approve his execution, three unidentified men wearing blue, red and green sets of surgical scrubs, entered the chamber wheeling a medical trolley. They were the team that would inject him with the cocktail of drugs — midazolam hydrochloride, rocuronium bromide and potassium chloride — that would theoretically first sedate him and then stop his heart.

‘Blue Scrubs’, who Smith remembered seeing chain-smoking outside the prison after previous executions, tied a tourniquet around Smith’s upper arm and started sticking a needle into him. When Smith protested that he was painfully stabbing into his muscle, Blue Scrubs told him: ‘No I’m not.’

After that attempt failed, it was the turn of Green Scrubs on Smith’s other side. Smith claims one of the three officials was taking photos on his phone, while Green Scrubs began slapping the inmate’s right hand to find a vein.

With each jab, the condemned man told his lawyers, he ‘could feel the needle going in and out and moving around under his skin, causing him great pain’.

Smith has since said that the ceaseless jabs became so ridiculous they turned into farce, especially when Green Scrubs eventually asked Smith to squeeze his hand to make the vein stand out better.

Smith says he had been a compliant prisoner for 35 years but that was too much.

‘I am fucked if I am going to participate in my own execution,’ he said in a recent interview.

And all the while, he says, everyone in the room ignored his pleas that he was in pain, especially when their needles regularly jabbed his muscles.

By now, he says, he’d entirely lost the composure he’d desperately wanted to maintain for his family witnesses and for expressing his final words.

Witnesses, including families of both the victim and the condemned, are allowed to watch an execution through small windows but the curtain is pulled back on the bleak scene in the chamber only when the lethal drugs are about to flow into the body.

Smith’s family, in fact, never got to the prison, instead waiting on tenterhooks at a nearby casino hotel for an official van sent to collect them — which never came.

Compounding his distress, Smith noticed other members of the prison staff — for reasons he could not fathom — were now photographing him on their phones.

Unable to find a second usable vein even after examining his feet and scanning his arms with ultraviolet light, the hapless executioners asked the guards to tilt the gurney so Smith’s feet were pointing upwards, leaving him in an inverted crucifix position.

Everyone but his guards exited the chamber, leaving Smith like that for several minutes in a deeply uncomfortable position. He believes the intention was to get blood to run towards his head so he could be injected in the neck. 

When the IV team returned, Red Scrubs — the leader — was wearing a mask and plastic face shield which Smith’s lawyers believe was to  protect him from spraying blood. They unbuttoned the prisoner’s shirt and the man plunged a huge new needle — bigger than any Smith had ever seen — under the inmate’s collarbone.

He was looking to attach a so-called central line (or central venous catheter) which is much longer than a regular intravenous line and goes all the way up to a vein near or inside the heart.

The pain became excruciating and it felt like he was being stabbed with a knife, says Smith. He shouted for them to stop, but a prison official responded by twisting Smith’s head to one side to provide a better entry point for the enormous needle.

‘Kenny, this is for your own good,’ he assured Smith. According to court papers, the inmate ‘forcefully expressed disagreement with that statement but did not resist’.

As his body writhed and shook uncontrollably, his shower shoes came off and fell to the floor.

At one point, Blue Scrubs snapped at him: ‘You can’t feel that,’ convinced he had been successfully anaesthetised.

‘I kept telling them, “Call the fucking judge. My case number is 2:22-CV-497. Somebody in this fucking room call the judge or my lawyer,” said Smith. But nobody did. He recalls Red Scrubs repeatedly jabbed him in the chest with the large needle — 10 times, he estimates — causing such pain that he could ‘hardly breathe’ and felt he had wet himself. The jabs, he said, ‘felt like an eternity’.

He told the Flying Monkeys: ‘By the end of it, I wasn’t thinking about prayer. I wasn’t thinking about God or heaven or none of that. ‘I was thinking, “please get that out of my chest”.’

But eventually they did stop and again everyone else left except the guards, leaving Smith still strapped to the gurney and ‘terrified’ as to what they would do next. He wasn’t to know they had run out of time to carry out the death warrant before a midnight deadline.

The IV team later came in to clear items that had fallen to the floor.

Green Scrubs asked him if the pain had gone. ‘No, sir,’ he replied.

The executioner stood over him and said: ‘Everything is going to be all right . . . it’s over with.’

Given there was still a needle sticking in his arm, Smith hardly felt reassured.

But, now his 90-minute ordeal was over, the IV team’s demeanour completely changed: Green Scrubs offered him some water and, holding his hand, told him he would be praying for him.

Why had he survived, he asked. ‘Legal stuff,’ said Green Scrubs who then made his extraordinary assurance about the merits of lethal injection over nitrogen.

Smith was so unsteady he had to be supported back to his cell by a prison guard on either side. They spared him the leg irons but still put him in handcuffs.

He said later that he was left ‘trembling and sweating . . . shocked, disoriented and experiencing post-traumatic stress’.

The identity and qualifications of the would-be executioners have never been revealed, though senior officials insisted some present had ‘medical’ training. Smith believes the pair in green and blue scrubs were Emergency Medical Technicians — essentially ambulance crew.

Alabama’s governor, Kay Ivey, blamed the failed execution not on incompetence but on last-ditch legal efforts to stay the order. But ‘attempting it was the right thing to do,’ she insisted.

However, she immediately ordered a moratorium on executions and a ‘top-to-bottom review of the state’s execution process’ so Alabama ‘can successfully deliver justice going forward’.

Smith, who says he continues to suffer lingering pain and post-traumatic stress disorder, is suing the state over its lethal injection procedures.

His lawyers have accused officials of moving him ‘to the front of the line’ for execution by nitrogen hypoxia in order to foil his potentially embarrassing legal action.

Steve Marshall, the attorney general for Alabama, has countered that Smith’s victim’s family ‘has waited an unconscionable 35 years to see justice served’.

Meanwhile, critics say the state has been worryingly opaque about how it will kill with nitrogen, beyond revealing a plan to forcibly place an airtight mask over the prisoner’s face.

Having a year ago been ‘resigned to meet my maker’, Smith told the Flying Monkeys he is now determined to live and defeat what he calls the ‘evil system’ that wants to execute him.

What happened last year had convinced him ‘that I’m here for a reason’, he said. And after 35 years and that awful night last November, he said he felt he had been punished enough for his crime.

Smith is, of course, aware of what can go wrong and says he is ‘absolutely terrified’ by the prospect.

And though he is no longer resigned to dying and convinced some higher power intended him to live, he may yet be one of the only Death Row prisoners who has to choose a last meal for a second time.

Last Week’s Birthdays

Jodie Foster (61), Meg Ryan (62), Adam Driver (40), Terry Farrell (60), Robert Beltran (70), Owen Wilson (55), Linda Evans (81), Delroy Lindo (71), Martin Scorsese (81), Rachel McAdams (45), Tom Ellis (45), Danny DeVito (79), Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (65), RuPaul (63), Missi Pyle (51), Maggie Gyllenhaal (46), Martha Plimpton (53), Beverly D’Angelo (72), Jonny Lee Miller (51), Ivanna Sakhno (26), Olga Kurylenko (44), Paul McGann (64), Russell Tovey (42), Sandahl Bergman (72), Gerard Butler (54) and Whoopi Goldberg (68).

Dead Pool 12th November 2023

I think we can all be forgiven for not knowing anyone on this weeks death list. Quite a feat really, considering the amount of killing going on around the world…  

Look Who You Could Have Had:

In Other News

A skull that was on sale in a thrift store as a Halloween decoration turned out to be the real deal, after an anthropologist recognised it as belonging to a human. The anthropologist, who happened to be shopping in the store in the North Fort Myers area of Florida, spotted the human skull casually on display waiting to be purchased in the Halloween section of the store. Recognising it as the real article, authorities were called to the store. Lee County Sheriff’s Office said that detectives responded and recovered the skull, later confirming that the item was indeed human. The store owner told police that the skull had been found in a storage unit that they had bought years ago. While the police do not believe the case is suspicious, they will be working with the local medical examiner’s office to conduct further tests on the skull. In Florida, it is illegal to knowingly sell or buy any human organ or tissue for valuable consideration; this also includes bones. In September, another human skull was found by store employees in a Goodwill donation box in Arizona. That skull, which had a false eye in its left socket, was seized by police, but they concluded it was not associated with any crime. 

Tributes have poured in for Raymond Calvert, Britain’s oldest father who passed away aged 91 after having a baby at 78 with his 25-year-old lover. The former shop owner became a father for the seventh time in 2010 when son Jamie Rai was born to partner Charlotte, who was 54 years his junior. The pensioner described the little boy, who weighed 7lb 1oz at birth, as a ‘gift from God’. Mr Calvert passed away on December 1st last year, at Royal Preston Hospital on following a fall, with his family left ‘heartbroken’. His funeral was held just four days before Christmas at Skipton Crematorium. His former lover Charlotte, now 38, who took his surname but never married him, currently lives with their son Jamie Rai, aged 12, in his cottage in Colne, Lancashire. After the birth of his seventh child, he told the Flying Monkeys at the time: ‘I am the most fortunate man in the world. It makes me feel 10ft tall. The baby was planned and I did not use Viagra or anything like that. I didn’t actually think at my age that it would be possible to have a child, but he’s a beautiful little fella. I feel blessed. I look at that baby and I think, ‘He’s so bloody healthy and good-looking – how did I make that?’’ Mr Calvert has six other children who are all older than his partner and range in age from 51 to 64. He raised them alone after his wife died 41 years ago. He told the Flying Monkeys he first met Miss Calvert following a three-year relationship with her mother. She was 16 at the time and joined him on caravan holidays with his children. The pair only saw each other occasionally until she became friends with his daughter Denise. Five years later, romance blossomed. Mr Calvert, from Winewall, Lancashire, told the Flying Monkeys that the age gap was never an issue. He said: ‘As time went by, Charlotte said she wanted a baby – and that she wanted it with me. I was delighted when Charlotte told me she was pregnant. It was a wonderful, wonderful feeling.’ Raymond noted that he’s always gone out with women who are 20 to 25 years younger than him. Charlotte left school with three A-levels and was on a childcare course before falling pregnant. Recalling the moment she realised she wanted the baby, she said: ‘I realised it would be nice to have a baby with Raymond. He has such a lot of nice qualities.’  

Brazilian singer Darlyn Morais died on Monday of complications from being bitten in the face by a spider! Morais fell ill after he was bitten by the spider at his home in the northeastern city of Miranorte on October 31st. His 18-year-old stepdaughter also suffered a spider bite and is currently hospitalised and in stable condition, Morais’ wife Jhullyenny Lisboa told our Brazilian Flying Monkeys. Lisboa said that Morais experienced body fatigue and that the colour of the bruise on his face started to change as a result of the bite. Morais developed allergic reactions later during the week and visited a hospital in Miranorte, where he was treated and discharged Friday. ‘He felt weakness in his body and his face started to darken on the same day,’ Lisboa said. ‘He went to the hospital and was admitted to Palmas General hospital this Sunday.’ Morais immersed himself into the music world at the age of 15 and sang forró, a popular genre of music in Brazil’s northeast region that is based on a combination of the accordion, zabumba and metal triangle. His small, three-man band included his brother and a friend. Morais, who had six-year-old girl and one-year-old year boy with his wife, was planning planning a live show in January 2024 that was going to be recorded  and released on DVD. 

On This Day

  • 1961 – Terry Jo Duperrault is the sole survivor of a series of brutal murders aboard the ketch Bluebelle.
  • 1970 – The Oregon Highway Division attempts to destroy a rotting beached sperm whale with explosives, leading to the now infamous “exploding whale” incident.
  • 1990 – Tim Berners-Lee publishes a formal proposal for the World Wide Web.
  • 2021 – The Los Angeles Superior Court formally ends the 14-year conservatorship to pop singer Britney Spears


  • 1981 – William Holden, American actor (b. 1918).
  • 2014 – Warren Clarke, English actor, director, and producer (b. 1947).
  • 2018 – Stan Lee, American comic book writer, editor, and publisher (b. 1922).

Last Week’s Birthdays

Ryan Gosling (43), Anne Hathaway (41), Wallace Shawn (80), Max Grodénchik (71), Neil Young (78), Leonardo DiCaprio (49), Stanley Tucci (63), Demi Moore (61), Richard Dormer (54), Calista Flockhart (59), Taron Egerton (34), Hugh Bonneville (60), Neil Gaiman (63), Tracy Morgan (55), Robert Duncan McNeill (59), Lou Ferrigno (72), Tara Reid (48), Parker Posey (55), Gretchen Mol (51), Matthew Rhys (49), Richard Curtis (67), Jack Osbourne (38), Gordon Ramsay (57), Adam Devine (40), Emma Stone (35), Ethan Hawke (53), Rebecca Romijn (51), Sally Field (77), Thandiwe Newton (51), and Nigel Havers (72).

Dead Pool 5th November 2023

Not a lot to say this week, so let’s crack on!  

Look Who You Could Have Had:

In Other News

Michael J. Fox has revealed he’s not afraid of death in a candid interview about his health. The Back to the Future star was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1991, and in a recent interview on Thursday, he has discussed his relationship with death, saying he ‘doesn’t fear it’. Parkinson’s disease is a condition in which parts of the brain become progressively damaged. The main symptoms of the condition usually revolve around movement, with the person experiencing tremors in the hand or arm, slowness of movement and muscle stiffness. In his documentary, Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie, the star recalled the first time he noticed the signs of the disease. He recounted waking up one morning to find his pinky finger twitching uncontrollably, and described the finger as ‘auto-animated.’ However, Fox didn’t open up about his diagnosis until several years later in 1998. In the documentary, he also added that ‘no one outside of the family knew’ about his diagnosis. And now, in an interview with the Flying Monkeys, he’s discussed his ‘complicated’ view of Parkinson’s. He said: “It’s very complicated. I’ve said Parkinson’s is a gift. It’s the gift that keeps on taking, but it has changed my life in so many positive ways.” The 62-year-old previously spoke about how life was ‘getting harder’ since his diagnosis – with him breaking bones in his body and almost losing a finger due to an infection. He’d told us in April that he didn’t think he’d live to be 80. “Its banging on the door. I’m not gonna lie. It’s gettin’ hard, it’s gettin’ harder. It’s gettin’ tougher. Every day it’s tougher. But, that’s the way it is.” he said. Adding: “You don’t die from Parkinson’s. You die with Parkinson’s. So I’ve been thinking about the mortality of it … I’m not gonna be 80. I’m not gonna be 80.” However, it seems that Fox has accepted the possibility of death. “One day I’ll run out of gas,” he said. “One day I’ll just say, ‘It’s not going to happen. I’m not going out today. If that comes, I’ll allow myself that. I’m 62 years old. Certainly, if I were to pass away tomorrow, it would be premature, but it wouldn’t be unheard of. And so, no, I don’t fear that.”  

Linda Nolan has bravely opened up about her fear amid living alongside incurable cancer and shared her memory is beginning to deteriorate. The Nolan Sisters singer, 64, was first diagnosed with cancer nearly 20 years ago. She’s had incurable secondary breast cancer since 2017 which has since spread to the brain and caused her to experience hair loss for the fourth time in her life. Writing in her latest column this week, Linda reveals her nephew and his family are moving overseas – something that has proven to be difficult and bittersweet for the singer, as she knows she may never seem them again. “You’re over the moon for them and yet, when I say goodbye, I know I might not see them again,” Linda writes. “That’s the elephant in the room.” Linda continues to share with readers her fears about living alongside her cancer diagnosis, admitting: “I’m not going to panic because, if I panic, cancer wins.” She realises she needs “to be realistic” as “the reality is, my memory seems to be getting worse.” She adds: “My memory has been lapsing for a while. You can imagine the comments about my age… But I didn’t, because deep down it doesn’t feel right. As I said, I won’t panic. My balance is still better than it was, I’m not having headaches. I have some scans arranged and I’ll wait for them. Alone sometimes in my bedroom I’ll just lie there and think I wonder if I’ll be here in a month? Will it all happen very quickly?”   

Comedian Mark Steel has shared an update with his followers, sharing that he’s now using a tube to feed himself through his nose. Last month, Mark announced he had been diagnosed with a cancer that “can be got rid of”. At the time of sharing his news, he said he had noticed that his neck was “looking much bigger than normal”. Now, he has shared an update with his online followers regarding his condition. Taking to Instagram, Mark was seen in the kitchen of his home and said: “Now, because of something to do with an epiglottis which has gone wrong during some surgery for the time being, I’ve got to feed myself through this tube, with this peculiar drink.” Demonstrating how the contraption worked, he added: “It goes in there and I’ve learnt how to do it, I have to do it every three hours. “And this is me eating, this is me having a meal. I’ve never felt so English. I’ve had a couple of people come round while I was doing it and I was thinking ‘Oh it’s quite rude not to offer them any, ain’t it.’ All I’ve got to do is fix you up with a tube that goes down through your throat and oesophagus and into your stomach and then get the syringe, you’ve got to flush out the pipes first, lock that off, there’s all techniques to doing it, squirt it out, pump it into your tube and directly into your stomach. It’s no trouble honestly, honestly, there’s plenty to go around, I felt really, I’d had a couple of mates round and I felt really bad, you can’t eat and not offer your guests any food.” Mark added: “They don’t tell you that do they? When they say you’ve got cancer.” His upload which has raked up hundreds of likes was soon flooded with support.  Having visited his doctors for an initial check-up, Mark was sent for a biopsy on his ever-growing swelling. Following his biopsy, he was told he would hear back from them within a week. However, there were no updates after almost 14 days and the hospital explained they lost the biopsy in transit. Not long after, he received a phone call about his cancer diagnosis. Mark said: “Then a completely new person called me, and said I had to go in for a repeat biopsy the next day ‘to see what stage of cancer you have’. ‘Hang on,’ I said, ‘No one has said it’s definitely cancer, are you saying it’s definitely cancer?’ She paused. ‘Yes. Had no one told you?'” Despite this, he urged his blog readers to be polite to NHS staff due to their increased workload and “appalling” salaries.

On This Day

  • 1605 – Gunpowder Plot: Guy Fawkes is arrested in the cellars of the Houses of Parliament, where he had planted gunpowder in an attempt to blow up the building and kill King James I of England.
  • 1925 – Secret agent Sidney Reilly, the first “super-spy” of the 20th century, is executed by the OGPU, the secret police of the Soviet Union.
  • 1940 – Franklin D. Roosevelt is the first and only President of the United States to be elected to a third term.
  • 1983 – The Byford Dolphin diving bell accident kills five and leaves one severely injured.
  • 2006 – Saddam Hussein, the former president of Iraq, and his co-defendants are sentenced to death.
  • 2007 – The Android mobile operating system is unveiled by Google, causing 16 years of frustration.


A dinner party for dead guests

My friends came to a silent supper with their dead friends and relatives so that we could grieve our loved ones together.

I don’t normally feel worried about having my friends over for dinner. Usually, I’ll be covered in splashes of soup and partially dressed when they arrive, but tonight I feel nervous.

Figuring out who to invite was complicated. Not only did they have to be available at short notice, but they had to be up for it, open to something different. Because this evening everyone has been asked to bring a plus-one … someone who has died.

As my living guests begin to arrive, bringing in the dark and subtle nip of the October air, I have the strong sense that they are not alone. I take their coats and ask them for the photo of their guest. Out of their pockets come snapshots. Smiling portraits, a moment of laughter on the stairs, a child on the beach, the ruffled ears of a French bulldog, a matriarch blurred by clouds of cigarette smoke.

In the other room, it’s quiet. The table is laid with candles, autumn leaves from the park and bright flowers, and there are twice as many plates laid at the table as there will be people in the room. I put each photo in its place. Because this is where we will serve food to the dead. We will eat, sometimes in silence, but we’ll talk and remember and, probably, cry. This is a silent supper. A feast for the dead.

It isn’t something I’d even have thought to do if I hadn’t been hanging out with witches for the series Witch for BBC Sounds and Radio 4. I’ve rarely felt comfortable or at ease talking about the dead or talking to someone who’s grieving, but for witches this seems to be different. Over the past year I’ve taken part in seances, been to an ancestor ritual and made an ancestor bottle for the spirit of a loved one. Most witches have regular rituals and altars for their ancestors and, of course, they have a dedicated season for remembrance. Witches believe that on 31 October, or Samhain, the “veil” is thin. It’s a skin between life and death that becomes more porous throughout October until, on this night, life and death can pour into each other – a lot like the world we see around us.

There are twice as many plates at the table as people in the room.

This is the idea we play with at Halloween when ghouls and night terrors come knocking at our door. There’s a playfulness and joy at the idea of the afterlife being present, but in reality it’s so far out of reach. This year, I’ve decided to search for meaningful ways to remember the dead.

I decided that hosting a silent supper – historically known as a “dumb supper” – could be a good start. Eating in silence and feasting for the dead has been part of life for centuries. In England, there used to be a tradition called “chesting”.

Prof Diane Purkiss, author of English Food: A People’s History, explains: “This was even more of an Irish wake than an Irish wake. It involved having a feast that was laid out on the coffin of the deceased person. A massive blowout meal with huge treats and sugary goo. It’s honouring the dead, but it’s also quite visceral because you’re doing it on the coffin and it almost brings them physically into the feast.”

A silent supper is one step further. “What you’re describing is a ritual around the scariest and most taboo thing, which is the dead,” she says, “and this is because witches have a very special relationship with them. I define a witch as someone who doesn’t see the dead the way other people do.”

That’s certainly true. Last year my friend, colleague and witch Tatum Swithenbank reached the age at which a much loved and needed auntie had died. So their coven held a silent supper. “Sometimes we just want a space to talk about the people who have passed and there’s not really any great comfort you can give in words,” they told me. “What’s better than listening in a neutral space? That was the power of it. I don’t think you have to be a witch or be practising to do that.” They ate cheese, skull-shaped pizzas and a pumpkin pie.

Feeling under-qualified to host my own silent supper, I ask for advice. “Making it dark, with only candles, really helps because people feel they are not as exposed,” says Tatum. “And it’s important to say something at the beginning. I acknowledged that grief is messy and complicated.” Another witch who loves a silent supper is Emma Griffin, who shares the ritual with her children. “It’s really nice for them to know their heritage,” she says. “We’ll have supper and talk about death, look through photos and also talk about death bringing changes. This year we are making food that my dad would like – meat and potato pie, mash and gravy.”

She advises me to make the space sacred and gentle. “I suggest giving people a dress code. When they come over your threshold, give them a little tea-light. Remember, it’s a celebration of life. And you want to burn myrrh,” she says, gently but firmly as she talks me through my first ever online myrrh purchase. “It will smoke a lot, so don’t panic.”

The most pressing question of all is what on earth am I going to feed the dead? “Traditionally, the dead seem to want luxury foods,” says Purkiss. “They tend to eat dessert first, you know, life is short, eat dessert first. The dead always feel undervalued and in a way it makes them shirty so you are trying to get them to a position where they feel you value them.”

So, before the event, I threw myself (and my partner) into planning a six-course feast, my guests constantly in mind, especially the dead ones. What would they want? What would we give them if we had the chance again?

I bring Grandma Suzette. The family rarely talks about her

Purkiss approves. “Isn’t that what we all want?” she says. “When someone dies, virtually the first thing you feel is, ‘Oh, if only. If only I’d done this, or if only I’d found the time’. And the whole point of the ceremony is to give yourselves the healing chance to show great aunt Sarah you did really care.”

On the night itself, I choose to bring Grandma Suzette, who I have never met. She died when my dad was a baby. The family rarely talk about her. As my own son turned one, the loss of her for my dad and his siblings, and for me, started to ring loudly in my body. I am desperate to grieve for her.

And that’s what we’re here to do tonight. There’s a lot of normal party noise in the kitchen, but when we enter the dining room, absolutely brimming with myrrh smoke, everything softens. First, we light a candle and welcome our dead guests to the table. It feels a little strange, but maybe it should be normal. After all, eating for – and even with the dead – was once a living tradition, one that’s been purposefully rubbed away.

“There was this way of seeing the dead as beings that you interact with,” says Purkiss, adding that Catholic death rituals, such as kissing ornately decorated bones of saints, or praying in huge ossuaries stacked with bodies, went out during the Reformation. “Protestants threw all of that out, partly because they thought it had become a bit of a scam and it probably had in some cases. But the phrase throwing out the baby with the bathwater comes powerfully to mind.”

And she might be right, because it’s only minutes into the evening when it becomes painfully, joyfully clear that everyone around the table needs this communion with the dead. The phrase “I haven’t allowed myself to grieve” comes up time and again. One friend hasn’t allowed herself to grieve for her mum for 11 years. Another drifted from someone she adored and never felt she had permission to mourn them. A pal describes her love and grief for her dog Buddy as tied up with her longing for a baby. We also share joy and memories. My sister brings my other hilarious, powerful granny. A friend shares the story of a grandad who brought him pure and uncomplicated joy.

The talking is a release, but so is acknowledging the empty places. “People did that a lot after the First World War,” Purkiss says. “They would lay places at Christmas dinner for people who had died. It makes sense.” There are three mini courses that we eat without speaking. We reflect or we write, and then we burn things we wished we could say to them.

As the courses continue to roll out, my guests talk about how much their plus-ones would have loved the feast, the wine. The chance to eat dessert again and again. We make them feel loved through food. Buddy the dog would have had a field day.

We eat too much, raise glasses of sweet mead to everyone, say the names of people out loud many, many times. We look each other straight in the eyes. No one shies away from death. By the end we all stink of myrrh, but it is as though something had shifted, for all of us. For me, I know how to talk about my grandma now, and I cannot wait to keep celebrating the people I miss in my life.

Last Week’s Birthdays

Famke Janssen (59), Tilda Swinton (63), Sam Rockwell (55), Robert Patrick (65), Elke Sommer (83), Armin Shimerman (74), Tamzin Outhwaite (53), Matthew McConaughey (54), Olivia Taylor Dudley (38), Ralph Macchio (62), Dolph Lundgren (66), Kate Capshaw (70), Roseanne Barr (71), Dylan Moran (52), David Schwimmer (57), Stefanie Powers (81), Toni Collette (51), Peter Jackson (62), Stephen Rea (77), Clémence Poésy (41), Fiona Dourif (42), Henry Winkler (78), Juliet Stevenson (67), and Jessica Hynes (51).