Mr Biggs communicates...
“If I'm going to have a funeral, I ought to be there!”
he died, Mr Biggs stood over his own body in astonishment.
to comfort his sister, but she couldn’t see him.
Then he watched his body being taken away.
Biggs insisted on going back to attend his own funeral
- and he didn't hide his feelings when it wasn't the one he paid for!
Note: This vintage audio has been pieced together from various recordings and enhanced.
Please read the transcript below as you listen...
Yes, that’s right. Heard such a lot about you, one way and another.
Yes… about the work you do, everything, you know. It’s very interesting.
Yes, very nice of you for coming through, friend.
Are you there friend?
Are you recording this?
I said, are you recording it?
Thank you friend…
Yes, that’s right…
Oh yes, I heard quite a bit about you from various people over here...
... and Mrs Greene too.
You do what you call this, um, tape-recording don't you?
That's quite right.
You play it to... it's for people to listen so that, um, they know something about what goes on.
Yes, that's right.
Can you give us a talk, friend?
Me? Oh dear, oh dear. I'm not the sort of person who could give you a, sort of, um, talk like some of the people here. I mean, I'm not convers... convers... conversant with this sort of thing, you know.
Can't... can't you tell us why you passed over, you know and why you felt...
Oh I died.
Oh I know.. [laughter]
But can you tell us how you found yourself, your reactions on finding yourself...
I was... I was sitting my chair, I was sitting my chair, you know
and, um, I was reading the newspaper, which had just come, you
...and I felt a bit sort of odd, like, you know. And I thought; well that's funny. I took my specs* off, you know and put them on the table, and all that. I'll just sit quiet for a minute, it will pass off, you know.
*specs = spectacles/glasses
But, uh, the next thing I knew was that, I was sitting there, but I wasn't there. I wasn't. I was, sort of, standing - so it seemed to me - standing by the chair, looking at myself. There was the newspaper on the table and my glasses and I thought; this is odd, very strange, you know. I couldn't make head nor tail* of this at all.
*make head nor tail = make any sense
then I was conscious of the fact there was someone knocking at the
door. Don't know how, but it was funny that. I was standing there,
sort of, looking at myself sitting in the chair and yet, it was as if
I could hear this knocking at the door. And at the same time, almost
to the minute, second, I was able to see who was knocking at the
door, yet I was still standing in the room. And it was my sister. And
she lived a few doors down the road, you know.
I thought: oh dear, what am I going to do? I can't open the door. I don't think, in any case it's... you know I was in a proper sort of panic. Anyway this knocking went on and I was, sort of, getting all flustered, like, you know; thinking I was, sort of, dreaming or something. And I was hoping I'd wake up and go and open the door to my sister, but, nothing happened.
then, I could see her, came down the path. She was looking proper
upset and agitated and I thought; well I don't know, what do I do,
you know? And, um, anyway, what must have been only a few minutes,
she came back with a policeman. 'Oh dear, what did she want to fetch
a policeman for?'
And it suddenly dawned on me; 'course, she couldn't get in, perhaps she was upset or worried about me. And yet I thought, well there's nothing I can do about it. So I, sort of, just stood there beside myself - it sounds silly when you say that - and I thought; well I don't know, if she comes in and sees me slumped in that chair like that, she'll get probably quite a fright. I must try and wake myself up, you see.
So I shook myself like mad, you see, but nothing happened and I could see I was in a proper state, you know. And I thought; well I don't know, what am I going to do? This is most peculiar. Anyway, eventually, the policeman got in at the window and he came into the room - and I recognised him. I'd seen him many a time on the beat* you know.
*on the beat = patrolling a district.
There was...well, a time before... I couldn't understand what was going on. Anyway, he shook me. He thought I was asleep you see, the same as I did. Nothing. Nothing happened. He hadn't even realised I was dead. And he opened the door, of course, and my sister came in. She was in a proper state, I tell you. 'Course, that's all I had left, was my sister, at that time; May...
Anyway, they went for the doctor of course, old Doctor Foskett. He came you know, but he was no bloody good anyway. I mean, he couldn't do anything for me. I mean, it was obvious then. I realised myself that I'd had it*.
*I'd had it = it was too late.
But I was trying to, sort of, calm down my sister, she didn't take notice of me. And I went and stood and put my hand on her shoulder and tried to tell her I was alright, it was not me that was there, that I was standing beside her. But she obviously didn't seem to cotton on* at all, the fact that it was me at all, you know. She just sat there and... a proper state she was in.
*cotton on = realise
Anyway, then, uh, th...th...th...the doctor, he went, and then they came and they took my body away, you see. They slumped me down like an old sack of potatoes. I thought; well, I'm not going after that, I'm going to stay here in my home. I might as well sit down in my chair now it's empty. So I sat down there and tried to think it all out. Anyway, my sister, by this time, she'd gone off and I was alone in the house again.
Then all of a sudden, it was just as if the fireplace disappeared - it's the only way I can put it - and there, where the fireplace was, it was as if the wall had disappeared and I could see beautiful green fields and trees and a little, sort of... well, I wouldn't say it was a river, it was more like a little brook.
And I could see something... something - at first I didn't know what it was - coming up towards me in the distance. And I made it out, it was a figure. It was my mother.
Dear, oh dear. And she looked, ooh, as I'd seen her in the picture - which I'd still got in the room hanging up on the wall, as a matter of fact - my mother when she was first married. She came right up to, what was, the fireplace, towards me and she was smiling all over her face and she was happy as a sandboy*.
*happy as a sandboy = glad/satisfied.
she says, 'you
don't want to stay here. It's no good you sitting
here. No one's going to take any notice of you. May won't realise,
you know. You'll have to come and be with me, you see.'
So I says, 'Well I don't know, I don't understand...
She says, 'You know, it's all over now, you've had it, you know. You're dead, you see. You don't want to stop here, slumped in that old chair in this room,' she says.
She says, 'What a right old pickle* you've been living in...' you know.
right old pickle = troubled situation
She started telling me about the way I'd let myself go and... although I suppose I had, you know, over the years, living on my own. My old dog had died sometime previous, like, and I hadn't the heart to get another one, because I knew jolly well that I wouldn't live that long enough to see it out and it wouldn't be fair on the poor animal, like.
she says, 'You can come with me, I've got Mick.'
So I says, 'Mick?' That was my other dog, you see.
She says, 'Mick, yes,' she says. 'We've been looking after old Mick for you.'
So I said, 'Oh I'd love to see old Mick,' I said, 'Many is the time I've sat here,' I said, 'and wished old Mick had been there.'
He used to come up to me, you know, and put his head on my knee, as much as to say, 'come on, it's time we went out master.'
Oh he was a dear old thing and my one companion. My sister, she'd pop in and she was good in her way, but... oh, I don't know. Anyway, I never did hit it off* with her, we always had rows. Sometimes I wish she wouldn't come. I suppose she was right in a way, I did let myself go.
*hit it off = get on well
Anyway, I went with my mother, and it was funny, um, going through this, what had been, my fireplace, huh, and into this lovely, sort of, countryside. And anyway, as we was walking, and my mother, well she was nattering away* to me.
*nattering away = talking a lot
me all sorts of things she was, oh goodness me, about my father, oh,
so I said to her, I said, well, I said, 'how is father?'
So she said, 'oh I see him, but,' she says, 'I'm not with him you know. Of course, you know we was separated.' Of course I knew all about that. I knew they never got on too well.
So she says, 'Well, I see him, but we're not together.' She says, 'I live with my own people...'
That's her mother, you see. That was my grandmother, you see. '...and also Florrie,'
Well Florrie was her favourite sister who died many years ago, oh, when I was a lad.
She says, 'Florrie and I,' she says, 'we were like, well, peas in a pod, you know - the same in every sense, you know. You know how upset I was when she died.'
I said, 'Oh I vaguely remember that, when you was... I was only a nipper* then.'
*a nipper = a child
So she says, 'Oh well I've met Florrie and we get on, and we do hospital work.'
I says, 'What?'
So she says, 'We do hospital work.'
I says, 'Hospitals? Don't have hospitals if you're dead. You don't need to go... no aches, no pains and you're dead. What do you want hospitals for?'
'Oh,' she says, 'well, they ain't hospitals in the same way as you know hospitals, but they are necessary for certain types of people who are mentally, sort of, unsettled and need guidance and help.' She says, 'It's interesting work and I'm happy doing it. Anyway,' she says, 'I have a lot to do with young people too. Because,' she says, 'you know your brother Art? I often see him. We're very near.'
'Art?' I says, 'I don't remember having a brother Art.'
She says, 'Oh no,' she says, 'you wouldn't remember. Of course, he died, oh, in infancy before you was born.'
'Oh,' I said, 'I vaguely remember something about it, but...'
'Oh yes,' she says, 'he died as a baby, but he's grown up.'
I said, 'I don't know, it don't make sense to me.'
So she says, 'Oh, a lot of things won't make sense to you,' she says, 'until you've been here for a time. And then you'll get in the habit of understanding,' she says. 'These things don't suddenly come to you. You have to be patient.'
I says, 'Well what about, um, my stuff back home?' I said, 'What's
going to happen about that?'
She said, 'Look,' she says, 'don't you start worrying about that.' She says, 'In any case, a lot of it,' she says, 'wasn't much good was it?'
So I said, 'I don't know; it might not be any good to you,' I said, 'but it was to me. After all...'
So she says, 'Look,' she says, 'don't think about those things.' And, uh, she says, 'try and get your mind away from it.'
So I says, 'Well if I'm going to have a funeral, I ought to be there.'
laughed. She says, 'You always was a one for a joke.'
So I says, 'Well, I'd like to have a look and see what goes on.'
So she says, 'Oh well, we... don't talk about that now.' She says, 'We'll see.'
I said...I said 'I'd like to see who turns up.' I
said, 'Not that there's many that would, I don't suppose. But there's
my old pal Alfie...'
So she said, 'Oh forget it,' you know. She was nattering away to me.
Funny thing is, I say she was nattering - it was as if she was nattering - but she wasn't opening her mouth. And it suddenly dawned on me, I could hear her speaking to me, yet she wasn't saying anything; that is, as she wasn't speaking.
So I stopped still, and she was, 'come on...'
So I says, 'But I don't understand it. You're speaking to me and yet your mouth's not moving. It's like a ventriloquist sort of thing,' I says. 'Funny ain't it?'
she says, 'Oh you'll soon learn over here to speak by your
thoughts. And,' she says, 'after all,' she says, 'you're
receiving what I'm saying, you're hearing, ain't you?'
So I says, 'Yes,' I says, 'but you're not actually speaking. At least, it don't look as if you are.'
she says, 'Oh you'll get it eventually. Come on.' She says,
'Come on, don't let that worry you,' she says. 'You'll
understand a lot of things ere-long*,' you know.
I thought, I don't know... real puzzled you know I was.
*ere-long = eventually
Then we came to a bridge. Funny about this bridge. And as we were going over this bridge, I says to myself (and I didn't realise she could hear me when I was saying it to myself, but she obviously could, because I didn't speak out loud); 'Oh, this bridge... I know this bridge. This is the bridge that used to be in a little place where we... when I... we were nippers, you know - when we were kids.
She says, 'That's right.'
says, 'Well that's funny,' I says. 'How's that come over here?' I
says, 'If I'm dead, how is it like this? The place that I remember
used to be near the old village, where we was.'
So she says, 'Oh well,' she says, 'you'll understand.' She says, 'over here,' she says, 'we've got a sort of...' um... uh 'replica', she called it, 'of everything, practically, you know.'
she says, 'I'm taking you here,' she says, 'because it
brings back happy memories and it'll help you. And do you remember
the little village and the people, and all that?'
I says, 'Yes.'
So she says, 'Well it's here.'
So I says, 'Well how can it be here?' I says. 'It was in Buckinghamshire years ago. It was 60, 70 years ago.'
she says, 'That's right,' she says, 'but this is... this is
the same, but not the same in a way,' she says, 'but it'll be
as real to you as that place was when you was a nipper.'
So I said, 'I don't understand this. I give it up,' you know, I says, 'well...'.
She says, 'You will, you will boy. Don't worry.' So she says, 'We're going to May's.'
I says, 'Who?'
She says, 'May's.'
I said, 'She died years ago.'
She said, 'Of course she did! So did I, have you forgotten?'
I said, 'Oh blimey, no. Didn't know what I was saying half the damn
[She says,] 'We'll go and see May.'
'[But] it don't make sense.'
She says, 'Nothing will make sense to you at first,' she says, 'until you begin to learn a bit. But May was always happy at the village. She always liked the little cottage that she had. You know, that little cottage she had at the end of the row?'
I said, 'Oh I remember that.'
So she says, 'Oh well, you'll see for yourself.'
And it was just as if I was walking back into the past. There was that same little house, one of four it was, on the end. The little tiny low brick wall in the front, the little garden that my uncle used to take such pride in, you know. Oh it was nice. All the hollyhocks and the flowers, everything as he always liked it. And there he was... and my aunt, standing at the door...and as we, sort of, came near, they came down to the gate; the same gate that I always remember. I remember once I got a good hiding over that bloody gate, because I swung on it and pulled it off it's hinges!
Anyway, there he was. But, oh he did look different. Instead of... he was always a tall man, but he got very old and bent. But there he was, tall and straight as an arrow, and young and fresh-looking. Oh he did look wonderful well. So did she. And there they were. Well they made such a fuss of me, they took me inside and sat me down. And everything was spick and span* and clean and fresh.
*spick and span = neat and tidy
And it was just like as if it was on a summer's day - and that suddenly reminded me... I thought; well I don't know, I don't feel the heat of a summer's day and yet it's like a summer's day. And I don't see no sun, yet there's this lovely light. And I made some talk about it and they said, 'Oh well,' they said, 'Well, of course, we don't have excesses of heat or cold and it's always mild and pleasant and the light is always, you know, very nice.'
So they said, 'Would you like a cup of tea?'
Of course that just about floored me*.
*floored me = overwhelmed me
I said, 'Don't you come that lark,' I said, 'If I'm dead, don't start telling me you can start making pots of tea!'
So my aunt says... she laughed, she says, 'Look, you'll understand,' she said, 'like your mother's no doubt tried to tell you, that when you first come here, everything's made very much the same so that you'll be happy and familiar, and if you want something like that, you can have it. [But] you'll soon realise those things aren't necessary, but if you'd like a cup of tea, you can still have a cup of tea.'
So I says, 'Well I've never had any tea...uh, you know, sort of... I never thought it was possible you could have tea when you was dead.
she says, 'Oh well, I'll go and get it.'
So she came out the back holding this pot of tea. And the funny thing...
I had to laugh when I think about it.
was the same teapot that I always remember; an old brown thing she'd
had for years, with the spout broken and then she'd got this same old
cover on it that she was always so fond of; one she'd knitted her
self years ago.
Funny I should remember that teapot because there are so many other things that one ought to remember I suppose, but somehow that teapot always stuck in my mind. And that dolly thing she had on top!
So I laughed, I said, 'Don't tell me you've got that, you didn't bring that over with you when you pegged out?'
She says, 'No,' she says, 'but I was just as surprised as you are to find it was here.' She says, 'Evidently, anything that really means a lot to you, if it's worth having, if it's important to you, you can have it - at least while you think about it. And if you stop thinking about it and stop thinking it's necessary, then it no longer exists for you. But it only exists today because you've come and because you were thinking of the past, and perhaps thinking of the past when you used to come sometimes to see us and we used to make a cup of tea. Remember that tray... that old tin tray that had them pictures of them flowers on?'
...And there it was, just the same.
I said, 'but then, you mean to say you've got all this stuff?'
So she says, 'Only while we think about it. And since you were coming we thought about it and thought we'd make you comfortable and at home, so we got it. But, as soon as we stop thinking it's important...it won't...we don't need it any more.'
So I said, 'I don't know, I just don't get this at all.'
after a while, she said, 'shall we go
for a walk?'
I said, 'Alright. Where shall we go?'
And my uncle says, 'Well we'll go and see old... old Mabel.'
this made me laugh because old Mabel was... well they used to say she
was mad, you know, she wasn't all there.
So I said, 'Don't tell me she's here as well?' So I said, 'Is she still as daft?'
He says, 'You shouldn't say that. Funny thing is, she was the most sensible one in the village.'
I said, 'No. Get away,' I said, 'Everyone knew she was a bit round the bend*.
So he said, 'You go and see for yourself.'
*round the bend = crazy
So we went out and we went to see this woman, you know, Mabel. Oh my, she was a case she was...
Go on friend, it's very interesting.
Go on, it's very interesting.
Well she lived... had lived for years, you know, all on her own. Her Mum had died, oh, many years before. And, um, everyone made a bit of a butt* of old Mabel, you know. She was a bit round the bend.
a butt* = victim of a joke
And she had, um, a funny sort of attitude of mind about religion, she had. She used to go to church religiously.
But you know, the funny thing about it is, that although they couldn't stop her going to church, naturally, and, uh, indeed the old parson there; he was a nice old chap, you know; very understanding, but old Mabel, she used to make herself a bit of a nuisance at that church. And she was, um, always, um...well, you never knew what she was going to get up to.
Like on one occasion when the parson was in the pulpit, she suddenly stood up, you know, and shouted out, 'I can see you,' she says, 'I can see you.' Of course, well you can imagine what it was like with the congregation and all that. So, I don't know quite what happened; I heard this from my mother years...oh, ages afterwards.
Evidently, she used to see things, you know, and, uh, evidently she saw somebody standing behind the parson in the pulpit - and it was the clergyman that was there before him.
And of course, they got her out, you know, [I believe] and pacified her, and she says, 'oh I saw him. I saw him,' she says. 'He was standing behind the parson in the pulpit and he was telling me what to say.'
Well, of course, we all thought she was nuts, you know. I mean, it was a joke in the village. As a matter of fact, um, she used to do a lot in that church; she did a lot of the cleaning and the polishing and the brass, and all that...
But anyway, I think they were all rather glad when she kicked the bucket* you know, because she got a bit much...you know.
*kicked the bucket = died
She was always seeing things and telling people things, and that. Many of the things she told people happened too. Of course, I remember she told them,... well, my mother says, that she told them that there was going to be a very bad...bad fire at the manor house. Well actually, a few days later, there was and half of that was burnt down. Anyway I think they must have been glad, because they thought she was a bit of a witch I think.
she...welcomed me, you know. There she was - of course, looking
younger than I'd remembered her - but, um, as bright as a button she
was, happy, and she was talking away there, she says,
'You know, funny thing was, that old parson, he was not a bad old stick* you know. He used to stand up there and spout, but he hadn't got a clue what he was talking about.'
*old stick = person
She said, 'I used to sit there sometimes and I'd see the previous parson standing there and used to see people that I'd known when I was a girl in the village, sitting in the pews and walking up and down sometimes. And,' she says, 'once, I sat there,' she said, 'and nobody seemed to realise it, only me, but there was a woman came in and she went up to the altar and she knelt down and, um, she put some big bunch of flowers on the altar.' She says, 'I knew her, she'd been there for donkey's years*.
*donkey's years = a long time
course no one else saw nothing,' she says. 'I was always like
that you know. They all thought I was mad,' she says. 'There
they were preaching and telling the people about things, I was the
only one that had any sense when you come to think about it. They
thought I was mad, you see. Still, it just goes to show don't it?'
I says, 'well I don't know. The more I see of things, the more I get bewildered,' I says.
she says, 'Oh you don't want to worry,' she says. 'They
tell you all sorts of things down there,' she says. 'But none
of them know much about it. And those who are supposed to know most,
know least. And they're scared stiff, in any case. In fact, they're
all so scared of the devil that they're... they're afraid to... to do
anything and find out anything, in case they get involved in some
And she says, 'The devil?' she says, 'they don't even know what they're talking about. There ain't no such person as the devil. There's good and bad,' she says, 'and I always knew that and I didn't need no parson to tell me,' she said, 'and I always knew there was spirits, because I seen many of them,' she says. '
And I knew there was good spirits and there's spirits that's not so good,' she says, '...a bit mischievous, like. We used to have a child in the village,' she says, 'she was a mischievous little thing, she was, and she got drowned. You probably wouldn't remember all about that.
So she says, 'She's over here, but she's a nice little thing. She's grown up too.' She says, 'As a matter of fact, I often see her.'
I says, 'Oh, I remember something about that.'
Oh, the things I listened to and things I experienced, one way and another; it was marvellous when you come to think about it, you know.
And all this time, you know, there was my sister on Earth, bawling her eyes out. Crocodile tears* really, I think.
*Crocodile tears = fake tears
She hadn't got much time for me really, she just felt that it was her duty. Funny thing that, people do things because they think it's their duty, they should do it. But then all the time, they're cussing and swearing about it and saying that they'll do this and do that.
You know, it's funny about people. My sister, she wasn't a bad sort, but she got a bit fed up, one way.... mind you, she had a basin full*, I will say that. She'd had a so and so** of a husband.
*a basin full = much to endure
**so and so = unkind person
eh...I thought, well, 'What about this funeral? I suppose I ought to
be there? Since I'm dead, I should put in an appearance.'
My mother, she laughed, she says, 'Oh well, why do you want to go down there?' She says, 'You've finished with that lot. You don't want to go and see no funerals.'
So I said, 'I don't know, it sounds crazy, but I'd like to see my own funeral.'
'Oh,' she says, 'if that's what you want to do,' she says, 'we'll go with you.'
So anyway, she says, 'In the meantime,' she says, 'you ought to have a rest.' So she says, 'Would you like to go to bed?'
I said, 'Oh. Bed? Do you go to bed here then?'
So she says, 'Well,' she says, 'it's not necessary, but in your case, it might be a good thing.'
So anyway, to cut a long story short, I went to bed!
thing I knew, when I woke up, I was standing in the local cemetery
and... this is what annoyed me, I tell you - it really did annoy me
because I kept up my insurance and all the rest of it - there I was,
being put down in the grave, and it was a pauper's grave*.
And there was my sister and two other people; one I recognised, the other one I didn't. One was an old chap I used to know, oh we'd been in school together. Anyway... and there was I being put down there, rain was coming down like mad, the old parson was hurrying through the service as if he'd got a train to catch!
And I thought, well I don't know. And I realised that... that she hadn't bothered, you know. She just plonked me down there, cheapest funeral she could give me. In a way it didn't matter, but it was the principle of the thing - because I'd kept up my policies, and that, and I'd left quite a little nice sum, you know and she did that on me.
thought, well, 'you wait, you bitch...' I said to myself
'...until you come over here. I'll give you what for. Fancy doing
that on me,' you know.
Anyway, my mother says, 'Look, by the time she comes, you'll think different.'
all, what a waste of money,' I said.
She says, 'Now look,' she says, 'what does it matter where you're buried? It's where you are that matters, not where you're buried. And that little bit of money will tide her over and help her. But I know,' she says, 'the principle's wrong...'
I says, 'You're telling me the principle's wrong!' So I says, 'I assumed I was doing this so as I could have a decent funeral.'
she said, 'What does it matter whether you have a decent funeral
or not? Or whether that man stands over you and gabbles it, the
service, like an express train?' She says, 'It makes no odds.
You're here aren't you - and you're alright aren't you?'
I says, 'Yes, I'm here and I'm alright.'
So she says, 'Well then. Stop worrying about it. After all, when they come here - whether it's the parson or your sister - they'll face up to life, they'll face up to the truth, they'll look back and have regrets. But you can't altogether blame them, they're both ignorant. Your sister's ignorant - she's my daughter, but she's as ignorant as they come,' she says, 'in some ways. But she'll learn. So will the parson learn. He'll learn that...well, it ain't the body in the grave that matters and the service and the...getting it over as quick as possible and drawing the 7 and 6* or whatever it is that you...it's what you are inside, what you been yourself. Not what you pretend to be or what you think you ought to be, or are, or what you believe or what you don't believe. It's what you really are yourself that counts,' she says. 'And that's all that matters.'
*7 and 6 = Seven shillings and sixpence for the parson's fee.
'Looking back,' she said, 'now, on your life, you never did no one no real harm. And your intentions are good. You weren't exactly an educated bloke,' she says. 'You weren't exactly a church-going fella*, but you weren't a bad bloke. You did your best and that's all that really matters - that you strived to do your best,' she says. 'You'll learn boy,' she says, 'you'll learn.'
*Fella = Fellow (man)
Anyway, sometime perhaps, I'll be able to tell you more about it. Can't stay no longer..
Can you give us your name friend, please?
Can you give us the village you lived in, in Buckinghamshire?
He was quite a character wasn't he?
Yes, I wondered whether he'd give us where he lived?
The power's gone.
Could you give his name, where he lived Mickey?
Yes. Can't hold on.
Biggs? Oh I know... and what village did he live in?
Don't know. Don't know. I can't hold on. Bye-bye.
What did he say?
Can't hold on.
END OF RECORDING