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In the 1980s I knew a man who had an entirely respectable occupation in the funeral trade. He was a driver/bearer, drove the hearse and carried the coffin

He lived in a city which at the time had a one-way system designed in the 1960s.

For pedestrians, there were access routes under the road system via a series of subways. The subways often led into the centre of roundabouts at a subterranean level where gardens, memorials and open spaces could be found. Many of these subways also provided the service of public toilets or as we knew them at the time “cottages.” A number of these toilets were a prolific source of activity – sometimes 24 hours per day.

The term and act of “cottaging” never appealed to me. I could not get to grips with the morality of hanging around public loos in the hope of meeting another man for sex. Though when homosexuality was “the love that dare not speak its name”, for many this was the only way to make a connection with a like-minded soul in a vast number of towns and cities throughout the country.

I knew the slang term for a toilet as being a “bog” and used to jibe my driver/bearer friend that his action was that of “bogging!” He was totally a serial “bogger” at all times of the day and night, never getting caught. Why? You may well ask.

He drove the private ambulance (decked out Transit van. No need of a defibrillator, as his passengers were past the point of resuscitation!) of the funeral directors he worked for. When not on funerals he would collect bodies in it from various hospital morgues in the city or be moving bodies from one office to another for the convenience of mourners to view in a “chapel of rest.”

In the evening he would be “on-call.” Inconveniently as it may seem, but many people die outside of regular working hours; just no consideration. Those who die at home unexpectedly have to be removed. The police are always called to sudden deaths. They often have better things to do, such as catching criminals, or speeding motorists and so a private ambulance was never stopped by the Force as it could be on its way to where another of their colleagues was working.

This courtesy extended by the police equated to a carte blanche for my friend to drive around the city centre day and night; parking where he liked never getting a ticket, picking up “trade”, with somewhere to take them (a roll-up camping mattress on a shelf in the back of a van made an excellent makeshift bed). Hence he saw and got more action than most of the rest of the population.

His dedication to his pastime was beyond question. Except for the mechanic at the garage who serviced the vehicle. He raised questions about the wear and tear on the vehicle. My friend who was able to be solemn informed me he was totally “deadpan” when his senior had questioned him. Though subsequently, he varied his route to equal out the number of left and right turns on his nighttime cruising missions, it previously having been a number of left turns around the road system.

I always wondered why no one ever questioned the mileage the vehicle covered, sometimes hundreds of miles every time he was on call, whether anyone died or not. Not surprising funerals are so expensive! He also did favours for friends, moving furniture and trips to the tip!

More of a concern was what did other men think climbing into the back of a van with coffins in it? Amazing what a man will do when his cock is calling! The risks he will take. Had my friend been a serial killer he could have disposed of thousands.

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I wonder how many people’s recently demised relatives went “cottaging” with him during the time of his employ. “Oh don’t worry about Auntie Maud, she’s dead quiet!”

Sad really, I lost touch with him years ago. For all, I know the deceased relatives of you, and I could be out cruising for trade with him tonight.


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