Interior. Day. It resembles the waiting-room of a doctor’s surgery. A disorientated woman in her late-fifties wearing gardening attire enters and takes a number from the ticket dispenser. The number on the ticket reads ‘65’. She glances at the LED display above the reception desk. It reads ‘43’. She sighs and takes a seat, glancing around her in a bewildered manner. The other people seated do not look healthy. Some are bleeding.
After a moment or so a side-door opens and a wiry gentleman of perhaps sixty or seventy years of age enters. His grey- to silver-hair is swept back, he is wearing a plain t-shirt, jeans and sturdy boots.
Wiry Gentleman: You. Come with me.
Disorientated Woman: What? Me?
WG: No. The other woman I’m looking at and talking to. Yes, you.
DW: What’s happening? Where am I? A moment ago I was in my garden doing the weeding before winter set in…
WG: Look, I’ll not beat about the bush. It’s like this: you’re dead, aren’t you. This is the after-life. There’s a bit of a queue and they thought – you know, considering the circumstances – I should rush you in. [Eyes the seated people, the LED display above reception] Fucking bureaucrats. Justifying their eternal existence. Sheep.
DW: Wait! What circumstances? All I remember was doing the borders in my back-garden and looking-up to see this bloody great rocket hurtling toward my head…
WG: [Taking a glug from a can of Carling and then drawing on an oddly-fragrant hand-rolled cigarette before fixing her with a steely-blue gaze that many would find intimidating] Yeah. That was me. Me in the rocket. That did you in. It was decided it was ‘polite’ I do this for you. Come on [gesturing toward the side door] hurry in before the fucking lemmings get wind.
Five days ago (oh, this is me now) and I’m standing in a back garden. It’s a beautiful garden – my favourite kind; utilitarian, a place that produces; that grows useful stuff - things you can eat, things you can use - a man’s garden. A place to work, to drink, to smoke, to reflect. A place that brings satisfaction to whoever tends it. It boasts a tremendous view over one of Gloucestershire’s valleys.
There are loads of people milling around, some gazing with concern at the sky and the light rain it is sprinkling. Among them are my Favourite Son, Favourite Daughter, their Grandmother, their Uncle James and the ex-Mrs Tired Dad, Their Mother.
The garden is huge, and Uncle James is half-way down it, separated by some yards of electrical wire and a detonator from a three-foot tall model rocket. The rocket contains the ashes of his and of the ex-Mrs. Tired Dad’s father – my children’s Grandfather. Ashes I had escorted on my lap from the crematorium in the passenger-seat of his ex-wife’s car.
With the strains of Pink Floyd playing from the house behind us Uncle James pulls the trigger and the rocket shoots what seems hundreds of feet in the air before the payload detonates over it’s passenger’s favourite place in the world.
And then instead of descending straight ahead into the valley it veers to the right. Quite a lot to the right. And disappears over the roof of a neighbouring house into what can only be the back garden.
Bloody hell, I think to myself, I hope there was no-one out there.
John Bridge-Williams 1945 - 2013