In 2007 I started to work in the offices of a not for profit social enterprise company called Bugbugs, who operate a small fleet of rickshaws in London.
The company was setup to offer zero emission transport and advertising and all of our riders were young guys and girls, who rented the rickshaw and then went out to make their own money with tips from giving rides on the rickshaw. I myself worked in this way, for what turned into 6 years plus, even though it was only supposed to be for the summer. The job is a huge amount of fun, thanks to the passengers, the other riders and the type of group spirit it gives you, most riders feel this way.
We had shifts to cover the office and this entailed signing riders up or off, so it was not much of a surprise that a young rider aged around 23 came in and said that he was coming to give back the locker key and kit.
As Bugbugs always aimed to understand why we were about to lose a rider, I asked him why he was leaving. His answer was an utter shock, as he replied that he was dying from lung disease. At first I thought he was making a very bad joke but his face and colour told a different story, said to him that he should not give up hope, as death is not always that certain. He smiled and then actually donated his £100 security money to the company, even when I protested. The whole thing stayed in my memory for months and that we all will one day pass and what will be left behind.
Around one year later, was now running the company and operating from a new base in our underground cave next to St Andrew. I had a call from a soft spoken gentleman, asking if we offered a service to transport at funerals, to which I replied, that we could. The gentleman made an appointment to come by our office, later that day and to look over our rickshaws.
On arriving it was obvious that it was a rather solemn request he was trying to fulfil, as he started to try and measure the length and hight of the rickshaw. It was, as if he was trying to fit a rather long board down the middle. I explained that this would not work and started looking around for an old rickshaw which was now a cargo platform and which we converted to move to our new base. It seamed perfect in length and hight, so we arranged details of location and timing for the day.
As the morning came, I had not managed to get any of our young riders to take the cargo rickshaw to location, as most had worked through the night giving lifts and so I opted to do it myself.
The 8 miles of ridding, were caped by a rather steep hill which goes by the name of Muswell Hill and rightfully deserves that name, the weather was grey and wet. It took me the best part of 30 minutes to slowly inch my way up the road and my determination to be on time was the only thing stronger then the stitch in my side.
Arrived on time at the location and was greeted by the solemn gentleman and what I took to be the son of the deceits. We proceeded to load a wicker coffin onto the platform and as the mourners gathered slowly proceeded through the park which would take us to the crematorium. The weather did only briefly try to bring the sun but this was not to be.
On arriving, many flowers were added to the coffin, the mix of wicker and simple blue corn flower was uplifting and simple. Personally like the simple things in life and the mix of slight rain, the smell of wicker, the vibrant blue colour of the small flowers create a fair-well from the heart. The four men lined up and lifted the wicker, then slowly walked it to the podium.
The funeral commenced and I staid to pay my respects. As the service finished, meet the young man again and he thanked me for coming and for full filling his brothers last wish, of going by rickshaw. Instantly had a lump in my throat, as the memory of his brother came back to me.
He explained that he had ridden the rickshaw first and then later his brother did so too. Both had the best few months working together and that this was the last happy memory he could share with his brother. I’m deeply moved that we did this for him, as he was one of us. I’m happy it was myself who was part of his fair-well, as it closed a sad memory and it underlines the need to allow us to share a last time. I also know that one day I to will pass and that this is the way I’d like to say goodbye. I’m happy that this place exists to tell this story and hope that you understand why I feel this was a good funeral. Since that time we’ve had the honour of being part of two funerals per year, people who felt that the last journey by bike summons up a philosophy of their life.