Rite of Passage - a gravedigger's memoir

an ebook by Peter Street

"Of course there were always fears about my epilepsy when meeting new work mates. Fears like the three years since it hit me. Three years since the bike I had saved my paper money for was taken from me. The bike I had shared with girls, giving them piggy rides. Great, until my parents took it all away and, can you believe it, gave it away to a good home. Not only, but dreams of a Triumph Tiger Cub Motorbike had ended, gone; along with all my biker friends. Not only, but I had been sacked from my first job in the bakehouse after having a seizure. Then it was the paper-mill: sacked. The warehouse: sacked. The butchers and slaughterhouse: sacked. Apart from Sandra and the Gaffs, I had been friendless for three years.

Yes, there were big fears."

This book is a memoir of my time spent working in the world's oldest profession in the various Bolton cemeteries where for almost four years I dug graves for friends, relatives and complete strangers. Those welcoming cemeteries were for me places where I needed to be: out of society, where me and my epilepsy could get to know more about each other.

Don wouldn’t have known the signs of my grand mal seizure.
Apparently he came down, grabbed my overalls by the chest and leg, and then just lifted me up and out. It was an ambulance job. The hospital bed sheets were covered in mud. Trying to move there was big pain. Pain as though elephants had walked all over me. Eventually I managed to move. Leaning down I forced my eyes under the bed where my clogs were coated in mud and my bloody tongue felt like it was in shreds.

Four days later I trod into the cabin. Silence. Harold placed a breakfast on my knee. I was waiting for all the sorries and "Why didn't you tell us, we didn't know what to do?" 

That was the usual; but gravediggers are anything but usual. A room full of nods were aimed at me and that was it.  Yes, it had been my first grand mal while I was a digger. It had also been a first for them and they had passed with flying colours. It was then I knew more than ever, I was one of them: a gravedigger.

Rite of Passage is no longer available as an ebook. A new, re-edited version will shortly be published as an actual paper book, with a new title too. Watch this space for details.


a sample chapter from Rite of Passage

a short video interview with Peter Street

More writing from Peter Street: My Day Centre




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