What shall we do with the baleful baggists?

Charles 14 Comments


“Stick me in a binbag and put me out with the rubbish.” We hear this sentiment voiced so often these days, it’s reached the status of both cultural indicator and cliché.

It is a very good way of aborting talk about death and its aftermath, and it is a gambit deployed almost exclusively by men.

Why do they say it? It’s not as if it is what they would do in the event of the death of one of their nearest and dearest. In fact, baggists are those most likely to beggar themselves for banks of flowers and a horse-drawn hearse for a beloved family member. I suspect that baggists are the biggest sentimentalists of them all.

Do they say it because they think it bigs them up in a blokeish way? Makes them look pragmatic, down-to-earth, no-nonsense? Unafraid?

Would a more perceptive reading deliver a verdict of unhelpful, unrealistic, silly? Or sulky, irresponsible, self-destructive? Men are prone to self-destruction. Their suicide rate is three times that of women. When they kill their own children, too, their suicides are characterised as much by vengeance as despair. Are the tendencies in any way related?

What’s the right way to respond to baggists? Kindly indulgence or tart rebuke? 

Samaritans suicide statistics report 2012 – very interesting reading – here








  1. Charles

    The baggists are doing their loved ones a favour by lightening the burden. The family can choose a basic funeral without feeling like cheapskates. ‘Fred wanted to be put out with the rubbish! Well we couldn’t do that but we didn’t want to go against his wishes completely by spending too much…’

  2. Charles

    Often when this is said to me, along with its sister comment ‘just put me on the compost heap’, it’s with quite a light hearted slant. I’m sure there will be some people who’ll feel the more sinister sentiments you have listed, Charles, but for the majority of people I would interpret it as a sort of modesty about their own importance, and a concern that their famiy will be burdened by the emotional and financial cost of their death. It’s a sort of blokey attempt at expressing care, I think. And a distaste for fuss.

    How many times are we told ‘he wouldn’t have wanted anyone to be too sad…’? Same theme, I reckon.

  3. Charles

    ‘blokey attempt at expressing care’ – love it! I think you’re right Sweetpea. Maybe it’s also a bit of a circle of life sentiment – out of the ground we were taken and to the ground we must return… cut out the ceremony in the middle
    (as in the funeral not the life bit!)

    I know a lot of men who HATE funerals and maybe its because they hate the emotion in agitates in them, maybe they all think/wish to be immortal like Dr Who, or maybe they don’t like to think at all.

    They all sort of ‘go’ to funerals because it’s expected but they all look like they’d rather be at some all male all night (possibly naked) tribal drinking fest to honour their dead- after digging the grave and filling it in by hand instead of sitting upright suited and booted in the crematorium chapel.

    Maybe the sedation of a modern Western funeral is too crushing for the average macho man – so you may as well chuck him in a binbag ….. if you’re not going to do a proper man’s funeral…

    What is a proper man’s funeral?

  4. Charles

    That’s what’s so great about men, isn’t it? It’s so easy to generalise and stereotype about them.
    Ah yes – that’s right – it’s the same with women, isn’t it?

    A proper man’s funeral, like a proper woman’s funeral, is surely one that is right for the person who’s died and his/her family, and it’s tricky, is it not, getting that balance right? I’m sure we’re right to take the bin-bag sentiment as a gesture rather than a serious request, but I’m less sure that at least sometimes, Charles isn’t spot on.

  5. Charles

    It’s an interesting question Evelyn brings up: What would men do to honor their fellow fallen men if left to their own devices? If they didn’t have to be suited and booted, quite literally restrained in their own clothing? Do they find comfort in the traditional rituals? Or do they really wish they could break free, without fear of reproach? Do we as women or society crush their spirits?

    Feel free to replace “man” with “woman” or “person”. Does society allow any of us to mourn and honor the dead in our own personal ways? And why do we care what anyone else thinks?

    Lots of questions, no answers from me yet.

  6. Charles

    Evelyn, the funeral you describe; naked, digging the grave through the night, tribal drinking fest, you will find completely itemised on our website. As some folk know already, an extra 70 quid if you want me in the buff.

  7. Charles

    Sorry Gloria – wasn’t intending to offend with my menfolk talk – but sometimes if all feels so tight and restrained and well, polite I suppose, in the crem chapel. I just was imagining what men might really be thinking they’d like for a funeral ritual – I’m sure women might want something different for their beloveds too… I’m not a man=woman and woman=man sort of person, we are all different and we end up back at who is the funeral for? Whether it’s bagging, direct cremation or one of Ru’s buffed up all nighters (£70 you say?) I just wish folk of both genders (and everything in between) would get real – and not, As Rev Amy says, be so ‘restrained’.
    But then you get into the realms of society and ritual and rhetoric and patterns and acceptability and observance of what’s a norm blah blah blah – but there’s safety in all that.
    I think the ‘unafraid’ bit of what Charles wrote is most probably the key – “Bag me up and chuck me away cos I’m not afraid of being dead – but all of you are.”

  8. Charles

    Evelyn, no offence taken. My only point is that I really believe it is impossible to generalise about what suits “men” or “women”
    I agree entirely about the feeling sometimes that we’re being too polite and restrained – but I also think sometimes that celebrants and FDs (some of them!) may have strong feelings about what should happen, from their point of view, and what might seem real for a family isn’t for us, and vice versa.

    We operate, as you go on to suggest, within our cultural context. It’s always changing, we may feel ahead of the game, but the only real game each time is surely these people right here in front of me. Hence the sense of strain sometimes about the job!

    And that’s without getting Ru to take all his clothes off for a measly £70. I mean, we’re accustomed to the phrase “man up,” but really….

  9. Charles

    I think I disagree with you, Gloria. The older I get the more sure I am that people fall into categories…..and in broad strokes, men are men and do what men do – or don’t do what men should do, perhaps. And yes, women are women and broadly do what women do – or what is expected of them.

    Of course we can’t be seen to generalise bit in my experience I am sorry to announce that we are not as individual as we 60’s children like to think. Sure, we have individual variations but overall, whether we like it or not we fall into categories – whether it’s knitting nanas, knicker showing aunties, shed-ing dads or bin bag blokes.

  10. Charles

    Fair enough QG, we do indeed fall into categories – but isn’t the whole point (or most of the point of) of a secular funeral ceremony to address one, unique life?

    Seems to me that we need to work against the categorisation of people in in funeral work, not just to flatter consumers, but to give the whole business real meaning. (Otherwise, I’m out of here!)

    Don’t you find, invariably, that whilst the ghosts of standard categories flit through your mind as you enter someone’s house and set to work, (“retirees in flight from the city, never really fitted in” “sounds like a knitting nana” etc) the longer you are there, the more the people you are talking to seem entirely unique, and, you hope, so does the person they are talking about?

    So I don’t feel it’s just not being seen to generalise – it’s quieting that bit of our minds that is good at categorising, whilst we tune right in to these people, here and now. I still find the idea of a “man’s funeral” vs a “woman’s funeral” unhelpful, sorry to be blunt. Nothing much to do with the 60s, though of course “we” are more prone to over-emphasise our individual uniqueness because of the comparative ease and freedom in which most of us were reared. We weren’t conscripted and told to over orders, for a start!

    (All this will change when I take over.)

  11. Charles

    I think the baggists should get their wish.. I usually find what is meant is as Belinda says: No money should be spent unnecessarily. Keep it simple! This is fine by me. My neighbour FD’s – ruled by their boring unsympathetic accountants and Head Office targets hate these simple funerals – so that leaves more for me! Who cares a jot if the box is plain and cheap looking? It’s the service that matters – or even lack of one!

  12. Charles

    Quokkagirl, I kind of agree with you, and with Gloria.

    We are, as John Peel once said about The Fall, always different, always the same. I think we have now made a funeral personal, it’s time to make it general again as well. It needs to be about us all, because let’s be honest, if it’s not about us, we don’t really pay attention.

    And Jon, now I think about it, those options are a bit, ahem, under the counter.

    The 70 quid was what I had decided I would charge when spoof called by an inventive and cruel friend who made out she was part of a naturist community and wanted me to conduct the service for her husband naked. To be fair, it was a long time ago and I was very new to this. Would be at least 140 quid now.

    She tried it again, asking me to bury her horse. This time, her request was for me to wear a jockey’s outfit.

  13. Charles

    Ru, you truly are an undertaker celebrant For All Seasons….we’re a bit worried about our goldfish; if it goes anal fin up, can I give you a ring? We’d like to get you into the pond, snorkelling only no scuba please.

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