Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Unexpected help received for a Luton funeral

When speaking to Pam the lady making the Floral Tributes for a Luton funeral, David Hall, became aware that there would be a number of Floral Tributes including a ‘Swinging Open Heart’ , a ‘Flat-Bed Lorry’, a 12 inch ‘Heart’, a 12 inch ‘Polo Ring’ and two ‘Pillows’. For David this was like going back ten years when most funerals involved 4 or 5 Floral Tributes, whereas in these uncertain economically challenging times, the volume of Floral Tributes has declined and sometimes family members club together to buy one large Floral Tribute.
David found out that the Deceased had driven a Leyland Beaver with a Blue & Red livery, identical to MXV 610 and when the family of the Deceased saw a framed picture of David’s lorry at the Funeral Directors, the Son said, ‘We’re having That!’
The Florist, who was a niece to the Deceased, asked David to email her a picture of his lorry so that she could match the colours she would use in the ‘Flat-Bed Lorry’ Floral Tribute. David, however, was more interested in the ‘Swinging Open Heart’ as he had carried one before but it wasn’t as big as the one the Florist was creating, which was estimated as being 45 inches long.
When David knows that he is going to carry a Floral Tribute that he has never carried before he has contacted Smither Oasis and Val Spicer who make the oasis bases. For a funeral for a 17 year old boy in Bognor a ‘Single Note’ Floral Tribute was ordered by his Grandad and David spoke with Val Spicer who kindly traced around the Floral Tribute onto cardboard, which they posted to David to use as a template. This enabled David to position the ‘Single Note’ on a board having black lines across depicting it was on a sheet of music, and the position of the ‘Single Note’ signified the A note. The family thought this was wonderful and very fitting for their Son, Angus. Smither Oasis had previously been extremely helpful sending David actual bases for a series of standard ‘Hearts’ which enabled him to create support structures in the shape of a ‘Heart’ so that it would appear to be floating.
The ‘Swinging Open Heart’ was a Smither Oasis base so David rang to see if someone could take an item of stock from the warehouse and then make a trace onto cardboard. Unfortunately the lady David spoke with was unable to help him because she wasn’t prepared to cut the plastic bag as this would have reduced the value. David was disappointed and suggested that given the importance of this Floral Tribute to the family, they should cut the seal and then reseal it in a new bag, however, this sadly was not possible.
David mentioned to the Florist that he was struggling to get a template made for the ‘Swinging Open Heart’ and her Husband asked to speak with David. John, Pam’s Husband said, ‘I have some wallpaper left over from when we last decorated the house, I could trace the ‘Swinging Open Heart’ and then post it to you.’
David has often found situations when people in a big company could have provided help but won’t and then someone who has no need to help, steps up to the plate. John went beyond his brief, traced the Floral Tribute and then drove from Slough to Bradford-on-Avon to hand the template over to David.
John came through the door of David’s garage with a roll under his arm and with David’s help he rolled out the template on the deck of the Leyland Beaver. John had made templates for all the Floral Tributes and he said, ‘I thought that these may be of some use for you in future funerals.’
John and David then worked together and had an interactive discussion how best to support the ‘Swinging Open Heart’ looking at a number of options which David laid out on the deck of the Leyland Beaver. David’s first priority is to attempt to use existing stained wood, perhaps in a new way, which is beneficial as it reduces the cost both in time and money if new wood was required which then had to be stained.
The best option for the ‘Swinging Open Heart’ that David suggested to John was to use a triangular Support Structure which had been used many times before to carry:-
§                     A ‘Butterfly’ Floral Tribute in Snodland.
§                     A 24 inch ‘Heart’ Floral Tribute in Swanley.
§                     A ‘Car’ Floral Tribute in Bristol.
The triangular Support Structure was also used in a Theme to depict the wingtip of a Plane being refuelled by a Tanker for a funeral in Gosport.
By placing lengths of 4 x2 timbers around the triangle, the shape of a suitable support Structure for the ‘Swinging Open Heart’ was created and John was amazed at the extent of David’s huge wood collection. John took a close look at the Leyland Beaver and was very complimentary about the condition of the paintwork on the 1950 lorry.

David left Bradford-on-Avon just before 0600 hours for the funeral at 1500 hours which gave him until 2100 hours to get home. As the Leyland Beaver was climbing the A46 hill on the outskirts of Bath David noticed that the temperature of the water in the engine started to rise beyond its normal level and towards the top of the hill the needle on the dial was still climbing. David resolved that if the temperature hadn’t stabilised by the time he crossed over the M4 roundabout he would stop and investigate what was causing the problem. As David stopped at the traffic lights on the M4 Junction 18 roundabout he noticed that the temperature had stabilised at a higher lever than normal and David decided to keep trundling on with his first stop scheduled to be at the Co-op Foodstore in Long Hanborough, which has a large rear yard and a Manager who permits David to use the staff toilet.
David then took the A44 around Oxford and then selected the A418 through Aylesbury, the A505 around Leighton Buzzard and finally the A5 into Dunstable. The Leyland Beaver just fitted onto the apron in front of the Funeral Directors and David was pleased that the journey had taken only 4 hours 20 minutes, including the comfort stop at around 0830 hours. The Funeral Arranger was pleased to see David and showed him a ‘DAD’ Floral Tribute which had turned up unannounced and the Funeral Arranger was concerned as it was not on the Sketch that David had drawn and agreed with the family. David said, ‘No worries, I always try to expect the unexpected’, as he created a ‘pop-up’ ‘DAD’ support structure at the rear of the deck.

The bulk of the flowers were at the family home and David had to load the coffin at the Funeral Directors and then load the flowers later. This is not David’s preferred mode of operation because the Deceased in the coffin must always be respected and no flowers can be positioned temporally on the coffin. Also the straps over the coffin present a trip risk. David has also learnt that the risk of damaging a Floral Tribute goes up exponentially with the number of times a Floral Tribute is handled. David positioned himself on the deck and members of the family and Funeral Bearers handed up the flowers, but instead of waiting for David to request a specific Floral Tribute, Floral Tributes were just deposited haphazardly on the deck. This meant that when David was attempting to lift the ‘Flat-bed’ Lorry tragically it snapped and David needed some assistance to help him fix it to its stand. However, once it was fixed to the board the problem was not evident and the family thanked David for all the care he was taking. David thought that it would have a complete disaster if a hearse had been used because the two halves of the ‘Flat-Bed Lorry’ Floral Tribute would have been left on the floor of the hearse.

At the crematorium the ‘Swinging Open Heart’ was taken from its stand and placed on top of the coffin and the family were delighted that the ribbon was still in place.

On the way home, David found his way through Luton and he took a break at Thame Services on the A418 to let some of the rush hour traffic subside. The route home involved the A420 from Oxford to Swindon and also diverting onto the B4508, which runs parallel to the A420, to avoid stretches of the A420 which are only single carriageway with inherent problems of getting reluctant overtaking drivers past the vintage lorry. David refuelled at Sainsbury’s in Melksham at 2030 hours and was home by 2100 hours.
An inspection of the Leyland Beaver to investigate the higher operating engine temperature found that the rear bolt holding the dynamo had sheared and the dynamo was being held by only two front bolts, causing it to twist, which resulted in the water pump and the fan not turning as quickly as they should have done. The head of the bolt had gone but the thread of the bolt was still in place even after a 255 mile journey which luckily limited the movement of the dynamo and kept the fan belt in place. John Satchell, of John Satchell Motors, who looks after the maintenance of the Leyland Beaver, came to David’s garage and had a new bolt in place in no time at all. John had recently replaced the same bolt in March earlier that year and it is amazing how the original bolt remained in place for 67 years and a modern bolt only last 6 months.
John is responsible for the maintenance of over 550 pieces of equipment (Tractor Units and Trailers) runs a three bay workshop in Westbury and employs 6 Mechanics. However, he always finds time after work to look after the Leyland Beaver. David is always grateful for everything that John does and David’s wife always prepares a light snack which sometimes in the summer John eats at the garden table and probably for the first time that day he relaxes and listens to the birds in the garden.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

A Funeral in Barnton Part Two (Travelling north, the funeral and the journey home)

When David is planning a long distance funeral which involves an overnight stay he often uses the journey to the funeral to investigate and evaluate new routes. Barnton is only 6 miles south of Warrington, a destination that the Leyland Beaver has been to a number of times and route involved has been what David calls his ‘west side story’. David tries to select A-Roads that are little used and have ample opportunities to get vehicles past his lorry trundling along at 30 miles per hour. His route to Warrington has traditionally gone via Wolverhampton, Stafford, Stone, Talke Bank and the A50 for the rest of the way.
David found it was less distance to take an eastern route around Birmingham taking the Fosse Way, which David often uses, and then the A4177, A452, A446 before taking the A51 to join the A34 at Stone, just south of Stoke. David had been on all the roads apart from the A51 and he was keen to establish how busy it was and if it was an original 1950’s three lane road, with a carriageway wide enough to get vehicles three abreast. David attempted to ring Mark Pyatt who supplies Vintage Lorry Funerals with spare parts and lives in Cheadle, just north of the A51, however, when David rang his mobile it was obvious that Mark was in a foreign land and David terminated the call within three rings.
Also it appeared that some road works may cause problems so David spoke with two Funeral Directors, who he had previously worked for, who might be able to provide an insight into the potential problems. Susan, at Gascoignes Funeral Directors Coleshill, provided information on the Network Rail works on the A446 and Jane, at Robert Nicholls Funeral Directors Stafford, reported on the road works on the A34. David is very grateful for all the help he receives and from the reception he gets when he approaches Funeral Directors in this regard.
Another key factor to establish on a new route is for potential toilet stops as A-Roads don’t have the luxury of Service Areas which are on motorways. David found that Lincoln Farm Truck Stop was on the A452, some 100 miles from Bradford-on-Avon, and this would be a suitable location for a comfort stop, so he rang and spoke with Debbie. He told her what he did with the Leyland Beaver and she was very interested. David asked if he could have something simple like a mug of tea with a toasted teacake, however, Debbie said she had no teacakes but could prepare toast with jam.
David also phoned Weaver Vale Garden Centre, which is less than one mile from the Anderton Boat Lift at which David had arranged a photo shoot, of his Leyland Beaver with the Boat Lift behind, with Rob Green Anderton Concrete’s Yard Manager. David’s idea was to use Weaver Vale Garden Centre as a holding area where he could wash his lorry before the photo-shoot and utilise the café and toilet facilities. The lady at the Garden Centre was happy with the arrangement provided that David brought his own hot water to wash the Leyland Beaver.
David left at 0545 hours as it is always best to get on the Fosse Way before 0700 hours to avoid traffic and less experienced drivers who are reluctant to overtake the Leyland Beaver and can be found on A-Roads after 0930 hours. The Leyland Beaver performed well and David was in the yard at the Lincoln Farm Truck Stop by 0930 hours. David ordered tea & toast and mentioned that he had spoken to someone the previous day. Debbie came out of kitchen, shook David’s hand and asked where the Leyland Beaver was parked. As David was eating his toast he looked at the large number of meal options that were painted in large letters on the wall and he noticed Chicken Tikka which was in amongst a sea of various forms of All Day Breakfasts and Roast Dinners. Debbie returned and said that the lorry was lovely and David asked if he came back tomorrow around 1530 hours could a Chicken Tikka be available. She said, ‘Anything on that wall can be made from 1100 hours until 2400 hours.’
David found the stretches of Dual Carriageway very useful on the A452 and A446 to get vehicles past, however, David’s main worry was taking the correct exit at roundabouts because the M6 Toll Road runs parallel to the A446. Gerry Rafferty wrote song called ‘Get it Right Next Time’ and one of the verses includes:-
You need direction, yeah, you need a name,
When you’re standing in the crossroads every highway looks the same,
After a while you can recognise the signs,
So if you get it wrong you’ll get it right next time.

With signs on the approach roads to roundabouts having exits for the M42 and the M6 Toll roads, David knew that if he got it wrong the impact would be serious and there would be no chance to get it right next time.
The A51 proved to be a good choice with a mixture of wide or dual carriageways and ample lay-byes for David to pull over and let vehicles past. The road works on the A34 didn’t produce much of a delay and David could relax as most of the road is dual carriageway and he had no worries about getting vehicles past the vintage lorry.
The A50 is normally a quiet road, however, on this Wednesday there was heavy traffic and with only a small number of lay-byes. As David reached Arclid there was over 50 vehicles trapped behind the Leyland Beaver. David spotted Crane Hire Direct with a large concrete apron in front of the workshop so David pulled over. It was almost 1300 hours and David thought it would be a good place for him to have his sandwich so he switched off the engine and went into the office. David introduced himself to Keir, the Transport Manager, and asked if he could take his break on their apron. Keir said, ‘Many people stop there for a break but you are the first person who has ever asked our permission.’
As David was eating his sandwich an old man came and asked if David would be interested in buying their old lorry which had worked for Crane Hire Direct many years ago. As a matter of courtesy David went into the office and spoke with Neil and whilst he was waiting on the phone to get through to his bank, Neil explained that he had a 1960 Leyland Beaver that was in need of restoration. David told Neil that he wasn’t a mechanic, however, he knew a man from Cheadle who may be interested. Neil said, ‘Are you speaking about Mark Pyatt, a lovely bloke but he has too much on at the moment to visit us to see our lorry?’ David went back to his lorry and was documenting his 45 minute break on his manual records when a blue pickup truck pulled into the yard in front of the Leyland Beaver. David thought he recognised the driver, it looked like a suntanned Mark Pyatt, but it couldn’t be because Mark was on holiday. It turned out that it was Mark Pyatt who said, ‘I’ve just got back from holiday but I know that you tried to call me. Do you need a part for the Beaver?’ David explained that he wanted advice on the A51 but Mark said, ‘I saw you from the cross roads and I’m glad everything is going well with the lorry, but I must go now because the bloke in that garage is keen for me to buy his old 1960 Leyland Beaver but I’ve been too busy with all the other projects that we have at this time.’

David arrived at Anderton Concrete earlier than planned, however, Rob Green was pleased to see the lorry and had arranged some mobile steps so that David could get an elevated camera position. After David had taken a picture of the Leyland Beaver in front of the Anderton Boat Lift something magical happened. David and Rob saw the Boat Lift working as a Pleasure Barge laden with passengers entered the lower caisson from the River Weaver to be lifted 50 feet to continue the journey on the Mersey & Trent Canal.

On the Wednesday morning David arrived at Barnton and Claire was pleased to see the lorry looking so clean. Pat was on her day off, however, she came to see David and both ladies apologised for the delay in getting information about the flowers. Claire and Pat were amazed how well the display looked and how appreciative the family would be to see their Dad’s picture between the ‘Names’.

The Funeral Director Sharon paged the lorry from the Funeral Home to the house and the widow was keen to shake David’s hand to thank him for all that he had done. At the Crematorium there was some problem about where the lorry should be positioned, David parked with the roller opposite the doorway but everyone was waving him forward. Sharon said that the Crematorium staff members were wanting the lorry to move forward and David approached the Crematorium Staff Member who had mistakenly believed that the coffin would come off the rear of the deck. David said, ‘You see the side roller, the coffin comes off the side not the back like a hearse, the lorry is in the right spot. When people tell me to jump I don’t ask how high, I ask why.’ After the service David spoke with Kate, Daughter of the Deceased and she was amazed that the words David used to reprimand the Crematorium Staff were the same words that her Dad had often used.

The journey home went well and having had a cooked breakfast David didn’t fancy a sandwich at 1230 hours so David kept travelling south. At around 1530 hours the Leyland Beaver pulled into Lincoln Farm Truck Stop and David approached the young lady at the counter and asked if the Chicken Tikka could be made with onions and mushrooms. Debbie who was doing the cooking said, ‘I’ve made it with onions, it is a little bit hotter than I normally make it, you should try before you buy.’ She then offered David a sample on a gigantic wooden spoon and he was happy with it as it was more like a Butter Chicken. David sat with his mug of tea and Debbie arrived with an oval plate with enough Chicken Tikka for two and a dome of boiled rice. She asked David if his lorry was parked in the same place as yesterday and she went out to see the Leyland Beaver.
As David was eating the Chicken Tikka he suddenly realised that Debbie had cooked the meal especially for him on the off chance that he would call in on his way home. It certainly wasn’t for anyone else who were tucking into All Day Breakfasts and Roast Dinners. David had a flashback to the 1970’s when he used to travel with Fellside Transport Drivers and stay with Ma Kelso, whose son was then running the business. David was always instructed to ring from Burton Services on the M6 and without fail Ma Kelso would always have a hot meal on the table when David took off his boots before entering her bungalow across the road from the haulage yard at Croft House.

As David pulled into Cirencester he decided to fuel at Tesco using a10 pence per litre discount voucher and apparently David is the only person to use the full 100 litre allowance on the discount voucher.
David arrived home at 2030 hours and told his wife about all the amazing people he had met in his travels. 

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

A Funeral in Barnton Part One (Preparation)

David Hall received an email from a Funeral Director in Crewe requesting a price for a funeral in Northwich, however, before David provides a price he undertakes detailed research regarding the location of the Funeral Home, family house and crematorium or cemetery. The Funeral Director worked for a large company with many locations throughout Britain and it was very difficult to speak with him as he was always conducting a funeral. After speaking to two helpful ladies David eventually found out that the funeral was not in Northwich but Barnton just outside Northwich and a lady called Claire confirmed that the funeral would be departing from her location, but she had no further details as she had no contact with the family.
It transpired that this large company had decided to make the Funeral Director the sole point of contact with the family, which David felt was wrong. The normal situation is that a Funeral Director may request a price but all other details are with the Funeral Arranger, whose prime function is to arrange the funeral. David had to accept the situation, which was far from ideal and sent an email to the Funeral Director with a guideline price.
Nothing was received back from the Crewe Funeral Director and David thought that the opportunity had gone, however, after three days David received an email to say that the family were considering using the lorry but a date had not been finalised. Some two days later, David received a short email from the Funeral Director specifying the date and time of the funeral. No one ever told David that he had got the job, he just had to infer it from the email!
So David had the location of the Funeral Home and the crematorium together with the time and if David was a normal Carriage Master he would have had all that he would need. However, unlike other Carriage Masters who just arrive with their vehicle, load the coffin and stuff the flowers around the coffin, David’s main aim is to personalise a funeral using the flowers to create an eye-catching display with perhaps a picture of the Deceased somehow incorporated.
It was the Tuesday before the August Bank Holiday and David knew that he had to have all the information he required before the end of Thursday. Friday would the last working day, given that Monday was a holiday and that the Tuesday needed to be a day of rest to prepare for the 180 miles journey to Barnton on the Wednesday.
The Funeral Arrangers at Barnton Claire and Pat were very good, however, it was difficult for them to pull information from Rob, the Funeral Director, because he was always focusing on the funeral he was conducting at that time, rather that arranging a funeral some days in the future. David couldn’t understand it, in his simple mind a Funeral Director is there to conduct a funeral and Funeral Arrangers should be there to arrange them. He told Claire and Pat that in his experience he has met only one Funeral Director who retains all the contact with the family and does the dual role successfully and that is Catherine Benefield in Bristol. Catherine conducts funerals up to 1600 hours and then arranges future funerals in the evening and if she receives an email she will answer it the same day irrespective of the time of day. Catherine always gives David a contact number for the family and from this everything flows, the Florist is contacted, the detail of the flowers is established and a design emerges.
David had no problems with Rob personally, it was just the position he was placed in. David believes that in some situations a Funeral Director may be the first person to meet a family, say if a home visit was required and the family lived in a remote farm building. However, when David found the location of the family home he reckoned it was only walking distance from the Funeral Home and this fact was proved on the day of the funeral when the Funeral Director paged the lorry from the Funeral Home to the house.
The deadline of 1630 hours on Thursday passed with no information received and whilst he was waiting for details of the Florist and a picture of the Deceased he did some research on the area He found that less than a mile from the house was the Anderton Boat Lift, built in 1875 to transfer barges from the River Weaver up through a height of 50 feet to the Mersey and Trent Canal. David had longed to see this piece of Victorian Engineering since he was a little boy and he felt it would be wonderful if he could fit in a visit on Wednesday afternoon the day before the funeral. Ideally David wanted to get a picture of his Leyland Beaver in front of the Boat Lift, however, detailed research proved that it was not possible to get the lorry close to the structure. In looking at Google Maps David spotted that Anderton Concrete was situated just across the wharf from the Boat Lift and he envisaged that a good picture could be stage from their yard.

David rang the Anderton Concrete switch-board and spoke with a young lady, telling her what he did with his lorry and how he wrote a blog about interesting people he had met on his travels or the interesting places he had seen. David told her, ‘You won’t get anything more interesting than that marvellous piece of Victorian Engineering behind you.’ She told him that she would speak with the Manager and get back to David as soon as she had any information. Within 15 minutes David received a phone call advising that he could bring his lorry on site provided it was after 1600 hours and that he was wearing a hard hat, hi-vis jacket, steel toe cap boots and goggles. David was also given the mobile number of the Yard manager Rob Green so that he could ring Rob on the Tuesday to finalise arrangements.
David felt it was amazing that people who were supposed to help you couldn’t and people who had no reason to help you, stepped up to the plate.
Luckily on the Friday afternoon David received an email from Claire detailing the mobile number of the Daughter of the Deceased and he immediately phoned Kate. Kate took the call and was happy to speak with David and within 15 minutes he received pictures of her Dad, Ted. David was told how Ted had been influenced by pictures of starving, head shaved, terminally ill Romanian orphans that had appeared on TV News Reports in the 1990’s. Whereas, most people were horrified by these images, Ted decided to do something about it. Ted, a Tanker Driver, took early retirement from ICI, hired a Tractor & Trailer and undertook 15 trips to Romania taking out building materials, spending up to a month there helping to create an Orphanage before returning for the next load. Kate also told David that Ted was one of ten children and he had nine Sisters, seven of whom were still alive. David asked Kate if she could also email a picture to the Funeral Director as it was needed for the Order of Service document and if David had not said what he did the Funeral Director would have struggled to get the Order of Service printed.
It was now around 1600 hours on the Friday and David’s Wife changed her priorities to work on the picture of Ted, which needed to be cropped before sending it to Andy Walden who owns Tech Office in Trowbridge. David phoned Andy and told him the urgency and Andy said he would enlarge it and laminate it as soon as it arrived. David jumped into his car and arrived at Tech Office before the email had landed and Andy did his usual brilliant job before he closed for the night.
David still did not have any details of any flowers beyond the sheath of red Roses from Ted’s widow and he was running out of time. But fortuitously Claire, the Barnton Funeral Arranger, knew the Florist socially and sent David an email which landed at 2030 hours to inform him that in addition to the sheath of red roses there would be two ‘Names’ ‘DAD’ and ‘TED’, however, he didn’t have name of the Florist, which Kate then provided at 2100 hours.
It is tricky for David to decide which ‘Name’ should be given preference when designing a layout and normally ‘DAD’ would be the highest positioned Floral Tribute, however, given that Ted had nine Sisters David felt that both ‘TED’ and ‘DAD’ should be at the same level. David also felt that the two names side by side wouldn’t look right so he scrapped his idea about fixing the picture of Ted onto the head-board and create a display in front of the coffin which had Ted’s picture between ‘DAD’ and ‘TED’.
The sketch was sent to Kate on Saturday morning and she immediately responded that she was very happy with David’s ideas.
Next month David will reveal some interesting details about his journey up to Barnton
and the funeral itself.

Monday, 1 July 2019

The funeral of a 17 year old in Bognor Regis

In July 2018 David Hall was asked to take a 17 year old on his final journey, Angus Jones, who had tragically lost his life in a road traffic accident near Chichester. Some 17 year olds look like men, however, when David was given a picture of Angus he saw a young lad with angelic features. In working on funerals of young people it is important to always anticipate the unexpected, because grief can affect people in different ways. Having previously undertaken the funeral of a 14 year old boy in Horfield David was suitably experienced and decided that he would do all that he could to make the display on the lorry perfect.

Finding out about the flowers wasn’t easy as the main Florist was Angus’ Mum, who David didn’t want to bother too often given that she had tragically lost her Son in such a horrendous accident.  Also the second Florist was a lady who worked in a Market Garden during the day, could only be contacted on her mobile between 1800 and 1830 hours and texts were the only way to relay messages. Both were lovely ladies and experienced Florists so minimal communication would suffice. Two Floral Tributes created by the Angus’ Mum were Picture Boards on plywood boards, 48 inches x 24 inches and 15 inches by 15 inches with a Floral Design attached to the centre, the larger one featuring a life sized Guitar. The other Floral Tributes were ‘Ace of Spades’ 36 inches x 24 inches, ‘SON’ and a ‘Single Note’, a Floral Tribute which David had never had the pleasure of carrying before.
Initial evaluation of the design options determined that the ‘Guitar’ 48 inches x 24 inches and the ‘Ace of Spades’ 36 inches x 24 inches were too wide to go side by side against the headboard with the other Floral Tributes. David decided to place them back to back, fixing them to a roof like structure at the rear of the deck. David had used this technique previously and looking at his contemporaneous notes, which are included in the plastic wallet for each job, he knew the best strategy to pursue. David used existing timber to form a central support which was only an inch thick and he envisaged that this would enable the Family to be able to look through the rear structure and have an uninterrupted view of the coffin and the display at the front of the deck.
Having never carried a ‘Single Note’ before and having no possibility to email drawings to the Florist, David decided to contact Val Spicer Designs who make the oasis bases. David spoke with Charlotte, explained his predicament, and asked if a ‘Single Note’ base could be taken from the warehouse and a trace made on some cardboard. David is indebted to Jay Spicer and his team for all the help he received as the template arrived via DHL and was fundamental in the design of how the ‘Single Note’ would be secured. The ‘Single Note’ was 24 inches x 12 inches and this determined the height of the front display as it was desirable to keep the ‘SON’ and 15 inch x 15 inch board at the same height and by raising these two Floral Tributes, space was then created underneath to offer positions for any third party flowers that may arrive.
David took advice from his own Daughter, who is talented at playing the piano, about how best to present the ‘Single Note’ Floral Tribute. By placing the Floral Tribute between the second and third of 5 black lines on the board then this would depict ‘A’ when played with a right hand at a keyboard, thus emphasizing the first initial in Angus .

Staff members at Reynolds Funeral Service were excellent, very attentive and most immediate. John, who conducted the funeral, was known to David as they had previously worked together when John was employed by Southern Cooperative for funerals in Peacehaven and Worthing. John measured the Pictorial Board Floral Tributes which arrived the day before the funeral and the thickness of the boards, was as David had expected, which would enable an innovating method of securement to be used. One problem was that the 15 inch x 15 inch Pictorial Board was in fact 16 inch x 16 inch and this precipitated 30 minutes work for David, changing the support structure so that this Floral Tribute would still appear to float.

The journey down to Bognor Regis from Bradford-on-Avon took 3.45 hours and involved travelling on lesser known roads, like the unclassified Morestead road near Junction 10 of the M3 near Winchester, which no one knew about 15 years ago, however, many commuters now use this as a rat run. David took the B2150, turned left towards Clanfield and picked up the B2149 to Emsworth. David then took the A259 which runs parallel to the A27, before joining the A27 and the queuing traffic stacked back from the A259 Bognor road roundabout.
David arrived at 1045 hours, 15 minutes earlier than he had suggested telling Reynolds staff, ‘You are better off looking at me, than looking for me!’ John came out to meet David and made him a cup of tea. A number of cars travelling along the street stopped to admire the 1950 Leyland Beaver and some people commented how good the old lorry looked. John explained the route that was required including a visit to the Church Hall, where people from the village would say their good-byes to Angus and the Tangmere Airfield Museum which Angus used to visit as a boy, fascinated to hear peoples’ experiences from WWII. The route would avoid the A27 but the cortege would pass the Chichester District Council site where Angus had worked as a Bin Man.

Vier, who is the Handyman for Reynolds Funeral Services, helped David load the large tablet Floral Tributes and Vier was amazed how well the Floral Tributes fitted into their allotted space. However, it wasn’t until David got out his camera did he realise how good the clear view was under the large Floral Tributes, towards the coffin and the Floral Tributes at the front of the deck and he reflected that this was perhaps one of the best displays that he had ever created.

As David approached Tangmere Airfield he saw the Chichester District Council Bin Lorry which would follow the 1950 Leyland Beaver and David drove slowly past the planes and the line of people who had stopped work in respect for Angus. David was then invited to drive on the old runway to turn and he saw the old Traffic Control Tower, for which funds are being raised for it’s restoration. Money in lieu of flowers was destined for this fund and David felt it was most fitting to restore a facility which had played such an important role in WWII. Tangmere was one of the main airfields used during the Battle of Britain and Douglas Bader was based there before being shot down in his Spitfire and it was also the place which many SOE Agents last saw of England before being dropped behind enemy lines. Violette Szabo left Tangmere on June 8th 1944, two days after D-Day on her second mission, was captured, executed by the SS at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp and subsequently awarded the George Cross. David drove back through the Airfield Museum and took photographs of the F4 Phantom Jet whose colour scheme was not too different from the 1950 Leyland Beaver.

David reversed into the car park of the Village Hall which was lined by around 100 people. Everyone was silent and then suddenly everyone started to clap and some shouted Angus Jones’ name.
David entered the grounds of Chichester Crematorium and found that a Guard of Honour was there made up from Bin Men each with a Green Bin and there must have been over 200 people at the crematorium. David vacated the canopy quickly moving the lorry some 20 yards to create space so that the area under the canopy, or porte cochere to give it the official title, could be used as an extension to the chapel.

The journey home coincided with the evening rush hour, however, David minimised the delays by taking the Havant turn off the A27 and then taking the B2177 to Wickham and then towards Junction 11 of the M3. David took a break at Sutton Scotney Services and got back to Sainsbury’s in Melksham to fuel up just before the site closed. The Leyland Beaver was the only vehicle there and the female attendant was most interested in the lorry. She asked if she would see the lorry again and David said, ‘More than likely, I have a funeral in Portsmouth in 4 days time and one in Southampton on the last day of the month!’
David got home just before the 15 hours shift length limit and reflected about the events of the day in which the Leyland Beaver had definitely brought some colour to a very dark day.               

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Leyland Beaver carries a John Wayne Theme in Hanham

David Hall received his third funeral from a Bristol Funeral Director and was told that the coffin would come from Colourful Coffins in Oxford with a John Wayne livery, incorporating pictures and sayings from the great man during his roles in Western Films.
Apparently the Deceased had been a big John Wayne fan and this struck a cord with David whose own Dad also loved the Duke. David came from a humble background in the frugal 1950’s and David’s Mum & Dad took on extra jobs solely to put food on the table. The only night out that David ever had with his Dad was a trip to the Odeon Cinema in Sunderland, during 1969, to see True Grit in which an aging John Wayne played a one eyed Marshall called Rooster Cogburn. 
John Wayne also played an important role in David’s Dad’s life towards the end of his time on this earth in a Care Home in Penrith. David’s Dad had fallen out of bed, cracked a vertebrae in his spine, was in constant pain and always very restless. David arrived one Saturday night at the Care Home just as a John Wayne Western was featuring on his Dad’s TV. David sat with his Dad and watched the whole film during which his Dad never complained about his pain and thanked David for being with him. David’s Dad passed away the following week.
David wanted to personalise the Bristol funeral and initially looked at the concept of incorporating a saddle within the display of Floral Tributes, however, the Daughter of the Deceased asked for a lower key Western Theme. David and the Daughter of the Deceased agreed that a rail should be created like those outside a Livery Stable, that horses were tethered to, in Western Films. The Floral Tributes were a ‘Pillow’, an ‘Open Heart’ and a 2 feet by 1 foot designer board with the Deceased’s hat fixed to it. David envisaged that it could be fastened onto the ‘Horse Rail’ and secured at 45 degrees with no apparent support. David felt that if he got the angle right for the Floral Tribute containing the Hat, then, when viewed from the rear of the deck, the scene would depict footage from the Mclintock Film when John Wayne throws his hat towards a weather-vane.
David looked through the stack of wood in his lean-to and found a 3.75 inch diameter post that had been in the ground since 1950 and was only replaced when the bottom rotted away. Having located the timber that could be salvaged for the ‘posts’ part of the ‘Horse rail’, he had to find a ‘rail’ and develop a strategy of how to fix the ‘posts’ to the deck of the 1950 Leyland Beaver.
On Saturday May 19th 2018 whilst most of the population in Britain were watching the Royal Wedding in the morning and the FA Cup Final in the afternoon, David and his trusty helper Geoff were using a 1960’s hand tool to create a 3.75 inch diameter in two lengths of 8 inch by 2 inch timbers. Geoff’s Uncle had bought the implement in 1961, confirmed by the receipt which was still in the wooden case, but had never used it. David & Geoff have used it a number of times in the past 16 years to create holes of various sized diameters which were a cardinal element of the particular Theme that David was working on at the time. 
Two 4 inch half round fence rails were purchased from Mole Valley Farmers and fixed onto the posts. The support structures for the ‘Open Heart’ and ‘Pillow’ were  fixed in front of the rail and David felt it would be fitting if  the Floral Tributes could be tethered to the rail, in the same way that horses had been in Western Films. David knew who could help, Charlie Todd, who is a member of the Vintage Lorry Funerals Support team, as she has three horses. David had taken Charlie’s Dad on his final journey on March 31st 2005 and has kept in touch with her ever since. Charlie provided a Horse Bridle which was the centre piece of the rear display for a Travellers funeral in Liss on November 30th 2010. Charlie was delighted to hear from David and asked him to come to her home to collect the reigns. Charlie and her husband Kev were very pleased to see David and introduced him to their friends who were visiting. Kev said, ‘There is never a week goes by without Charlie and me talking about what you did for her Dad and reliving various aspects like when you went down the hill at Haycombe Crematorium. All the people in front of you were pointing for you to go to the right to avoid the canopy but you went left and went straight under the canopy with less than an inch to spare either side.’ David said, ‘I couldn’t do that now, because they have built an island in the road to stop me,’ however, he was humbled by the fact that Charlie and Kev still talk about the funeral some 13 years on.
The Bristol funeral was for a Funeral Director whose main office is in the centre of the city, the location from which David did the funeral of Gerald Sleith aka ‘Santa Claus’ on April 25th 2013. David had no problems getting into the yard at 0630 hours, however, when he was due to leave on the funeral his exit was prevented by the inappropriate parking of cars. The choice was either to wait for the Police to come to lift the car out of the way and miss the slot at South Bristol Crematorium or to force his way past the obstacle. David had no choice and opted for the later, however, in his attempts to avoid damaging the car, which was blocking his path, he elected to catch the Funeral Directors gate damaging the rear of his lorry and the wrought iron gate. David always includes a Lessons Learnt sheet in the plastic wallet for every funeral, so David asked if he could load the coffin and the flowers for the John Wayne Themed funeral in Hanham at the Funeral Director’s satellite office.

Whilst there would be no inappropriate car parking in Hanham, never the less parking was an issue as the space behind the location was taken by Builders working at the site. David solved the problem himself by speaking with the Hanham Methodist Church which has a large car park opposite the Funeral Directors rear door and the gentleman he spoke with was very helpful and even went down to the yard to measure the clearance between the gates.
This Bristol funeral was a first for David because he had his breakfast and coffee at home before leaving at 1030 hours and this was only possible now that Double Yellow Lines have been installed in the part of Bradford-on-Avon that David lives. David was instrumental in solving the inappropriate parking issue as one elderly lady fell in her bath, broke her hip but had to be carried down the street in agony as the Ambulance was prohibited from getting up the street due to inappropriately parked cars.
David went through the centre of Bath and took the A431 road from Bath to Hanham which was totally deserted as most car drivers elect to use the A4 and the ring road. He arrived at Hanham around 1130 hours and drove into the Hanham Methodist Church’s yard which only had two cars in it. The Floral Tributes were exactly as the Florist had described, however, David was concerned about how the hat was secured to the Floral Tribute and he took appropriate measures to ensure that neither the hat nor the ribbon around the hat came off during transit.
The coffin arrived from the centre of Bristol and the Funeral Bearers remembered David from previous jobs. Two remembered the ‘Santa Claus’ funeral and the ‘Anchor’ Floral Tribute which appeared to float, with a chain attached and one was involved with the Temple Cloud Funeral that caused gridlock at Windmill Hill and how David rebuked the Police for their insensitivity towards a disabled Lady who was in some distress.
The journey from Hanham to the house in Bedminster involved going down Crews Hole Lane to avoid the City traffic and it was only possible because the Leyland Beaver is 7 ft 6 inches wide (8 inches narrower than a modern lorry), has wing mirrors within the width of the lorry (a modern lorry has wing mirrors that extend beyond the width of the lorry) and the Leyland Beaver has an incredible steering lock unsurpassed by any vintage or modern vehicle.

The traffic on the A38 came to a standstill as David reversed into Churchlands Road and stopped outside the Deceased’s house. The Daughter of the Deceased shook David’s hand and thanked him for what he had done. Walking around the rear of the lorry she commented how her Dad’s hat lined up with John Wayne’s hat which was pictured on the head end of the coffin. The Deceased Son-in-Law, commented, ‘Look at the amount of time and effort David has taken, we are lucky to have a man who likes the detail.’ 

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Piano Theme on the Leyland Beaver in Rugby

David Hall spoke with a family who had booked to use the Leyland Beaver in Rugby and found out that the Deceased had enjoyed many evenings playing a piano in local Public Houses, enthralling his fellow drinkers with his rendition of Queen’s ‘We are the Champions’. The Deceased could not read music and he had no classical training, but he was skilled at listening to tunes and then playing them by ear. So much did playing the piano feature in the Deceased’s life that his family chose a Colourful Coffin adorned with a piano graphic which looked stunning.
The Deceased had also been a Newcastle United Fan and part of the family’s request was that a Newcastle United scarf should be included in the display which would also feature the Floral Tributes, ‘DAD’ and ‘GRANDAD’. David’s prime objective is to personalise a final journey and many people think that David efforts are way beyond that of any other Carriage Master. David requested a Head & Shoulders photograph of the Deceased which David’s wife skilfully cropped and it was enlarged and laminated by Vintage Lorry Funerals Support Partner in Trowbridge. David made a sketch of his design concept which involved fixing the A3 picture of the Deceased to the Headboard. Placing the Newcastle United scarf around the back of the picture of the Deceased would then create a scene depicting the Deceased holding his scarf at a game. As the final journey would be from Rugby to Coventry, along the A45 Dual Carriageway, it was a cardinal condition that the scarf was securely fastened. David planned that the ends of the scarf should be fixed to the ends of the ‘DAD’ Floral Tribute, which would be placed above the ‘GRANDAD’ Floral Tribute.
As the scarf was being brought down from Newcastle the day before the funeral, David asked that the scarf be measured and sadly he found that the scarf was shorter than he had envisaged. The ‘DAD’ Floral Tribute would need to be raised so that the bottom of the ‘DAD’ would be the same height as the ends of the scarf. This then created a hole between the ‘DAD’ and the ‘GRANDAD’ and whilst he was contemplating his options of what to do next, he checked his email and found a picture of the Colourful Coffin. David thought a Piano Theme would be the ideal solution.

David’s role in funerals is to exceed the expectations of a family and this was the prime consideration for creating the Piano Theme, however, Geoff, Vintage Lorry Funerals Support Worker, reckoned it was mainly for several pieces of 30 inch long timber to have a ride out to Rugby. When David designs a theme he always seeks to use existing lengths of timber that are already stained in Antique Pine and have been previously used in a funeral. This strategy saves the cost of buying new timber, however, there is always a time factor involved for David to find the right piece of wood!
Notable contributors that had previously been used included:-
  • Two lengths of 3 inch by 3 inch, used as keyboard ends, were previously featured under a Flat Bed Lorry Theme in Stranraer.
  • Two lengths of 6.5 inch by 2 inch, used as the sides of the Piano, had their first appearance as part of a ‘Skittles Theme’ in Semington.
  • The two box sections, used as Piano legs were originally designed as part of a 100 Floral Tribute Display for a Care Home Worker in Walton-on-the-Naze in East Anglia.
  • A Number of lengths of 5 inch by 2 inch timbers were also used as part of the Piano legs and these have featured many times in the past 16 years, notably in a Traveller’s Funeral in Liss.
  • Also as Geoff has indicated lengths of 30 inches by 6 inch timber were used as part of the lid and these had made a number of appearance in the past including the ‘Del Boy Falling Through the Bar Theme’ in Malvern.
David previously had been given a length of Skirting Board which had been undercoated in white paint and this was tailor-made for the keyboard. David spoke with the Chief Mourner and she was delighted with the developments and agreed that the Piano Theme should be built. However, David did not disclose that the Piano lid would be held open during the journey to Coventry, and it would be closed in Canley Crematorium in order to signify that the Deceased’s piano playing days were now at an end.

David decided to use the Fosse Way to travel to Rugby and although this is the shortest way, the road has no Services and the only toilet facilities are at Tesco, Stow-on-the-Wold which are not open before 0600 hours. David spoke with Ainscough Crane Hire, a company which has a depot at Princethorpe, just south of Rugby and their management agreed that he could call in en route if a comfort stop was required. The Leyland Beaver left Bradford-on-Avon at 0500 hours and travelled the 93 miles to Rugby in 3.5 hours. Everyone at the Funeral Directors came out to see what David had created and they were amazed at the quality of his work and his attention to detail.
At Canley Crematorium the Funeral Director who was conducting the funeral gathered the family around the Leyland Beaver as David bowed towards the coffin, closed the lid and once again bowed towards the coffin before he assisted the Bearers to transfer the coffin off the vintage lorry. The Chief Mourner came to thank David after the service saying that he had created a most fitting final journey for her Father.

Sunday, 31 March 2019

A sign of the times for a Redfield Funeral

David received a phone call from a lady in Bristol whose father had passed away. The Deceased, like David Hall, was a member of Commercial Transport in Preservation, a club with over 130 members nationwide with an interest in vintage vehicles, and the Deceased’s expressed wish was that his final journey should be in his CTP Jumper on the back of Vintage Lorry Funerals Leyland Beaver.
David had known the Deceased, who used to buy and sell Models from a stall erected at the finish point of the CTP Bournemouth to Bath Road Run and he had amassed a wonderful collection of models, enamel signs, motoring memorabilia and mugs at his home. The Deceased had been a Window Dresser for Horne Brothers Menswear and his skill-set in arranging items was very evident in how each model or sign was exhibited in the hallway and conservatory of his home.
In thinking how David could personalise the funeral, he envisaged that a 3ft x 3 ft Shell Retail sign would look good in front of the coffin and he knew where he could borrow one, as Michael Moore, from Steeple Ashton, had previously lent David one for a funeral in Fleet in 2007. The Daughter of the Deceased was delighted with the concept that David had described, however, her Mum would be happy with anything that David did, because his beautiful lorry was all that she had expected. David has rang Michael a number of times over the years and he is part of the Vintage Lorry Funerals Support Team, however, sadly on this occasion he couldn’t help because two months ago someone broke into Michael’s garage and stole the Shell Retail Sign and other petrol memorabilia.

Not wanting to disappoint the Daughter of the Deceased David rang around his network of contacts. Jim Pethers, a landscape Gardener, who has helped David many times said that he would have loved to have made available an Esso Sign that hung on his garage door, however, someone had stolen it earlier in the year. David was scratching his head wondering who could help him and he rang Alex Mathews of Norton Garden Machinery, Kilmersdon, on the off chance that Alex may know if any of his customers collected signs. Alex said that they had a Briggs & Stratton sign in the loft that had lain there for over 30 years and David could use it if he didn’t mind cleaning it up.
The obvious solution would have been to use a sign from the Deceased’s collection, however, the Widow was living away from home and no one could access any items from the amazing collection. So David sent an email featuring the picture of the Briggs & Stratton sign which was 3ft x 2 ft and asked what she thought. As this was a small engine company sign which wasn’t in the Deceased’s collection, the Daughter was a little reluctant at first, however, she suggested that David should get some pictures of petrol signs from the internet and put these either side of the Briggs & Stratton sign.
David’s wife found Shell & Nation Benzole Petroleum signs, enlarged them to the appropriate size and Tech Office in Trowbridge laminated the signs. The layout was designed so that the Shell & Nation Benzole signs would appear to be floating unsupported as if they were at a petrol station in the distance, a bright light ahead on a lonely dark road.

It may seem ridiculous to some that David leaves for a funeral in Bristol about the same time he would leave for one in Birmingham, however, the traffic in Bristol becomes gridlocked from 0715 hours. David’s strategy is always to beat the traffic and be parked at Redfield by 0615 hours as he had done previously in two funerals he had undertaken from the site in 2002 & 2011. The staff members at the Funeral Director were good and Terry has been involved in all three funerals, he was formerly a Mobile Crane Driver for Sparrow so he knew all about David’s Leyland Beaver. Terry was also impressed with David’s CTP Jumper, which the Deceased’s Daughter had asked David to wear and Terry knew it was the same as the Deceased was wearing before the coffin lid was secured.
David elected to reverse into the Holy Trinity Church car park off the busy A420 road and had made arrangements with members of CTP to stop the traffic. David started to prepare the coffin for unloading when he was approached by the Widow who insisted on shaking David’s hand telling him that he lorry looked lovely. Wanting to concentrate 100% on his role as a Carriage Master David normally doesn’t like any distractions, however, he made an exception in this case and it was a moment that he will remember for ever.

The final destination was Westerleigh Crematorium and David had been there 7 times before and when he entered the site he signalled that he was intending to take the first exit at the roundabout, however, the Funeral Director shouted, ‘No, no Dave, go straight across we are heading for the new Woodland Chapel.’ David quickly realised that Westerleigh had created an additional facility in their car park that included a chapel and the Willow Tree Café. However, as David approached the porte cochere he noticed that the roadway was narrower and the turning tighter than the main chapel and the only way that he could access the covered area was to put one wheel on the grass. Once the Leyland Beaver was under the canopy it was evident that David needed to be as close to the supporting posts as possible to create space to off load the coffin. Terry stepped forward and guided David to where he needed to be, he even offered to stay until after the service to help David get out of the covered area.

One week after the funeral David received a cheque from the Widow as a gratuity and a card which said, ‘Congratulations on the wonderful condition of your vehicle. I enclose a small cheque towards the cost of the upkeep.’
David returned the Briggs & Stratton sign to Norton Garden Machinery in a slightly cleaner state than he had collected it. Whilst he was there one of the customers commented that his Daughter-in-Law, who lives in New York, had given up her job to concentrate on buying and selling old enamel signs and she makes a good living!’
Apparently the Briggs & Stratton Sign is thought to be worth $400 and the current trend of people in Wiltshire stealing signs to fulfil a demand is sadly a sign of the times.