Thursday, 1 June 2017

Sutton Coldfield-something bad turned into something good

On the morning of Friday May 27th 2016 David got up at 0400 hours ready for an early start at 0445 hours for a funeral in Sutton Coldfield. The route is well tried and David often uses the A46 around Bath, up into Stroud, the A38 around Gloucester to Tewkesbury and rejoining the A46 to Oversley Mill Service at Alcester, normally David’s first stop.
David put on the computer for his wife to check the roads whilst he took a shower. Whilst David was having his breakfast his wife shouted, ‘The A46 around Bath is closed for Night Tarmac Laying and won’t reopen until 0700 hours.’ This caused David to have a quick change of strategy. In recent years David has always used the ‘Gloucester route’, which he has christened The West Side Story, because it is easier to get vehicles around the Leyland Beaver due to the high incidence of dual carriageways and three lane roads, wide enough to get vehicles three abreast. In addition, Oversley Mill Services on the A46 near Alcester have excellent toilet facilities. David is well known to the members of staff who allow him to park the Leyland Beaver whilst he takes a 45 minute rest break. A well stocked shop, with a good supply of newspapers and magazines is also next door to a recently built McDonald’s restaurant.
David set out from Bradford-on-Avon on the back road to Corsham, evaluating how he could cut back and join the A46 north of the road works, however, the burning thought in David’s mind was that must arrive at Sutton Coldfield by 1000 hours. As he approached Chippenham David thought it would be beneficial to abandon the A46 strategy and go via the old Fosse Way, which David had used in the infancy of Vintage Lorry Funerals. The high incidence of double white lines, lack of any dual carriageway and limited three lane roads caused David to review this route in 2006. In addition there are no toilet facilities on the Fosse Way apart from Tesco at Stow-on-the-Wold which opens at 0600 hours. However, in this emergency situation it was a case of needs must and David crossed the M4 and headed for Cirencester.
David doesn’t use a Sat Nav, he has a list of road numbers and landmarks to watch out for, drawn with coloured pencils, on the back of an envelope attached with a bull clip to a Road Atlas which lies across the engine cover. The only problem was that the route plan in front of him was for the A46, not the Fosse Way, so David just went with road sense established over many years and followed the signs.
At 0600 hours David reached Cirencester and saw hardly anyone on the road. The first part of the road to Stow-on-the-Wold involves 3 very steep hills, including the notorious Fossebridge. The 1950 Leyland Beaver is excellent on hills and on the two lanes uphill section of Fossebridge a large modern day articulated vehicle pulled out, attempted to overtake but couldn’t catch the Leyland Beaver which was cruising up the steep slope at 25 miles per hour in top gear. At the brow of the hill David slowed down and waved the articulated vehicle past and the Driver’s Mate, sitting in the passenger seat, put up two thumbs signifying that both men in the modern lorry were in awe of the performance of the 66 year old vintage vehicle.
The steep down hill sections on the Fosse Way enabled the Leyland Beaver to achieve 42 miles per hour down the slope and this uplifted the average speed. In addition the traffic lights in Stow-on-the-Wold and Moreton-in-Marsh are set on a short timescale change so David was never stopped for long. Any cars that came up behind the Leyland Beaver were driven by experienced drivers who came past the vintage lorry as soon as David signified that the road was clear up ahead.
David was surprised at the progress he was making having reached in 2.5 hours, Halford, where the road splits and the original Fosse Way becomes the B4455 and goes through to Leicester or Ratae Corieltauvorum as it was in Roman times. In 3 hours he had just left the A46 just south of Warwick, which was becoming crowded with rush hours traffic, joined the A4177 and reached Balsall Common. David looked at the Smiths Speedometer and realised that he had travelled 90 miles, averaging 30 miles per hour, which was excellent for a lorry with a top speed of 32 miles per hour on level roads. If David had gone via his preferred A46 route in 3 hours he would have only got to Oversley Mill Services and travelled 80 miles.
The A4177 leads onto the A452, which is mainly dual carriageway and follows the M6 closely before cutting north towards Brownhills. The traffic was busy on the M6 but light on the A452. David took the A5127 to Sutton Coldfield and landed at the Funeral Directors at 0900 hours, 4 hours door to door, no stops, saving an hour on the A46 route.
As David waited for the Funeral Director to open, he bought a paper, sipped his coffee and ate his Toffee Crisp. He thought that despite the shock that he had at 0400 hours things hadn’t worked out so bad. A location that had been felt to have been at the extreme of David’s 5 hour driving time to go there and back in a day, was reached with one hour spare! Thus if the Fosse way could be used for east Birmingham and beyond then it may be possible to undertake Lichfield or Leicester on a there and back basis if the funeral was booked for the afternoon.
This was an example of how sometimes events don’t turn out as bad as people dread or that every cloud has silver lining.

The funeral was conducted by a young Funeral Director called Leon and David wasn’t sure how to spell his name so he asked if it was spelt the same way as Leon Russell, who wrote Delta Lady for Joe Cocker. Well young Leon hadn’t heard of either gentleman! When Leon was paging the cortege at Streetly Crematorium, it became evident to David that Leon was going the wrong way around the system but there was no discreet way to warn him. Sounding the horn would have been inappropriate and David didn’t want to ruin Leon’s confidence so the lorry and the following limousine ended up the wrong way in the porte cochere. Being 30 minutes early and the wrong way round, nothing could get much worse for Leon, who was crestfallen. Leon explained to David that this was the first time he had been to Streetly Crematorium and David told him that Leon Russell’s most famous song was Stranger in a Strange Land. Leon said that the song described perfectly how he felt.

Whilst the service was taking place David drove the wrong way into the car park, turned the vintage lorry and parked in the corner. Whilst he was having his sandwich some mourner for the next funeral parked his 4 x4 in front of the Leyland Beaver blocking it from leaving the car park. David got out of the cab and asked the person not to leave his vehicle in that position, using a gentle, polite and persuasive tone. In David’s experience people in grief, late for a funeral can do silly things, abandoning their cars with no thoughts of anyone else’s need but their own.
Coming home David thought he would use the Fosse Way again but this turned out to be a bad decision. This was the Friday before a Bank Holiday Monday and a lot of people were travelling to the West Country and using the Fosse Way. The quick-fire traffic lights in Moreton-in-Marsh and Stow-on-the-Wold, which were ideal at 0630 hours not holding up minimal traffic, were a nightmare at 1630 hours with only small batches of a large volume of traffic being let through and the remainder being held back. This created an ever increasing length of stationary traffic approximately a mile outside of each town. The biggest problem was caused by the Tesco traffic lights with local people having completed their weekly shopping forcing their way into the queuing traffic.
It also wasn’t easy to get cars past the vintage lorry has a high preponderance of cars with caravans could not overtake quick enough before the next oncoming vehicle arrived. Coming towards Bourton-on-the-Water David spotted Bernard Saunders and his Daughter working on cars outside their workshop. David piped his horn and they waved back. David has known the Saunders family for over 15 years and he always rings them if he needs any advice on road conditions in their area.
The journey home took 6 hours, so David noted in his Lessons Learnt List that the Fosse Way is not always the answer and selected use in the future should be part of the Vintage Lorry Funerals operating plan. Also a road check should be made the day before the funeral not on the morning of the funeral.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Swanley and Sixpenny Handley on consecutive days

David Hall received an email from a Swanley lady who had recently lost her Brother and asked for a price for a funeral ending at Bobbing Crematorium. As the Leyland Beaver had previously been to Swanley, David made the lady aware that two Funeral Directors were located next door to each other with ample parking for the lorry within the taxi ranks on the opposite side of the street.
Unfortunately the Family chose the Funeral Director on the east side of Swanley whose facility is in Manse Parade, a parade of 8 shops with a narrow unmade up rear access road that was unsuitable for the 1950 Leyland Beaver. To make matters worse either side of the Funeral Directors were Caffé Cinos and a Newsagent and David envisaged that the area in front of the shops would be congested in the early morning, with people popping in for a paper and contractors in their vans collecting their breakfasts from the Café. Often in preparing for funerals David needs to solve some logistical problems and this Swanley funeral was no exception.
For Swanley funerals David parks his lorry overnight in Kwik Fit’s pristine facility in Sevenoaks Road, using a relationship established with Kwik Fit Head Office Management which allows him to park anywhere in Britain provided the lorry will fit into the garage area. The magic about Kwik Fit Swanley is that there is a low cost hotel within walking distance, which offers a bed only and David gets his breakfast at Costa Coffee on his way to collect the lorry at 0800 hours.

Detailed internet research of the east Swanley area highlighted that the Jehovah Witnesses had a Kingdom Hall with lots of land within a secure compound with a locked gate just around the corner from the Funeral Directors and David asked the Funeral Arranger to make an approach. A relationship was established and agreement reached for David to have use of the yard from 0930 hours when someone would arrive to open the gate.
So David had to work on the problem of what to do with the Leyland Beaver between 0800 and 0930 hours. Through the night the solution came to David, which involved getting up early, foregoing his Costa Coffee breakfast, collecting the lorry at 0700 hours and having his breakfast in the Café next to the Funeral Directors. Looking at the Caffé Cinos website, it stated that they could deliver breakfasts so David rang the Café, explained what he would be doing from the Funeral Directors next door, and asked if a breakfast could be delivered to his lorry whilst he was sitting on double yellow lines, his fallback plan if no space was available.
Around this time David received a phone call about a funeral in Salisbury for the day after the Bobbing Crematorium funeral. David normally plans at least a day between funerals to prepare the support structure for the flowers and to wash the lorry. However, the Family were very keen to use the 1950 Leyland Beaver and David agreed to do the funeral knowing that this would mean working late into the night, an early start and washing the lorry at the Sixpenny Handley Funeral Directors. The Salisbury Family were so pleased with David’s commitment that the payment for their Dad’s funeral was transferred immediately into David’s Bank Account.
David arrived early at Kwik Fit on the Sunday afternoon and the staff members were pleased to see him again only 5 months at David’s last Swanley funeral. Jamie Jack exceeded David’s expectations in two ways. He asked David to reverse the Leyland Beaver into the MOT Bay even though 60 minutes were left of their trading window and in addition Jamie said that he and a colleague would be in at 0700 hours which was fundamental for David’s plan for an early start, which was his only chance of finding any space near the Funeral Directors.
David collected the lorry at 0700 hours and took the back road into Swanley East which involved some very narrow lanes. As the Leyland Beaver arrived at the parade of shops, David saw, as he had expected, vans, cars and delivery vehicles in front of the Café and Newsagent. However, David noticed that there was just enough room for him to park his lorry on the area in front of the Mann Lettings Estate Agents at the far end of the parade. This meant parking the lorry within 12 inches of the Estate Agent’s Manager’s car which was positioned in front of his shop and at right angles to the radiator grill of the Leyland Beaver. The Manager came out to check that there was no damage to his car and David introduced himself. The Manager, Gary Steadman, was very impressed with the pristine lorry and he agreed that David could park there whilst he had his breakfast in the Café.

The owner of the Caffé Cinos was very welcoming and offered David a choice in how he wanted his eggs cooked and if he wanted tinned plum tomatoes or fresh tomatoes. By opting for the tinned plum tomatoes, David replicated the ‘All Day Breakfast’ that Archie Stamper, a Fellside Transport Livestock Driver, had bought him in 1958 at a Carlisle Café when they were on their way back from Hawick in a 1950 Leyland Beaver. Travelling in MRM 893 changed David’s life and influenced his decision to follow a career in transport. This is the reason why David’s wife bought him MXV 610 in 1995 so that he could relive the beautiful boyhood memories that he had with Fellside Transport.

Whilst David was having his breakfast a young lady came in with her Dad and sat on the table next to David. As the young lady talked about the benefits of sharing a flat with 5 girls at university, David commented, ‘In my own Daughter’s experience 6 girls sharing a flat is ideal until one of them has a boy friend who moves in!’
As David left the Caffé Cinos he noticed that the main B2173 road from the A20 was gridlocked and that someone had parked outside the gates of the Jehovah Witnesses car park. David asked the Funeral Director whether the most sensible strategy would be to abandon the previous plan of transferring the coffin out of sight from a Private Ambulance and to load in front of the Mann Lettings Estate Agents Shop. David and the Funeral Arranger approached Gary Steadman and David thought that the young lady alongside him would have to plead impassionedly for ‘Help’ LikeTina Turner in Sings Like The Beatles BBC 4 (Won’t you please, please, please, help me!). However, David’s concerns were misplaced because Gary was happy to help and David would like to thank Mann Lettings for their kindness and the tolerance of the staff as the Leyland Beaver was parked in the area reserved for their cars.

Whilst the service was taking place at Bobbing Crematorium, David adjusted the coffin stops ready for Salisbury the following day and took steps to ensure that the display could be quickly removed when he got home as a minimalistic approach was required for the funeral which would start at a Sixpenny Handley Funeral Director.
David left Bobbing Crematorium at 1430 hours and by taking small roads to the south of Guildford, David avoid rush hour traffic in the town and after 4 hours and 20 minutes driving he reached Sutton Scotney Services on the A34 within 10 minutes of the deadline to take a 45 minutes rest break. After having a burger for his tea David set out for home, refueling at Ludgershall just before the Service Station closed for the night.
When the Leyland Beaver arrived back at Bradford-on-Avon it was almost 2130 hours and when David pulled the engine stop, much activity took place a bit like a Pit Stop in Formula 1 Racing. Whilst David dismantled the display on the deck, David’s wife was cleaning the lorry and it wasn’t until 2345 hours did they get to bed.
The alarm went off at 0500 hours and David set off for Six Penny Handley in Dorset. The Leyland Beaver had no problem climbing the steep hairpin bends on Zig Zag Hill on the B3081 and David was amazed at the wonderful long distant views from the top of the hill.

 There is a saying in the funeral world that when it comes to a Family’s requests nothing is wrong, it is only different. David found it very different having a funeral with no Funeral Director. Richard Adlem had prepared the body but took no part in the funeral. The Family sourced the coffin, provided the Bearers and booked the slot at Salisbury Crematorium. Some Funeral Directors are not best pleased when a Family pay David directly and Richard Adlem had every reason to feel bitter, but he wasn’t. He welcomed David into his back garden and they had coffee together watching the garden birds as they talked about old times. Richard was awarded an MBE for his services to the funeral industry and what broke the ice between them was when David told Richard that the previous night he had slowed down on the A25 through Westerham to salute the statue of Winston Churchill.

David knew his way to Salisbury Crematorium but when he got there he had no one to page him up to the porte cochere. David had to ask the Deceased’s Grandson, who was travelling with him in the cab, to get out and find someone looking important and provide a signal when David had to travel up the hill.

Friday, 31 March 2017

That was the week that was!

In April each year David Hall attends the Classic Commercials Show in Malvern at which he meets members of the public interested in his vehicle. In addition families who have previously used the 1950 Leyland Beaver, visit the show each year to see a picture for their Loved One’s funerals within the 24 that David features within the display. David also uses Malvern as an opportunity to build a ‘Theme’ which could be displayed in a funeral to provide an example of what can be created to stimulate the thought processes of people visiting the show.

In 2016 the ‘Theme’ created was a 1960’s Leyland Ergo Cab the first example of a tilting cab in Britain which fundamentally changed how lorries could be serviced, as previously Mechanics had to work on the engine from within the cab. David created the model with a realistic tilting mechanism that could be used in a crematorium just before the coffin was off-loaded as a mark of respect, just like someone removing their hat and bowing their head.

During the February David attended the Commercial Transport in Preservation AGM and he became aware of a Spring Road Run which would take a new route encompassing three White Horses in Wiltshire. As this was scheduled for the Sunday before the Classic Commercials Show in Malvern, David thought that the Leyland Ergo Cab could get two ride outs in 6 days. He had previously written an article about a funeral in Calne and the Family of the Deceased had kept in touch with David providing old photographs for the article. Consequently David contacted Stuart Smith and his daughter Sara Jane about travelling with Leyland Beaver on the Spring Road Run, Stuart in the cab and Sara Jane as the roving photographer. David felt that the Road Run would provide a good marketing opportunity near his home and also the opportunity to appear in the Wiltshire Times, a weekly paper that services north Wiltshire.
David has found that in the funeral business there can be no future plans made because one phone can change everything. David sometimes thinks that funerals are like Policemen, whenever you want one they are thin on the ground and whenever you don’t want one, one pops around the corner.
A phone call from a Portsmouth Funeral Director provided a funeral for Thursday April 7th for a former Drayman with Brickwoods Brewery. A job on the second day of a new Financial Year is the best present a Self Employed man can have, however, the Thursday was between the Sunday  CTP Road Run and the Saturday Malvern show. David could have cancelled either of the Sunday or Saturday events, however, this would have involved disappointing the Smith family and countless people on the Saturday who would have needlessly driven hundreds of miles to see the picture of their Loved Ones funeral on the vintage lorry, only to find that the 1950 Leyland Beaver was nowhere to be found.
The solution was to undertake all the jobs and devise a way to transfer the Leyland Ergo Cab off the deck onto a table close-by within David’s garage on the Sunday night and undertake the reverse procedure on the Friday morning. What is more, the plan required that only David and his wife could be involved in the transfer given the likely time of day that the activity would take place.
At this stage there was no knowledge about the Floral Tributes for Portsmouth, however, the Funeral Arranger was most helpful and provided a ‘heads up’ of the likely flowers from the Family. The list included, a ‘Heart’, a ‘Pint of Guinness’, Daffodils in a box and three ‘Name’ Floral Tributes, ‘DAD’, ‘GRANDAD’ and ‘BRICKWOODS’. David immediately recognised that ‘BRICKWOODS’ being a ten lettered word would be too long to fit across the deck and as the coffin is rotated on the deck prior to off-loading it is not feasible to place ‘Name’ Floral Tributes alongside the coffin like Funeral Directors do in their hearse.

The only solution was to position ‘BRICKWOODS’ diagonally across the deck and to create an ‘arrow head’ with the ‘GRANDAD’ Floral Tribute then positioned to form the opposite face. Around this time David took a call from a lady called Pia, a friend of the Family who would be creating the Floral Tributes. Her first question was, ‘How long is your vehicle?’ David sensed that she had also spotted the potential difficulties of the ten lettered word, however, he stressed that she should not tailor her ideas to fit the vehicle as David would make wooden supports to fit her flowers. English wasn’t Pia’s mother tongue and some people might say the same for David, coming from the North East of England, with his distinctive accent. However, they managed to communicate and Pia was unlike other young ladies as she said that David could ring her mobile at any time. Often in David’s experience, young ladies don’t primarily use their phones for phoning, their main use is texting, internet research and taking pictures. The etiquette in contacting a young lady is normally to send her a text asking when would be a good time to call. Pia emailed David at 21.40 hours giving the measurements he required, however, there was no mention of the Daffodils in a box, so David took Pia at her word and rang her mobile at 21.50 hours. Pia was happy to take the call, but she said that she knew nothing of the Daffodils in a box.
The following day David receive a call from Matt, son of the Deceased, and he said that his Dad had always joked that when he died all he wanted his son to do was to throw some Daffodils in an old orange-box. The Family were struggling to find an orange-box but David said that he could supply one, using his relationship with S.K. Fruits in Trowbridge.

When the Funeral Arranger emailed details of the funeral it was evident that the Deceased was a Jehovah’s Witness as the Kingdom Hall was the location of the service prior to burial in Milton Cemetery. As David was building the Support Structures for the flowers, the tune he had in his head was Sir Van Morrison’s ‘Kingdom Hall’ an upbeat number on his Wavelength album. Van’s mother had taken him in his younger days to both the Kingdom Hall and the Pentecostal Church in North Belfast. Whilst David does not want to contradict a Knight of the Realm, in David’s opinion Van linked the title with the Jehovah’s Witnesses but the essence of the song is about the scenes he must have witnessed in the Pentecostal Church ‘….oh they were swingin’ down at the Kingdom Hall, oh bells were ringin’ down at the Kingdom Hall.’
On the day of the funeral David left Bradford-on-Avon at 0430 hours in the pitch dark and as he went on the Melksham bypass he could see many blue lights flashing in the distance. Between Devizes and Melksham a car had failed to take a sharp bend and with the incumbents still inside, the car was embedded into a hedge when David arrived at the scene. Unfortunately two Transit Vans were blocking the Leyland Beaver’s route around the accident so David broke the law, he used he used his horn when the lorry was stationary and it was before 0700 hours. The Transit Van Drivers became aware of the Leyland Beaver and pulled out of the way to let the lorry through. As David could offer no help to the Firemen he carefully steered around the damaged car and was on his way. After collecting his paper at Sutton Scotney Services at 0615 hours he reached the M3 Motorway by 0700 hours. David travelled parallel to the M3, under the Spitfire Bridge, before taking an unclassified old Roman Road over the hill to Morestead and he got to Corhampton on the A32 by 0720 hours. David went south on the A32 for a short distance before turning left onto the B2150 and was on the A3 in Waterlooville by 0745 hours. He turned left onto the Havant Road before taking the A2030 Eastern Road dual carriageway which runs down the east side of Portsea Island. David passed Fratton Park, home of Portsmouth F.C., and was outside the Funeral Directors at 0815 hours.
Pia and her Partner delivered the flowers and helped David put them into their positions on the deck. Pia’s precise measurements meant that no rearrangements were needed and the display was perhaps one of the best David has created to date. A clean symmetrical display with the ‘Heart’ and the ‘Pint of Guinness’ being arranged to be at the same height and an arrow-head rear display, formed by the ten and seven lettered ‘Name’ Floral Tributes, which also created a facility to accommodate flowers from friends so that they didn’t detract from the family’s Floral tributes. David sent pictures to Val Spicer, whose bases were used by Pia and the company complimented the Florist on her work.

Friday was spent dismantling the Support Structure and then transferring the Leyland Ergo Cab model back onto the deck before erecting the Vintage Lorry Funerals sign. David then placed the 24 pictures of previous funerals on the two boards, and positioned them either side of the sign. Saturday involved another early start with the 66 year old lorry trundling out of Bradford-on-Avon at 0415 hours, arriving at the Three Counties Showground in Malvern at 0645 hours.  Claire Lunn gave David his entry documents and inviting him to park the vintage lorry near the entrance gate so it was the first vehicle people would see on entering the show. Stuart Smith and Sara Jane visited David and were impressed with the quality of the pictures and were amazed to see the Leyland Ergo Cab performing the tilting manoeuvre. Later in the day, David arranged for Stuart and Sara Jane to meet Mike Forbes, Editor of Vintage Roadscene, who had featured Stuart’s Dad’s Obituary so prominently in the previous month’s magazine.
When David was coming home from Malvern he recalled the events which had taken place in the past 6 days and remarked that ‘that was the week that was’ , remembering the BBC TV Programme which ran from 1962 to 1965 and was the launch pad for David Frost, Roy Kinnear, Lance Percival, Willie Rushton, Bill Oddie, Johnny Speight and many more.

Monday, 27 February 2017

A Taxi Drivers Funeral in Newbury

Vintage Lorry Funerals Leyland Beaver is 67 years old and although the maintenance is much simpler than modern truck one job on the old lady tends to lead to another one. Changing a front tyre before a Salisbury funeral turned into a nightmare when one of the wheel studs turned with the nut. ATS Euromaster put the nuts, which they had already removed, back onto the studs whilst David Hall phoned John Satchell, his mechanic, who told David to get a replacement stud. John runs John Satchell Motors, employs 5 mechanics and is responsible for the maintenance of over 500 vehicles and trailers in North Wiltshire. However, he always manages to find time to check over the lorry before a funeral, often arriving at David’s home not before 1930 hours having been on the go since 0500 hours! John always appreciates the light snack that David’s wife prepares for him. David was given a trophy at the CTP Bournemouth to Bath Run for having one of the best kept lorries, however, David didn’t believe that he had earned it and gave it to John Satchell to keep it for the year in recognition of all he had done.

Vintage Lorry Funerals support network includes Mark Pyatt, who along with his four Brothers, restores vintage Leyland Lorries at weekends and Mark provides replacement parts for the Leyland Beaver in a service which David affectionately calls Pyatts Parts. A package arrived within two days with two wheel studs and nuts, not the single wheel stud and nut which David had requested. A plan was put in place so that after the Salisbury funeral the 1950 Leyland Beaver would travel to Westbury, the home of John Satchell’s 5 bay workshops. The funeral in Salisbury went well and the Family were delighted with the replica Flat-Bed Lorry that David had built to prominently display the ‘POPS’ Floral Tribute.

David arrived at Westbury around 1600 hours and John Satchell guided David as he positioned the Leyland Beaver over a pit. John and a young mechanic immediately went to work on the wheel and with much physical exertion they eventually removed the wheel and drum that evening. John telephoned David on the Tuesday to say that both replacement wheel studs had to be used and he had organised ATS Euromaster to change the tyre in his workshop. David suggested to John that the wheel problem was caused by Eastern European tensions, because the original tyre was from Romania which didn’t want to be replaced by the new tyre which was from Czechoslovakia.
The problems caused by pot-holes on the old A-Roads has resulted in cracks in the wooden framework of the 1950 Cab and whilst the Leyland Beaver was at Westbury David arranged for Atech Coachworks, who undertook the original restoration of the lorry, to make a repair job. However, whilst the Leyland Beaver was in West Wilts Trading Estate, David took a phone call from Camp Hopson Funeral Directors in Newbury regarding a Taxi Drivers Funeral on Monday November 3rd. It had been explained that the lorry was off the road, however, having been assured that the funeral would be minimalistic and involve just a Coffin Spray, David, not wanting to disappoint a Family, took on the job.
David telephoned Kevin Lucas at Atech and explained his predicament which would require the work to be completed in two days. Mike Hunt, Kevin’s business partner met David on the Thursday morning and drew out how the steel bracket would resolve the problems and Gregorz Malek worked very late on Thursday night to make and fit the brackets.
At around noon on Thursday David was given the Florists contact details and he was surprised to learn that there was no Coffin Spray, as had been suggested by the Funeral Director, but ‘SIDS TAXI’, two 3 ft x 2 ft Designer Boards , a 23 inch x 15 inch ‘Cat’ , a 15 inch ‘Heart’ and a ‘Pillow’. In addition the Family had asked that the Deceased’s Taxi Sign should be carried on the lorry, not the metal sign which is fixed to the boot but the plastic ‘Top Hat’ which is fixed to the roof of the Taxi.
With the lorry being away in Westbury David evaluated the best way to secure the flowers in an eye catching way. He visualised that if the ‘SIDS TAXI’ could be split into two 4 lettered words, then if the ‘SIDS’ was secured above the ‘TAXI’ and then the ‘Top Hat’ taxi sign fixed above ‘SIDS’ then David would have the main items to create a replica of a rear of a Taxi Theme. What is more, the basic elements were already in place on the lorry from the Salisbury funeral, however, a complete dismantling would need to take place to get the ‘SIDS’ in the same plane as ‘TAXI’ if he was to replicate the rear window of a hatchback Taxi.

David’s main concern at this point was how to secure the ‘Top Hat’ sign and Angela at CABCO, for whom the Deceased had worked, was brilliant in providing measurements and describing the function of the powerful magnets within the sign. Joan Watton, Funeral Director, Camp Hopson kindly sent a picture of the underside of the sign and David realised that the best way to secure the sign was by sitting it on two metal strips that David had previously used a number of times to secure a ‘Cross’ on top of a coffin.
When David arrived home with the Leyland Beaver at 1600 hours on Friday he knew he had the equivalent of three days work complete in only two days. David, with the sound of Van Morrison’s Here Comes the Night ringing in his ears, worked until 2200 hours on the Friday night, completing the first fix of the front display. David normally spends Saturday morning reviewing the paper, whilst listening to Sounds of the 60’s on the radio. However, on this Saturday morning Brian Matthews show was recorded and the weekend papers were never looked at. Having started in his garage at 0815 hours and within the first 30 minutes finding stained wood of exactly the right length to connect ‘SIDS’ and ‘TAXI’, David knew that things would work out how he had planned and the length of metal strips were exactly right for the ‘Top Hat’ sign magnets to latch onto.
The rear display had to incorporate two 3 ft x 2 ft Designer Boards, a ‘Cat’ a ‘Heart’ and a ‘Pillow’ and what is more the ‘Cat’ and ‘Heart’ had to be secured with a quick release mechanism as these Floral Tributes were to be placed on top of the Coffin at the Church and the Cemetery. David devised a pyramidal structure with the Designer Boards loaded back to back, with the ‘Pillow’ facing rearwards and the ‘Cat’ and ‘Heart’ facing the head end of the Coffin. By using wooden boards a similar shape to a Floral Tribute David can make the flowers appear to float apparently unsupported. The triangular shaped board that was used to support the ‘Cat’ had previously held a similar Floral Tribute in Hungerford, a ‘Car’ in Bristol and replicated a ‘Wingtip’ in Gosport. By 2100 hours on Saturday the first fix of the rear display was in place and this meant the Sunday could be spent on the second fix of both displays in which David equips his Floral Tribute Fasteners with a colour to match the flowers as closely as possible.

On the Monday morning David got up at 0500 hours and was away by 0545 hours. After collecting his paper in Calne Post Office he arrived at Camp Hopson’s Newbury facility at 0815 hours and John Firth and Joan Watton watched David reverse into their immaculate building. The first hour was spent washing the lorry, removing the dirt which had accumulated on the chassis, caused by the previous night’s rain. Paul Stag then took David and Joan on a dry run to enable David to make a judgement on the best manner to approach St. John the Evangelist Church. Paul made David aware that people used the Church car park as a free facility for shopping or working in the locality and it was obviously a huge concern as it was a factor outside anyone’s control. So rather than drive into the car park like a hearse would, David elected to reverse into the car park from the main road. David paced out the distance to the parked cars, he also shifted a wheelie bin and he confirmed that he could complete the manoeuvre provided the situation didn’t deteriorate.
David Left Camp Hopson with Joan alongside him in the cab and she informed him that over 40 taxis would follow his lorry to the church. She had advised the Police about the potential impact on traffic flows, however, they declined to get involved in a way that they often do at Traveller funerals or those for Hell Angels.
At CABCO Taxis the 1950 Leyland Beaver stopped for the Deceased’s colleagues to show their respects. David spoke to the Head Taxi Driver and expressed his concerns about keeping 40 cars together without a Police presence. However, the man said, ‘Don’t worry we’ll sort it ourselves.’ As the vintage lorry moved off from CABCO two taxis broke off from the cortege and went ahead to block traffic at any junction that may inhibit the progress of the cortege. In this way all the Taxis remained in line behind the lorry to the Church, however, David admonished a Policeman driving a Police Car who was attempting to come between the lorry and the first taxi.
Normally a Funeral Director recruits some extra part-time gentlemen to help at a Church and often these men can appear to be reluctant to participate when David requests any help. However, this wasn’t the case for Camp Hopson staff. As David approached the Church, Paul Stag, driving the hearse in front, pulled right across the road bringing the traffic to a halt leaving space for the vintage lorry to reverse off the road into the car park. David could see that Gerrard had created a total exclusion zone close to the entrance and managed cars wanting to get beyond the exclusion zone with the same enthusiasm as East German Guards stopping people getting into West Berlin. The Leyland Beaver moved slowly into the entrance watched by Terry and as the lorry pushed through the undergrowth at the edge of the drive it was evident that someone had left their car sticking out from the line. The only way through was to virtually touch the car with the rear wheel of the lorry before David applied full lock on the Steering Wheel as quickly as possible. Luckily Terry was on the same wavelength and didn’t try to stop David getting so close to the car, which a younger less experienced person would have done.
A number of mourners congratulated David on his reversing skills and David found out that the car which was parked jutting out from the line was parked by the Vicar conducting the service no less! David took pictures of the flower displays whilst the service was taking place.
As the vintage lorry approached the grave in Shaw Cemetery it became clear that someone had parked their car on the path leading to the grave blocking the only route for the coffin to reach the grave. David said to Joan, ‘Some joker has parked his car just where you need to be, and I know that car, it was the one that I wiped the dirt off the front corner at the Church’. Joan looked up and saw that vicar, robes flowing in the breeze, pacing up and down, oblivious to the problem he was about to cause.
For the first time ever the Family were the last out from the cemetery and each member came to David to shake his hand to say thank you for all that he had done. 

Monday, 30 January 2017

The involvement of children in funerals

David Hall was a child in the 1950’s, an era where children should be seen but not heard and youngsters were chastised if they spoke out of turn or interrupted an adult who was speaking. This concept was the essence of the song Little Children by Billy J Kramer & The Dakotas which was No. 1 in 1964.
However, in recent times the watchword has been transformed to children should be heard with young people now encouraged to partake in decision making committees at school, some make TV programmes one each year for the BBC and some become Authors at an early age.
The following interesting interactions have taken place with children who David has met whilst undertaking their Grandad’s funeral.
The marketing of Vintage Lorry Funerals started when David gave Richard Simpson, Editor of Trucking Magazine, the exclusive on his business venture and Richard ran a 4 page feature on the 1950 Leyland Beaver’s new role. A Photographer left his home near Ashford in Kent and drove to Bradford-on-Avon to undertake a detailed photo shoot of the vintage lorry. At the end of the session David asked if he could have his own picture and climbed into the cab, placing his right forearm on the open cab door window, adopting a 1950s Lorry Drivers pose. At that moment the sky changed and an atmospheric picture was captured, featuring a John Constable like sky. David has used this picture as his main marketing image for the past 14 years.

Just about this time a young Grandson would travel with his Lorry Driver Grandad during his school holidays and the young lad was shown the Trucking magazine featuring the Vintage Lorry Funerals article.
Sadly within 3 months the Grandad passed away whilst taking a 45 minute break in the middle of a journey in the Midlands. His children met in the front room of a house in Ross-on-Wye, evaluating what they should do for their Dad’s funeral whilst the children were banished to the kitchen. During the discussion there was a knock on the door and the Grandson who had travelled with the Deceased walked in and said, ‘If you go through Grampy’s cab you will find a Trucking magazine and a story about a bloke from Bradford-on-Avon who uses a 1950 Leyland Beaver in funerals.’
This lead to Vintage Lorry Funerals first opportunity in Ross-on-Wye and to reward the young man for his help David offered to take him in the cab, sitting him on the engine-cover, between David and the Funeral Director. The young man was obviously upset loosing his Grandad so David decided to distract him by showing how to double-de-clutch. David said that he would act as a robot and only act when the young man instructed. So when changing up into top gear the young man was instructed, when David put the Leyland Beaver in neutral, to count to 5 to let the engine revolutions die down before shouting ‘change’ and David then put his foot on the clutch and moved the gearstick into top gear. On the journey to the cemetery a number of gear changes took place and this proved to be an ideal distraction. The picture below was taken to provide the young man with a lasting memory of the day, and it is understood that he is now a skilled Motor Mechanic. It wasn’t a day to smile for the camera as the young man had just seen his Grandad’s coffin being lowered into his grave.

During a Southampton funeral the Son of the Deceased travelled with David in the cab and he told David about his family, including a young boy with learning difficulties who didn’t attend mainstream school and his autistic tendencies were a major concern to his family. The Family left the service at the crematorium at some distant from where the vintage lorry was parked and suddenly, without any warning, the young boy darted across the car park and ran towards David. As he approached he thrust out his right hand and said, ‘I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you on behalf of my family for giving my Grandad a good send off.’ David then invited the young boy to become his little helper and David watched the 7 year old carefully roll up the ratchet straps as he had been shown. David then gave the young boy a guided tour of the cab and explained what every switch did as the young boy pointed to it. His Mum & Dad apologised that their Son had caused a problem and David replied, ‘Meeting your Son was a privilege not a problem.’

John Blackstock had been an International Truck Driver who had taken his two Sons with him in his Volvo Double Sleeper Cab during their summer holidays. In their teens the boys followed different paths and went their separate ways, one became an I.T. Director in a big company however, the other, through tragic circumstances, had never worked. As the two ‘boys’ would be together the first time in years for their Dad’s funeral David decided to build something that would remind them of happier times. Next door to the Funeral Directors in Coventry is a school and young school children passing the vintage lorry started to hum the Death March. One young boy looked up at the replica Volvo Double Sleeper Cab and wanted to climb up onto the deck and play in the cab. A more nature girl said, ‘No, you can’t to that, this model has been built because the man who has died probably drove a lorry like the model.’
David was taking pictures of a Traveller’s funeral outside a house on a busy main road in Mitcham, South London. David was standing on the opposite side of the road with a young Traveller boy close to him. David asked the young boy to get one of the adults to stop the traffic so that he could get a good picture. The young boy, to David’s horror, ran out in front of an oncoming lorry, waving his arms above his head shouting, ‘Stop the (expletive) traffic’ and repeated this 5 times. David was mortified.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Two Funerals in January, one at the beginning and one at the end

The first funeral was in Guildford on Monday January 4th the first working day back for many people after an extended Christmas Break. Being Self Employed, the best Christmas present anyone can be given is a job as soon after the New Year as possible. However, trying to get information from Florists, Funeral Directors and Crematoriums is not easy at this time when a thing called Christmas provides a huge distraction. Rather than fight through the major traffic congestion that was envisaged for the Monday morning, David elected to travel to Guildford on the Sunday but finding undercover storage for the 1950 Leyland Beaver wouldn’t be easy with most locations still closed after the Christmas Holidays. Luckily the Daughter of the Deceased lived on a farm and she kindly arranged for space to be cleared in their workshop and this location proved to be the most atmospheric setting the 1950 Leyland Beaver has parked in.
The Deceased had been a Mechanic who had worked on vehicles like David’s at the start of his career, however, after retirement the last third of his life was dedicated to his garden. So rather than having a Floral Tribute made from flowers his Daughter arranged for a an exquisite display of vegetables to be created which would be placed in front of Gardening Tools, a  Fork, a Spade and a Wheel-Barrow.

Bed & Breakfast accommodation wasn’t easy to find in this rural area, however, a local farmer took in guests at his Manor House in a way to diversify away from his traditional income on a Dairy Farm which had sold its Jersey Herd a long time ago. It was certainly a grand setting, however, there was no chip shop at the end of the street so David changed his normal mode of operation, keeping his sandwiches for his tea and having a hot meal at lunch time in the Bull Inn at Bentley on the A31.
Part of the instructions from the Family was that David should not wear black but a grey shirt and pullover was requested by the Daughter of the Deceased. However, when David was collecting the vehicle in the morning the Deceased’s Son-in-Law, a colourful character, took a dim view of David’s dress code and presented him with a red jumper. David explained that had he known that a more colourful outfit was required he would have provided one. David went on explain that on two previous occasions he has been asked to impersonate the late Fred Dibnah and the Son-in-Law then asked David to become Fred Dibnah for the next hour explaining, ‘You even look like the old (Expletive) in those thick 1950 style spectacles.’ David is pictured below in his Fred Dibnah guise, however, David believes he is only poor representation of the great man who was a renowned Steeple Jack in the 1960’s .

At Guildford Crematorium as David was releasing the ratchet straps off the coffin, the Son-in-Law shouted in a loud voice, ‘Ladies & Gentlemen I give you Mr. Fred Dibhah.’ David didn’t disappoint telling the Bearer on the opposite side of the deck, ‘Nay then, tek this strap in thy hand and tek it t’ back of lorry.’ Climbing onto the deck David said, ‘Reet then, I’ll turn t’old lad and get im riddy t’ come off side roller.’ The mourners started to clap to show their appreciation of David’s efforts.
The second funeral was in Swanley on January 26th and this was for a former Lorry Driver who also been a Royal Marine in WWII. The Floral Tributes were a ‘DAD’ and a ‘Pillow’ and David suggested to the Son of the Deceased that he would position ‘DAD’ on the Headboard and the ‘Pillow’ would sit on a step in front of the coffin. In order to exceed the expectations of the Family, David customised the ‘step’ to appear like the back end of a Lorry.
The location that David used for many years to park the Leyland Beaver under cover the night before an Orpington funeral is now longer suitable so it was time for a new start. In recent times David has approached Tyre Fitting Companies because normally they don’t store vehicles inside their location overnight, unlike Commercial Garages with ATS and Kwik Fit being used in a number of occasions. David approaches the Manager, explains that he needs to put his lorry undercover the night before a funeral and a reward of a box of biscuits usually gets the Manager to agree. However, the Manager at Kwik Fit Orpington was initially reluctant to make a decision and said he would be more comfortable if David approached the Head Office and got them to sanction that the Leyland Beaver could be parked undercover within his facility. David was concerned as the involvement of someone from Head Office may put a stop to him approaching Managers directly and in the limited time before a funeral the last thing David needed was to spend an hour on the phone trying to find the appropriate person.
David made three attempts to find someone who could help him and fortuitously he spoke to a young lady who listened intently and promised to look at the Vintage Lorry Funerals web site before speaking to her boss. David told her that many years ago he had written to Tom Farmer, then Kwik Fit owner, about a possibility to undertake a Distribution Quotation and he got a polite reply personally signed by the great man. David thought that he had done all that he could but reckoned that there was only a slim chance that a big company would be prepared to help him. Later that afternoon whilst David was working on the deck, his wife called him back into the house because an email had arrived from Kwik Fit which stated he could park at any Kwik Fit site in Britain provided the lorry was covered under its own insurance and that the Manager was happy that it would fit. The Orpington Manager was now relaxed and he offered David use of his fridge to put his sandwiches in there overnight and some hot water to wash the lorry if required.
David had difficulty speaking with the Florist who was a friend of a distant Family member and it wasn’t until the day before he was scheduled to leave did he manage to speak with her and it was just as well he did. In addition to the ‘DAD’ and the ‘Pillow’ there was a 21 inch ‘Heart’ from the Sister of the Deceased so David quickly assembled a suitable stand which would position this important Floral Tribute near the head of the coffin. The key part of the support structure was a triangular shaped piece of wood which had already made a number of appearances already to support a ‘Butterfly’ in Snodland, a ‘Cat’ in Newbury and in Hungerford, a ‘Car’ in Horfield Bristol and used to depict a ‘Plane Wing’ in Gosport.

In timing the journey, the plan is always to arrive just before the garage closed at 1800 hours and although David knew the lorry could fit under the roller shutter door he was unsure how well the lorry would fit between the car ramps. As David drove into the yard three Kwik Fit lads came to meet him and they evaluated between themselves, similar to an American Football Huddle, which would be the best bay to accommodate the vintage lorry. One invited David to look at the space and he knew it would a close thing so he inched the lorry slowly back with two Kwik Fit lads either side of the deck watching that the vintage lorry got safely between the car ramp pillar.  After parking David was surprise how close the car ramps were away form the lorry and it was certainly a tight fit at Kwik Fit. However, one Kwik Fit lad complimented David saying, ‘You have obviously done this manoeuvre many times before!’

Cost effective B&B accommodation was available within walking distance, however, the place had no eating facilities which may have caused a problem. However, within 100 yards of the B&B was a Retail Park, so it was Nandos Chicken Burger for supper and Costa Coffee Bacon Sandwich for breakfast. One of the Kwik Fit lads offered to come in early to get the Leyland Beaver on the road by 0745 hours, however, it still took an hour to travel the short distance to Swanley.
When the Son of the Deceased saw the flowers in place he thanked David for all his efforts and he asked if he could travel in the cab with David. This was a win, win, situation because it meant so much to the Son of the Deceased and he told David all about his Dad and this made the creation of an Obituary Article so much easier.
On his way back from Eltham Crematorium David elected not to use the South Circular, which is renowned for heavy traffic and long queues but he took the A224 and the A232 on which the traffic seems to flow. Within four hours driving The Leyland Beaver glided from Eltham, through Croydon, along the A31 and into Sutton Scotney Services on the A34 where David took his 45 minutes statutory rest break. David then let the rush hour traffic to subside and he got home at 2000 hours at the end of a 13 hours day.              

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

A Traveller’s Funeral in Stretham

When David Hall was asked to quote for a funeral in Stretham, near Ely, he asked for the post codes for all the locations to be visited and he asked whether there would be a lot of flowers. David was advised that the Deceased was a Lorry Driver who had come from a Travelling background and David was keen to speak to the Florist regarding the Floral Tributes. In David’s own experience there are different types of Travellers, some live in mobile homes within Traveller sites and these often have exquisite large scale wire framed Floral Tributes. However, some Travellers reside in conventional houses and normally they have standard oasis based Floral Tributes, like anyone else, but a lot more of them!
David got some excellent help from the Family and the design for the layout for the Floral Tributes evolved gradually as more and more orders were placed. The front display was quickly agreed comprising of a 3ft x 2ft ‘Lorry’ sandwiched between a ‘DAD’ and a ‘GRANDAD’.

The Deceased had sadly passed away whilst taking his dog for a walk, only taking two sips from his pint in his local pub before suffering a heart attack from which he never recovered. Considering what he was doing when he passed away, his Daughter organised for a ‘Dog’ Floral Tribute to be created by a skilled Florist. David set himself the task of integrating the ‘Dog’ in the rear section of the layout, but featuring it prominently. Luckily within 3 days enough orders were placed and were of the right shapes for David to design a multi-level pyramidal structure which would develop into the best rear display he had created to date. The bottom level comprised of the ‘Dog’, a Cushion, a Pillow and a large scale 18 inch ‘Horse Shoe’. The top level had an Open Heart back to back with a 2 ft Cross. In order to personalise the display David borrowed a lead for the ‘Dog’ from Mrs Jackie Roberts, a neighbour, who is a champion breeder of Red Setters.

Finding a company prepared to put the vintage lorry undercover the night before the funeral proved challenging both in Ely and Cambridge. David has a network of contacts throughout Britain and he was able to park his lorry with Trevor Rowell, whose vehicles are based on a remote road in the fens near Chatteris. The Leyland Beaver rolled out of Bradford-on-Avon at 0445 hours on a cold December morning and David headed for Witney near Oxford for his first stop. Just over 2.5 hours from Bradford-on-Avon is the Co-operative Food store in Long Hanborough which has a large yard at the rear and a kind Manager who lets David use the staff toilets. David took a 45 minute rest break as usual, required by Drivers Hours Legislation before a 4.5 hour driving period should elapse, and this allows the busy commuter traffic into Oxford to subside. David arrived in Chatteris for 1430 hours, planning to use the remaining hours of daylight to wash the vintage lorry. Following Trevor Rowell’s advice David entered the yard and to phone him so that a lift could be organised to the hotel once David had washed the lorry.
David heard a guard dog bark and assumed that it would stay in its kennel. When David climbed out of the Leyland Beaver he quickly found out that his assumption was badly wrong. A huge guard dog came bounding in David’s direction. David tried to quickly assess the length of the chain but he turned to run when he knew he was within the dog’s reach. David slipped on the loose gravel, fell to the ground and the guard dog was on top of him. David was in a hopeless situation but he had the presence of mind to shout firmly ‘John sit.’ Miraculously the dog backed away and sat. What you are probably thinking is how did David know the dog’s name was John? Well most people in East Anglia are called John, aren’t they? The actor David Jason was taking his family on holiday to Bury St Edmunds in 1948. It wasn’t easy to find your way just after WW11 because most of the road signs had been removed in 1940, when Britain feared a German invasion. David Jason was lost and pulled up next to an elderly gentleman cutting a hedge. David Jason wound down the car window and asked, ‘Can you tell me the way to Bury St Edmunds?’ but the old man ignored him and kept on cutting the hedge. David Jason then shouted, ‘Hey John.’ and the old man stopped cutting, turned and approached the car. The old man, in a Norfolk, accent said, ‘How do you know my name is John?’ David Jason said, ‘I’m a good guesser’ and the old man replied ‘well guess your way to Bury St. Edmunds!’
The wife of the haulier arrived and expressed her sympathy for David who had badly bruised his elbow in his confrontation with the guard dog. Apparently the only person the dog had bitten was a Policeman, however, this was of little comfort to David as he limped into the hotel in the centre of Chatteris. David couldn’t understand why the restaurant was very busy but very few people were staying at the hotel that night. As David was watching TV before he went to bed he noticed that the church bells were chiming every 15 minutes. David assumed that the bells would stop at 2200 hours but sadly he was wrong. The chiming continued every 15 minutes right through the night, not the best preparation for a Travellers funeral. 
David had envisaged that the traffic would be light between Chatteris and Stretham but he was wrong, there were 50 cars behind the Leyland Beaver on their way to Cambridge. David stopped at the Post Office in Wilburton, just before the traffic lights at the junction of the A1123 and the B1049, a back road into Cambridge. The Postmaster had put a paper under the counter for David who handed over his voucher and then climbed back into the Leyland Beaver. In the meantime all the 50 cars were trapped behind the vintage lorry on this narrow road as they were all turning right at the lights. As David went straight over the lights, on his own, he wound down his window and waved good bye to the stream of commuters. The road ahead was quiet until David reached the roundabout on the A10 and he brought the traffic to a standstill as he reversed into the driveway of the Traveller’s house.

The Travellers were brilliant with David, an older lady made him a cup of tea and an older man handed the Floral Tributes up to David who concentrated on fixing the Floral Tributes in place. The older lady offered David a second cup of tea, for ‘the driver’. David said, ‘Currently I’m not the driver I’m the load assembler!’ The etiquette in dealing with Travellers is that you can speak only to the men and you should never attempt to even look at, never mind speak to a young Traveller girl. However, the Daughter of the Deceased was so grateful for the magnificent display David had created, in which Floral Tributes appeared to float, that she ran towards David and gave him a huge embrace in front of everyone. The old Traveller men each held up a hand to signify that they weren’t concerned and no damage had been done.
The Funeral Director arrived with 6 Bearers as the Deceased wasn’t a small man and his solid oak coffin was over 13 stone on its own. Excellent rapport was established with the Funeral Director and his team and David said that he was always interested in the backgrounds of Bearers. In David’s experience, there is always a mix of full time and temporary staff, which can be made up from backgrounds as diverse as Fireman and former Policeman. The Funeral Director said that there were 2 full time and 4 temporary staff and invited David to guess which the full time employees were. David concentrated on the younger men and guessed correctly. The Funeral Director then asked David to identify the former Policeman and the Fireman. Looking at the stature of each man, David chose the former Policeman and the Fireman was selected correctly looking at his age, assuming that he would still be employed as a fire-fighter but working for a Funeral Director on his rest days. So David got the three questions correct.

On the return journey from long distance funerals David often tries new routes to expand his knowledge of A-Roads and Service Facilities around Britain. So for the return leg from Ely David opted to use the A43 which runs from Northampton to Oxford and is mainly dual carriageway, providing ideal conditions for vehicles to get past the 1950 Leyland Beaver. Coming through Northampton David noticed that the A43 signs changed to ‘A43 follow M1 North’ and David thought that the A43 would start at the roundabout which also has the exits to the M1. However, David was wrong as traffic for Oxford was forced to travel north on the M1 for one junction and he was very worried about the consequences from his lorry only doing 30 m.p.h. and other vehicles going much faster. As David was trundling down the slip road, a heavily loaded Eddie Stobard Tractor and Trailer, not travelling much faster than the vintage lorry, was in the first lane and the Driver shook his head, signally to David that he was entering a risky venture. David shrugged his shoulders to signal that he could do nothing about his predicament and gestured that he was only going up one junction. The Eddie Stobard Driver gave David a thumbs up signal and got onto his CB Radio. The Eddie Stobard Driver got out into Lane 2 to let the Leyland Beaver onto the motorway and when the Eddie Stobard vehicle was clear of the vintage lorry David put on his head lights to inform the Eddie Stobard Driver that it was safe for him to pull back into Lane 1. The Eddie Stobard Driver then thanked David not by using left, right, left indicators, the current way of thanking Lorry Drivers, he put his side lights on and off twice, which was the way a Lorry Driver thanked someone in the 1950’s. From junction 15 to junction 15A Lorry Drivers shielded the vintage vehicle from cars travelling at 70 m.p.h. and beyond. Each Lorry Driver who passed David acknowledged his Head Lights, ‘you are clear to come in’, flash with a 1950s side lights on and off twice thank you.
David was amazed at the help the Eddie Stobard Driver was able to muster and David reflected that he had got by with a little help from his friends, remembering the Joe Cocker hit record.