Monday, 31 August 2015

Interesting People in the Cab

Over the years David Hall has had some interesting people travelling with him in the cab, or riding shot-gun to use a transport vernacular phrase.
During a funeral in Birkenhead, Merseyside, David Hall witnessed both the good and bad sides of the ‘scouse’ culture. Travelling through one of the less affluent parts of Birkenhead at night David saw a group of people gathered on a street corner after a fight had developed. David was flabbergasted when he realised it was two women trading punches and what is more, men, not intervening, but egging them on and holding their handbags.
Sadly swearing is commonplace in modern day culture where in some circles it can be called Industrial Language to give it some form of respectability. Most people realise that decorum necessitates no swearing at funerals, however, on this day in Birkenhead decorum disappeared with expletives being every other word emitting from most people’s mouths. When David was asked to take the Deceased’s Grandson with him in the cab David dreaded the worst.

From the outset the young man, probably in his late teens, spoke quietly and never swore. To break the silence David asked him, ‘What do you do for a living?’ The young man replied ‘I’m just getting re-established. I have just got out of prison.’ David replied ‘Oh,’ and said nothing further on the subject and encouraged the youth to watch him double-de-clutch when changing gear just as his Grandad had done in the 1950s. As time went on David wondered why such a mild mannered young man should ever have ended up in prison. However, just before the Church the Leyland Beaver’s progress was halted by a Refuse Collection vehicle whose staff, collecting the bins, were slow in alerting the driver to the problem. The young man became visibly upset and the veins on his temple were protruding and throbbing. He shouted obscenities at the men and started to climb out of the cab to resolve the situation with violence. David grabbed him and begged him to remain in the cab and let David sort the situation by persuasion. By this time the Refuse Collection vehicle had pulled to one side and David put the Beaver into 3rd gear and gently overtook. The volatile situation with the young man quickly evaporated much faster than it had emerged.
As the cortege passed a Police Station David said, ‘Keep your head down,’ and the young man smiled. When the Leyland Beaver came to a halt at the graveside, the young man said, ‘Mr. Hall it has been a privilege to travel with you today and I would like to thank you on behalf of our family for everything you have done to make this day so special’ He then asked David if he would not mind him taking a photograph of David wearing his beret and requested that he could use this picture on social media. Before he left the cab he put his right hand forward to shake David’s hand. There were no high fives, no man hugs just a simple hand shake 1950’s style. David thought that The Animals ‘Don’t let me be misunderstood’ was appropriate for this young man.
When booking the Leyland Beaver for a funeral in Pencoed, Wales, the Funeral Director asked if the Deceased’s eldest Daughter could travel in the cab with David. Getting into the 1950 lorry is not easy. Modern lorries have three short steps, however, getting into the Leyland Beaver involves a short stretch onto the axle hub and then a giant leap onto the step above the wing. David explained to the Funeral Director that it was like Armstrong landing on the moon. To protect a lady’s dignity David normally suggests trousers, however, some ladies are rather petit and don’t have enough strength in their arms to pull themselves into the cab. For these situations David has modified the pull out ladder, which he uses to get up onto the deck, so that it can have a second use facilitating females to get into the cab.

When David arrived at the house he was introduced to Linda Mckay a spritely 62 year old who had no problem getting into the cab without the help of the ladder. When the Leyland Beaver engine fired up Linda started to smile and said that the sounds and smells of the 1950 lorry brought back memories of her childhood. She particularly remembered the loud sound of the engine and hiding beneath ropes in the foot-well, out of sight, when her Dad was loading at The Abbey Steelworks in Port Talbot. David told Linda about his first ride in a 1950 Leyland Beaver in August 1958 when on a trip to Hawick with a Livestock Driver he could only speak to the Driver when the lorry was going down hill and the roar of the engine had subsided. As a young 5 year old David thought on the journey to Hawick that the soft material beneath his feet was a carpet, however, it turned out to be the Driver’s sheep dog snuggling in the foot-well, warmed by the heat from the engine.
In the cemetery Linda was keen to give David her email address, however, as she was leaning on the boot of the Funeral Director’s limousine, the car took off leaving Linda stranded in the cemetery. However, she wasn’t worried as someone would turn up for her and sure enough someone did. Before she got into the car she complimented David on getting his lorry into some tight gateways at the Church and Cemetery and whilst people watching on the ground didn’t think he would make the manoeuvre, she was confident in the amazing lock of the Leyland Beaver and David’s ability to move the steering wheel quickly through his hands.
David’s Wife never normally accompanies him on funerals as her main role is acting as Mission Control. This involves undertaking detailed research to identify potential traffic problems and the most appropriate place to refuel as derv prices vary dramatically from garage to garage with no apparent logic. David’s Daughter lives in Cardiff so when an early morning funeral in Cardiff necessitated travelling the day before, his wife decided to come with him.
David’s Wife was amazed at being able to look over hedgerows and seeing wildlife in the fields, however, the bumpy ride necessitated a comfort stop at Aust Services. On the Old Severn Bridge there was only one lane open and the cars in front of the Leyland Beaver quickly disappeared from view and the road ahead was clear for as far as your eye could see. David’s Wife asked, ‘Where have all the cars gone?’ David replied, ‘Look in your wing mirror, they are all trapped behind us.’ When the lane restriction ended David steered the vintage lorry into the first lane and cars sped past, like a squadron of Messerschmitt 109’s attacking a lumbering Lancaster Bomber.

The lorry was parked at the Funeral Director’s garage and one of the staff kindly gave David’s Wife a lift to his Daughter’s flat. David spent the night in Splott, his Wife and Daughter slept in Penylan. The following day David’s Wife made a Taxi Driver smile, when, carrying her suitcase, she asked to go to Thornhill Crematorium. The Taxi Driver said, ‘Normally people don’t go there for their holidays!’ David had arranged to meet his wife after the service, however, she got some strange looks striding up the main roadway with her suitcase in her hand. One of the Crematorium Staff kindly conducted David to a quiet spot so that he and his Wife could have their sandwiches out of sight of the public. Nottingham is a regular destination for the vintage lorry and David’s Wife’s Sister lives just outside the city, however, David’s Wife has turned down every opportunity so far. Three hours maximum is the time she can tolerate in the lorry and the lack of suitable toilet facilities at regular intervals on the old A-Roads is also a problem

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