Sunday, 1 October 2017

Leeds & Coventry in the same week

When Eric F. Box, of Dewsbury, booked the Leyland Beaver for a funeral, Andrew Box explained that the lorry was too high to fit inside their garage. David Hall told Andrew not to worry as there was a Kwik Fit just down the road. David phoned the Kwik Fit Manager and made him aware of the arrangements he has with Kwik Fit to park the vintage lorry undercover within their facilities the night before a funeral. The Manager confirmed that their door was 10 ft high and he envisaged no problems.
Sometimes finding out about the Floral Tributes can provide a challenge and the funeral in Leeds turned into the most challenging to date. The Deceased’s Partner had placed an order for a two dimensional flat-bed lorry Floral Tribute with Brian’s Flowers, a Stall Holder on Leeds Market. The landline number David was given proved to be unobtainable but undeterred David rang the Leeds Market Office and established a mobile number for man called Dave. David rang the number, however, an international ring out tone was evident and the call was quickly terminated. David then sent Dave a text that produced no response. It was vital that David got some information on the Floral Tribute because he was intending to build a wooden structure the same shape as the lorry, so that the Floral Tribute would appear to be floating unsupported.
So David ignored the cost involved and phoned the mobile and spoke to Dave who was on holiday in Spain, but he gave David the mobile number for a gentleman also called Dave who was holding the fort whilst Dave was on holiday. So David rang Dave in Leeds who knew very little about the Floral Tribute but he asked David to ring him at 12 noon on the Friday when the oasis base would arrive. David was concerned because the clock was ticking and he had only 48 hours left to design, source the wood and create the wooden support structure the same shape as the Floral Tribute. In truth it would have simpler to put the Floral Tribute on a 3 ft x 2 ft board as David had done in the past, however, David is driven to always seek improvements to enhance his service offering.
David phoned Dave at 1205 hours and Dave said, ‘Have you got a pencil and paper ready?’ Dave then told David every dimension that he required. It was first class information which allowed David to start work on the deck immediately.
As David was working out the best route to get to Eric F. Box in Dewsbury he used Google Maps to explore the roads approaching the Funeral Director. David was surprised by the building that housed the Eric F. Box operation. The modernist outside with clear lines could have graced a Grand Designs programme and David commented to Andrew that it looked more like an Architect’s building not a Funeral Home.
Earlier in the week David had received an enquiry from Coventry for the same day as the Leeds funeral, however, the Family changed the day of the funeral to secure the Leyland Beaver for the Friday following the Leeds Funeral which was on a Tuesday.
It had been a number of years since the Leyland Beaver had been in Leeds, however, the old girl knew where she was going. The journey went well with two planned stops in Alcester and Leicester North Services where David had a sandwich for his dinner. Carrying on the A46 was easy driving as large sections of dual carriageway had been installed in the past ten years. The A6097 leads onto the A614, an old three lane road from the 1950s and David was delighted that cars were overtaking him as the vintage lorry hugged the kerb, often against a stream of on-coming vehicles. The A1M was joined just north of Ollerton and everything was going well until the A638 went through Wakefield and the traffic came to a halt coinciding with the insanity which can occur at school home time. Mums launched their 4x4s into the queuing traffic hell-bent on collecting their youngster from school. Back in the 1950’s Mums used to walk to school and spend quality time speaking to the children on the way home, finding out how their day had gone. This scene seems light years away from the current day.
David was concerned that Eric F. Box would close like so many other Funeral Directors at 1630 hours. So he stopped the lorry’s engine in the stationary traffic queue and David phoned his wife who relayed the message to Andrew Box that David might be 30 minutes late. David need not have worried because as soon as the Leyland Beaver was in Eric F. Box’s yard a member of their team was assigned to work for David, helping him clean the lorry.
Andrew accompanied David down the road to Kwik Fit which was still extremely busy at 1745 hours. David tried to locate Bradley the Manager but unlike other Tyre Fitting Companies this Kwik Fit Manager’s hands were dirtier than many of his men. Andrew Box never the less shook Bradley’s hand and thanked him for allowing the Leyland Beaver to park in their premises.
In the morning Andrew collected David from the hotel and asked David if he was going to the Crematorium to test if he could get the vintage lorry under the canopy. David said, ‘No need, the space under the canopy is 107 inches and the Beaver is just over 100 inches’. Dewsbury Kwik Fit is unique in that it has its own traffic lights so getting out into the rush-hour traffic, which is normally a concern, is not an issue with this site. In addition the translucent panels on the door made sure that the Leyland Beaver was showcased for everyone one passing on the busy Huddersfield road. 

Whilst waiting for the coffin to be loaded David was given a guided tour of the Funeral Director’s premises which would have caused Kevin McCloud’s jaw to drop with a vast open plan reception having offices above. The site had been a former night club which had been tastefully refurbished with the steel roof support girders being clad in stone. Beneath the reception desk a mirror provides the deception that the green carpet extends for ever. Around this time a ‘SHAUN’ Floral Tribute arrived unexpectedly and Andrew was delighted that David had the facilities to make a feature of it within the display. 

The journey to the house in Leeds was made easier by Andrew Box arranging for some of his men to block traffic and one car operated in front of the Leyland Beaver with the passenger leaning out of the window, using an expensive camera to take some amazing pictures. With another car blocking the traffic at times it resembled ‘Smokey & the Bandit’. David was impressed with Leeds Lorry Drivers who did not attempt to speed past the vintage lorry but tucked in behind the cars in the cortege. One Lorry Driver even straddled the white line on the dual carriageway to prevent any cars racing past the cortege in the outside lane which remained empty.

Having started at 0830 hours David could only work until 2330 hours so leaving Dewsbury Moor Crematorium at 1400 hours and having taken 9 hours driving on the way up, it was touch and go whether David could get home that night. David came back the same way and made good progress arriving at Leicester North Services at 1745 hours and taking his tea in KFC as the rush-hour traffic became gridlocked on the A46. Leaving after his 45 minute legal rest break David took the M1 where he stayed in the inside lane down to the M69. This improves David’s safety, however, this was further enhanced by a 40 mph speed limit being imposed on the overhead signs. David’s next target was to reach P.J. Nicholls in Tewkesbury before it closed at 2100 hours. The competitive Derv price is mainly influenced by the Morrisons store nearby but the ladies behind the till know David and are always interested where he has been.
Overnight road works in Quedgeley caused a detour, however, the Leyland Beaver was just about in its garage when 2330 hours arrived. The next two days were spent dismantling the Leeds display and erecting the one for Coventry which was radically different.
Friday’s funeral in the Stoke region of Coventry involved an early start with David leaving at 0445 hours taking the Fosse Way A429 for the Funeral Director which was on the East side of the city. David had planned his working week so that another 15 hour shift, the second in 7 days, could be available.
David had advised the Funeral Director the best way to the house, however, his advice was ignored. Instead of going a short distance up Leicester Causeway and turning in a commercial garage, the hearse driver leading the cortege elected to go down the whole length of the street to avoid turning near the house. Unfortunately cars were parked on both sides of Leicester Causeway and despite it being obvious that a funeral was approaching in the opposite direction there was a stream of oncoming cars and the cortege came to a halt with the hearse head to head with a car. The cars were driven mainly by women who were talking to their passenger rather than looking ahead. The cars wouldn’t reverse so the hearse driver forced them to move over as he squeezed the hearse through the very small gap. Basically there were 4 lanes of cars on the stretch of a street where 3 cars would have been comfortable. The Leyland Beaver is 12 inches wider than a hearse and there was only a hair’s breadth between the vintage lorry and cars at either side. The lady driver in the oncoming car, still chatting to her companion, froze like a rabbit caught in headlights. David tried to get the lady to drive forward slowly because if he had moved first, with the lorry being 26 feet long, small adjustments in the steering can produce large sideways movements to the rear overhang. The lady refused to move her car fearing she would hit another car. David was frustrated that the Funeral Director, who was in the hearse, did not get out of the car to help him, after all his main role was to conduct the funeral and to ensure that the cortege should arrive at the allotted time at Canley Crematorium. However, to be fair even if he had wanted to help there was no way that he could have opened the door to get out of the hearse. David was in an impossible situation and The Animals song ‘We got to get out of this place’ seemed very appropriate. All he could do was pray for some guidance, but David’s old Dad used to say, ‘God helps them who helps themselves.’ So he put the lorry into second gear, first is reserved for going up stone walls, let the clutch out and the lorry inched forward on tick-over. David stood up so that he could judge how close the cars were in his diminutive wing mirrors and hoped for the best. The lorry touched two wing mirrors but didn’t break them.

The Family were lovely with David, they had asked for his permission to use his marketing image throughout the Order of Service booklet. It is evident that some Families want David’s lorry but some Families need his lorry. As David was leaving the crematorium one of the Deceased’s Daughters ran after the lorry demanding that David should stop so she could shake his hand. She and her Dad had met David the previous year at the Classic Commercials Enthusiast Day in Malvern.
On the way home David refuelled at P. J. Nicholls for the third time in 5 days. On entering the shop to pay for the derv David noticed a short queue of people waiting to pay for groceries for goods from within the shop. The Attendant behind the till shouted, ‘Come forward Driver,’ and David was summoned to the front of the queue just like Lorry Drivers were in garages and roadside cafes in the 1950s.