Thursday, 30 November 2017

Managing a Situation

David Hall was brought up in the frugal 1950’s when there were limited opportunities for people coming from a humble background to reach a management position. The only chance of promotion was to work hard and excel in a Blue Collar job in the hope that your efforts may be rewarded when a Foreman’s position became vacant.
Many young men became Trailer Boys and then Lorry Drivers in the 1950’s as a mechanism to fund the financial implications when a young romance unexpectedly produced a bundle that definitely wasn’t a joy at the outset. Some young men were forced to leave school at the earliest opportunity yet some had the IQ to have become a manager had they come from a more affluent background.
David saw examples of Lorry Drivers performing management roles in Fellside Transport, in Lazonby, which specialised in Livestock movements, when he travelled with Drivers during his school holidays. For local farm collections into Penrith Auction Mart, Albert Kelso, who owned Fellside Transport, would provide Drivers with instructions of how the vehicle should be loaded. However, when Fellside Transport vehicles were loading at a Lamb Sale based at a location a long distance from Lazonby, normally Driver Jack Stubbs would act as a foreman. Jack would be the point of contact for Sheep Buyers. Jack would assemble sheep into lots of 120 which would fit onto a triple-decked livestock container, assign loads to Drivers, liaise with the Auction Staff and keep Albert Kelso informed.

Another Lorry Driver who performed a role beyond his brief was Archie Stamper whose concerns for the animals in his care did not seem possible from the gruff persona he projected. Once David saw Archie take a handkerchief out of his pocket soak it in the cool water in the water trough and then placed it very carefully under the tail of a heifer cow which had just calved for the first time and was extremely sore. Archie would also closely examine the sheep he was asked to load and put any sickly looking ones on the top deck so that they would have plenty of air. On occasions if a sheep was in acute distress Archie would stop on route at a Slaughter House where he knew the staff and have the sheep humanly put out of its misery.
David, during his role with funerals, would never compare any feat he has accomplished to the exploits of the great men mentioned above, however, when you read the events below you may want to take a different view.
Windmill Hill Bristol
During a well attended funeral in Windmill Hill Bristol the streets were very congested and when the Leyland Beaver pulled up in front of St. Michaels & All Angels in Vivian Street the area became gridlocked.
No vehicle could get past the vintage lorry and cars coming up Vivian Street simply went down Gwilliam Street and found another way to get to the area beyond the 1950 Leyland Beaver. The situation was made worse by customers for the fitness classes in the Windmill Hill Community Centre, opposite the church, wanting to park their cars. Someone must have called the Police and a male and a female Officer arrived, they spoke to David and understood that his vehicle could not be moved until the funeral service had ended.
Just about this time a car pulled up close to the Leyland Beaver and a disabled lady, who needed two sticks to walk, shuffled towards the female Police Constable. The lady asked if she could leave her car where it was, go home and return to remove it after the funeral. The Police Woman adopted a highly combative and aggressive stance telling the disabled lady that under no circumstances could she leave her car in front of the lorry and the disabled lady became very distressed and started to cry. David agreed with the Police Woman’s stance but not how she put it across. The disabled lady kept shouting, ‘I need to get to my house.’
David stepped forward and asked if he could be of any help. The disabled lady kept shouting, ‘I need to get to my house.’ David found out that she lived only 50 yards beyond the lorry and quickly evaluated the best way he could achieve a win, win, situation, that was, make the lady happy but make the car disappear. The lady was shaking and sobbing so David put his arm around her and said, ‘Don’t you take any notice of the Police, if I got the drivers of the limousines to park on the pavement could you manage to drive through the gap?’ David nodded to the limousine drivers, they moved their cars and the disabled lady gingerly drove through the gap whilst the Police Officers looked on with amazement.

David got back to his Carriage Master role and got the white coffin back onto the lorry. As he was tightening the ratchet straps he felt a tug on his arm. It was the disabled lady who said, ‘I want to shake your hand and thank you for taking charge of the situation today. Did you get the number of the female Police Constable?’
David had the honour of undertaking the funeral of the last surviving Lorry Driver from W.A & A.G. Spiers Ltd from Melksham and David was told that he would have to load the coffin and flowers from the Deceased’s house. David had previously been involved in the funeral of a fellow Spiers Driver some five years before, who had lived in the house next door. During the previous funeral David became aware of the horrendous congestion around the Primary School directly across the road and a Coach Driver who normally deposited his vehicle near the school.
When David took the instruction for the last Spiers Driver he was concerned about where he could park the lorry until the coffin and flowers were delivered. Being close to where David lives he decided to assess the traffic situation on the same day of the week and at the same time as the funeral would take place. David found that the Coach was no longer allowed to park in the street and that the Deceased’s house had a double concrete drive that would be ideal to park the Leyland Beaver side by side with a hearse to enable the coffin to be transferred onto the vintage lorry.

Having established that no one was in the Deceased’s house, David, using the tape measure, which he always carries in his pocket, drew a diagram of how the operation would work with the salient dimensions documented in the sketch. David emailed the diagram to the Family and requested that certain pieces of equipment be moved and that cones should be positioned on the street to allow clear access into the driveway. Some of the Family members were initially concerned that David had entered the Deceased’s garden, however, the Deceased youngest son told them, ‘Don’t be daft, David is exactly the type of guy we need, getting into the detail, making sure everything will go to plan.’

When David emailed the plan to the Funeral Director, David suggested that he had performed a role that the Funeral Director should have undertaken. The Funeral Director said, ‘Dave, we have known you for years, this is the fifth job you have done for us, we trust you. You know the best way to undertake a job and we always leave the detailed planning to you.’

When a Lorry Driver passed away his company asked David to use the Leyland Beaver to carry the coffin and flowers and the company would provide two Tractor Units to carry the mourners. David had worked for the Downend Funeral Director a number of times and he devised a plan how he could accommodate two Tractor Units and his Leyland Beaver in front of the Funeral Director. However, in order to achieve the plan David would need to prevent any other vehicle from parking at the end of the street. So David arrived early at 0630 hours and instead of parking in his normal space alongside the Funeral Director’s building, he positioned the vintage lorry across 5 of the 6 parking bays at the end of the street, placing a traffic cone in the 6th bay. Towards 0730 hours a young lady drove into the 6th bay and started to remove the traffic cone. David leapt out the cab and told the young lady that she couldn’t park in the 6th bay as she would block the lorry from leaving. The young lady said, ‘I have parked in this spot everyday for the past 5 years,’ and David replied, ‘That may be the case but you ain’t going to park here today!’ David went on to explain the scene that he was attempting to create around 1300 hours and as this was involved with a funeral she reluctantly agreed to park further up the street.

At 1215 hours, bang on time, two Tractor Units rolled into the street and parked in the positions that David had reserved and then the photo shoot commenced. The Owner of the haulage company thanked David for everything he had done saying, ‘You are doing the wrong job Buddie, you should be behind a desk, planning and thinking, not behind a wheel, wishing and hoping.’

Friday, 10 November 2017

A Funeral in Sidcup

In October 2016 a family from Sidcup left a message on the Vintage Lorry Funerals website about a funeral on November 7th. David exchanged emails with the Daughter of the Deceased and one of his standard questions is ‘Who will be the Funeral Director?’ David told the Daughter that he would have to check that there would be no problem in the Family paying him direct, as not all Funeral Directors are happy with this type of arrangement in which they loose any mark up they would seek to invoke.
David phoned F. A. Albin & Sons Sidcup Manager, Mickey Thorpe, to introduce himself and initially the conversation didn’t go well when Mickey asked, ‘Are you the Piper?’ David explained that he was the man with the lorry and he needed to know if F. A. Albin & Sons would be happy with the Family paying David directly. Mickey explained the company would have no problem working with Vintage Lorry Funerals or with the Family paying David directly.
The main Floral Tributes were ‘POPS’ from the Deceased’s children and a ‘Pillow’ from the Deceased’s Partner. David proposed a minimalistic layout with ‘POPS’ on the headboard and the ‘Pillow’ appearing to float near the head of the coffin. In order to achieve this David asked Jane, of Sweet P Florists in Sidcup, to take a series of measurements of the ‘Pillow’ oasis base. David then found a piece of wood from his stockpile that was the same shape as the ‘Pillow’.

The accommodation for the lorry and David were quickly sourced as David chose to use the Kwik Fit location in St. Mary’s Cray to park his lorry in overnight, the third time he had used this facility in the past 12 months. The staff know David and welcome his vintage lorry every time it trundles into their yard. Men are always available to guide David as he reverses the Leyland Beaver into the MOT Bay and then David hands over two boxes of biscuits, one for the men and one for the Manager and his family. One hundred yards down the road is a low cost hotel which offers cost effective rooms but with no meal facilities. The Marie Rose offers a clean en suit room and evening meals are within 80 yards at Nandos and breakfast is available at Costa Coffee from 0730 hours or a local cafĂ© from 0800 hours. David is happy to use St Mary’s Cray as his operating centre for South East London and Kent.
When David pulled up at F. A. Albin & Sons Mickey Thorpe came out to explain where David should park his lorry and one of their staff helped David to turn the lorry in a tight area, watching that he didn’t get too close to any cars or bollards. Mickey noticed that one of the Leyland Beaver’s rear tyres had scuffed a kerb and he made tyre dressing available as it was important that F. A. Albin & Son standards should be maintained.
David told Mickey that he had built up Vintage Lorry Funerals from scratch in 2002 and has developed an awareness campaign that normally generates four funeral enquiries per month on average, nationwide.
David is also the only Carriage Master who builds three dimensional displays from Floral Tributes. Whereas other Carriage Masters, (Horse Drawn, Land Rover, VW Caravanette) always load the coffin first and then try to fit the flowers around the coffin, David loads the flowers first, sometimes taking 90 minutes to check each Floral Tribute is correctly aligned.
When the flowers arrived at the F. A. Albin & Sons Funeral Home in Sidcup David noticed that the three ribbons on the ‘Pillow’ were loose and fluttering in the breeze. David thought to himself, ‘This may be OK in a hearse but they will fly away off my lorry.’ So working like MacGyver in the 1980’s TV Show, David took two elastic bands out of his equipment box and in no time the job was done. The result may not have looked pretty but it was very practical.
When the cortege left the Family home two F. A. Albin & Sons employees walked alongside the lorry, positioning themselves adjacent to the rear axle which provided an amazing display of respect. This was the first time that this had ever been done in over 300 funerals. It provided David with an added complication now having to focus on the extra width required between cars in the street as well as the distant between the Conductor, who was paging the cortege. 

The 1950 Leyland Beaver was paged in Eltham Crematorium by Pipe Major Chic Mackie, from the Black Watch – London Pipes and Drums, and whilst the service was taking place Chic spent time admiring the vintage lorry and asked David for some of his Business Cards.
Leaving Eltham Crematorium at 1500 hours David took his normal route using the back roads around Croydon and despite catching the end of the school day and the beginning of the rush hour David was at Tolworth on the A3 by 1645 hours. The trick was the correct road selection and tactics to ensure that the 67 year old lorry kept rolling and was never stuck behind a bus. David took a statutory 45 minute break at Sutton Scotney Services on the A34 which he arrived at by 1900 hours. He then refuelled at Ludgershall just before the garage closed at 2100 hours and the Leyland Beaver pulled into Bradford-on-Avon just before 2230 hours. Unfortunately a dog was loose on the street and threatened to bite David’s wife as she was guiding the vintage lorry up the driveway. David always reckons you must be prepared for anything on the road.
At 1615 hours earlier that day David was sitting at the lights on the A232 which crosses the Tram Line in the Sandiacre region of Croydon. Two things disturbed David, one was the speed of the Trams that he saw coming towards him in his nearside mirror and the second being that a bus turned right at the lights and drove onto the Tram Tracks. David had a bad feeling about the safety as motorists unfamiliar with the crossing could have followed the bus and ended up on the Tram Line. The following morning David was horrified when he put on his TV and learned about the horrific Tram Disaster in Sandiacre.