Tuesday, 31 December 2019

A Butterfly Floral Tribute Fluttering in Walsall

When David Hall was awarded a funeral with Roy Quinton in Walsall he was given the name of the Florist and told that a Coffin Spray would be ordered. David phoned the Florist primarily to introduce himself, as he guessed that the Family wouldn’t be placing an order until the following week but he was wrong. The phone call to the Florist generated some unexpected information because in addition to the Coffin Spray there was a 3 ft by 2 ft ‘Butterfly’ Floral tribute.
In designing the layout it was paramount that the ‘Butterfly’ was displayed prominently in front of the coffin. David had carried a ‘Butterfly’ previously in Snodland on September 17th 2015 when it was part of multiple Floral Tribute display and it was secured to a board that was fixed to the Headboard. The support structure that supported the ‘Butterfly’ in Snodland was a triangular shaped board that David has used many times before, but on this occasion it was flanked by two 5 inch by 2 inch angled ends. Although the support structure held the ‘Butterfly’ without any problem, David was concerned about how much of the wooden structure that could be seen. David always attempts to exceed expectations and he has the drive to look for continual improvements.

For Floral Tributes that regularly feature, like a 17 inch ‘Heart’, David has boards with a shape that closely follows the contours of the oasis base, enabling the Floral Tribute to appear to be floating in midair, seemingly unsupported. However, for Floral Tributes that don’t appear on a regular basis David can’t afford to cut a board to the shape of each and every Floral Tribute and he makes the support structure from a number of pieces of wood from his large collection.
Whilst David was evaluating how to improve his strategy for carrying a ‘Butterfly’ he received a phone call from Maureen Burks of the Florist, Marguerites of Leamore, who informed him that the ‘Butterfly’ would be presented on a stand which would allow the Floral Tribute to be seen in all its splendour at the crematorium. David, however, was more concerned about how to secure the ‘Butterfly’ and its stand. He told Maureen that he had previously carried Floral Tributes on a metal stand and he mentally made plans how to accomplish this, sending an email to her with pictures of ‘Boxing Gloves’ previously carried on a metal stand in Horfield at the funeral of a 14 year old Traveller Boy.

Maureen rang David to say that he was wrong in assuming a metal stand as the ‘Butterfly’ would be on an oasis stand bought from the wholesaler. David apologised to Maureen saying that he was normally on the same wavelength as a Florist, but on this occasion he wasn’t. David then said to Maureen a phase used by the late Jerry Orbach, when he appeared as Lieutenant Lennie Briscoe in Law & Order, ‘When I hear the sound of hooves I think horses not zebras.’

Maureen sent David pictures of the stand and provided key measurements which demonstrated that the stand would hold the ‘Butterfly’ at an angle of 27 degrees. This angle was fine if the onlooker was looking down at the Floral Tribute on the ground, however, for it to be seen prominently on the deck of the lorry the angle would have to be increased to almost 60 degrees. David achieved this by using triangular supports that had been used many times before to display Floral Tributes such as ‘Hearts’, ‘Teddy Bears’ and ‘Anchors’ and also being a fundamental component of the ‘windscreen’ in the ‘1950 Cab Front’ Themes that David can create for a number of vehicle makes.
As the funeral was in the early morning, David arranged for the Leyland Beaver to be stored overnight with Haywards Transport of Walsall, Vintage Lorry Funerals support partner in the Midlands. David went up the Fosse Way and used a new technique to get cars past the Leyland Beaver. Where there were limited suitable lay-byes, David used Bus Stops, the entrances to Industrial Estates or Stately Homes or low pavements outside a line of terraced houses, which enabled the vintage lorry to pull over and let those trapped behind him escape. Although David looses some time with this new strategy, he feels that it is much safer because when he has invited drivers to overtake in the past, impatient individuals further down the queue pull out early and nearly collide with someone higher up the queue that is also starting to overtake. Also during inclement weather David drives with his cab window shut and uses two flashes of his left indicator to signify that the road ahead is clear, however, some car drivers don’t understand and brake thinking that the lorry will be turning left. David also feels that there is a risk associated with inviting people to overtake because the power of the car and the experience of the driver are unknown. Car drivers are more tuned into David’s thinking in the early morning when most drivers are very experienced and drive as part of their employment.
David stopped at Lincoln Farm Truck Stop for his lunch and Debbie Hilton made him a Chicken Tikka meal which he has enjoyed many times before. She always makes it up from fresh ingredients and modifies the strength of the sauce to David’s liking and the meal is closer to a Buttered Chicken meal. Debbie is interested in the Leyland Beaver and often pops out to see the lorry whilst David is having his meal. She is also interested to know where David is going and what route he intends to take.
The following morning when David stopped at Roy Quinton Funeral Directors he saw the ‘Butterfly’ Floral Tribute for the first time. Although it looked exquisite, David realised that the stand only supported the central part of the ‘Butterfly’ and the wings moved as David lifted it off the ground. David was worried about how the ‘Butterfly’ would travel in transit so he re-positioned the ropes that he had used to secure the stand on its pedestal on the way from Bradford-on-Avon to Walsall.

When David stopped outside the house he was most concerned as the ‘Butterfly’ wings were moving caused by the vibration from the Leyland 600 Engine on tick over, however, he need not have worried. The Deceased’s Daughter ran out of the house, pointed to the ‘Butterfly’ saying, ‘Look, he has even made it flutter like a real Butterfly!’       
The ‘Butterfly’ Floral Tribute travelled well to Streetly Crematorium and not one flower head had come out of its place during the journey. Scott Quinton thanked David for all that he had done and the team always treat David as if he was one of them. It was the third time David had worked with this team, twice in Walsall and once in Wolverhampton.
David went home via the Fosse Way and refuelled at Tesco Tetbury where he used a 10 pence discount voucher and almost drew the maximum allowance of 100 litres. When David got home he jotted down some ideas, under the Lessons Learnt banner, and these included concepts how to support the wings of a ‘Butterfly’ if it was presented on an oasis stand.
Articles about the funeral appeared in four magazines, each one dealing with a different aspect of the Deceased’s interesting life, and these have provided a lasting treasured memory for his grandchildren.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Leyland Beaver in Bewdley

One night as David Hall was clearing the table after an evening meal with his wife, the telephone rang and the caller was enquiring about the availability of the 1950 Leyland Beaver.
David took down the details, however, he thought that he had misheard the date of the funeral which appeared to be in 7 days. The Son-in-Law of the Deceased explained that the reason for the after hours phone call was because a slot had emerged at the local crematorium and if the family weren’t able to take it then a two week delay would have occurred.
David explained that a Self Employed man doesn’t have an ‘after hours’ period in the day and families can phone him anytime. To David it was like going back to 2002 when he first started to use the Leyland Beaver in funerals, a 7 day lead time was the norm. In David’s opinion the current day 14 or 21 days notice for a funeral is due to a number of factors. There is more demand on slots at a crematorium as more people want to be cremated these days, some crematoria are offering longer time slots and some families, who don’t want to be rushed, book a double slot. However, sometimes funerals are delayed because Funeral Directors from big companies can attempt to ration the number of funerals to a set number each day in order to generate a smoother workload for their staff, and to reduce hiring extra casual workers.
With only four working days before the funeral David decided to hit the ground running and phoned the Funeral Director first thing the following morning. David knew the Funeral Director who was based by the River Severn in Bewdley, which was formerly a port, being the consolidation point for Midland goods for onward shipment to Bristol. This trade sadly came to an end with the building of the Staffordshire & Worcester Canal at Stourport-on-Severn in 1771.
There was only a limited number of parking possibilities around the Funeral Directors and it was evident that David would have to befriend the Traffic Warden.
The staff members at Cook’s the Florist in Stourport-on-Severn were very attentive and most helpful. Unfortunately their website was being upgraded so it was not possible to send or receive emails. David felt it was like being back in the old days when the only way to contact some Florists was by telephone and it was of cardinal importance that the Florist was on the same wavelength as David. The first information David received about the flowers was that three ‘Names’ would feature, which also allowed David to commence building the display in front of the coffin. However, a special Floral Tribute, a ‘Dog’s Bone’ would be cut out from a 2 feet x 1 foot Designer Board the day before the funeral.
The day before the funeral presented a number of potential problems that needed to be overcome. Given the onset of good weather during the summer local Councils had decided to close a number of smaller A-Roads for resurfacing during the night. The day before David is due to depart, his wife always researches the roads David intends to travel on the following day and her internet research highlighted a number of concerns. It took her two hours on the telephone to establish which roads would be affected.
In the early afternoon Sally from Cook’s the Florist rang just before she was due to be cutting out the oasis base for the ‘Dog’s Bone’. David had previously given her dimensions of some lengths of 4 inch by 2 inch timber which could form part of the support structure and Sally made the Floral Tribute to fit one of these lengths of timber. Sally could envisage how David would be securing the ‘Dog’s Bone’ and made the flowers extend beyond the base so that David’s support structure couldn’t be seen. David said to Sally, ‘You are definitely on my wavelength’ and recalled the Van Morrison song from the album of the same name, Van’s 10th studio album that was released in 1978.
Even though it was late in the afternoon and David should have been relaxing before a 15 hours day, he was still thinking about how to personalise the funeral. David contacted a neighbour who had some leads for his Red Setter Dogs and he was happy to provide a red one and a green one. As his neighbour had been a Submariner in the 1970’s David placed the red leash on the left of the Dog’s Bone Support Structure and the green one of the right.  
At around 1830 hours when David was making his sandwich for the following day and preparing for a 0400 hours start he received a phone call from the Funeral Director. This was the first time that this had ever happened, however, it wasn’t just a check that everything was fine for tomorrow, it was to flag up a potential problem regarding the route to the crematorium. When approaching Wyre Forest Crematorium from the south, the only way into the site involves a U-Turn at Traffic Lights on the Dual Carriageway. The Funeral Director was concerned about the turning circle of the Leyland Beaver and said that when he had used older hearses, without power steering, some drivers had to make 3 or 4 shunts to get round. David said that the Leyland Beaver had an amazing lock, however, in order to appease the Funeral Director David agreed to investigate the U-Turn on the Dual Carriageway before arriving at the Funeral Directors.
David left Bradford-on-Avon at 0500 hours and was almost at Tewkesbury before 0700 hours, he laid off to let the rush hour traffic disperse before attempting the U-Turn on the Dual Carriageway. Luckily no one was turning right at the lights, coming in the opposite direction, so David had enough space to turn the Leyland Beaver through 180 degrees.
Arriving at the Funeral Directors at around 1000 hours, the first priority was to find space in front of the Funeral Directors without straying onto the Double Yellow Lines which dominate this cobbled area next to the River. This open space which was once a dockside is now enjoyed by local people and tourists who look at the metal plaques on the ground which document the cargos that were once consolidated, including wood, chairs and charcoal.
David sat in his lorry writing the first part of this blog when he saw a Traffic Warden in his wing mirror. David got out of the cab, spoke with the Traffic Warden and explained why he was parked where he was. She was very interested in the Leyland Beaver and asked if she could have a Vintage Lorry Funerals Business Card.
A man pushing a bike stopped to have a chat. He was obviously a very pro Brexit person and he asked David’s opinion on Brexit. David said, ‘Having less regulation would be helpful, however, I can’t understand that some people can believe that leaving the Common Market will automatically make Great Britain great again. The last time Britain was great was in the 1950’s when my Leyland Beaver was a Mobile X-Ray Unit. In those days we made products that were exported throughout the world.’ The man with the bike, agreed with David, shook his hand and then travelled north.
A gentleman walked up to David and said, ‘Your deck is made from Keruing Harwood,’ explaining that he had previously worked in the Motor Trade making wooden doors for vehicles. He talked about David’s role in personalising funerals and commented about the Dog Leashes that were fixed around the ‘Dog’s Bone’ Floral Tribute. He admired David’s enthusiasm to exceed a family’s expectations and said that he had once had the same work ethic until he was diagnosed with cancer. He asked for a Vintage Lorry Funerals card and said that he had a lot to think about, however, the concept of lying close to Keruing Hardwood did appeal to him.
A couple of retired people out walking stopped for a chat and picked up from David’s accent that he was originally from the North East of England. The Lady said, ‘The North East is wonderful place with huge stretches of unpopulated beaches with golden sands.’ David said, ‘Excuse me, the North East that you are referring to is Northumberland, you are talking about Bamburgh not Blackhall or Easington where the beaches in my day were black, with waste from the colliery being tipped directly into the sea. The North East isn’t such a wonderful place if you live in Sixth Street in Horden and all you can see out of the front window is the back of Seventh Street and all you can see out of the kitchen window is the front of Fifth Street. The North East has some lovely people often living in a not so lovely location.’

The family arrived to see the flowers before David loaded them and they thanked David for all that he had done. They even helped to load their Dad onto the lorry which was the first time this had happened since a funeral in Henllan in West Wales.

The Leyland Beaver made the U-Turn on the Dual Carriageway without a problem and the Funeral Director was amazed that no shunt was required. David told him that some of this achievement was down to the outstanding lock of the Leyland Beaver. However, part of it was because he had tried it earlier in the day and knew where to position the lorry before starting the turn and how quickly the lock had to be applied. David has learnt from Roy Keane, former Footballer, who said, ‘If you fail to prepare then prepare to fail.’

Friday, 1 November 2019

A Professor’s Final Journey in Bassett

   When David Hall is asked to describe the people likely to be interested in his services he says that people from all walks of life have shown interest in the 1950 Leyland Beaver and the spectrum ranges from Professors through to Scaffolders, although he has had more of the latter and little of the former. However, all was to change when the family of an English Professor saw a picture of the Vintage Lorry at a Funeral Director in Bassett.
When David is asked to quote for a funeral his wife undertakes detailed research to establish where David can park the lorry before a funeral and a price is never given until David is satisfied that the right arrangements are in place for him to undertake the job in a professional highly dignified way. The Funeral Director was in a parade of shops, near a busy road junction with double yellow lines in front of it. The rear entrance was on an unmade up road that was used by other shops, making it impossible to park the lorry for the time it may take to wash it, load the flowers and then load the coffin.
David’s wife found a church with a small yard some 200 yards from the Funeral Directors and David contacted the Reverend Sarah who spoke with the Church Elders. They confirmed that the church was prepared to help and David took on the funeral.
David found out that there were only limited flowers, in fact a Sheath of Lilies was the only Floral Tribute and David was concerned how these flowers would stand up to the hot weather, being exposed to 28 degrees for around 45 minutes. The Florist was equally concerned, however, there was no way to contact the family as the order was sent via the internet. So David and the Florist agreed that she should create a coffin spray which would have the stems pushed into oasis which David could water once the Floral Tribute had been loaded
On the morning of the funeral David left Bradford-on-Avon at 0600 hours and was in the yard of the church by 0815 hours having taken the old A3057 road through Stockbridge and Romsey. The first thing David does when he arrives at a destination is to telephone his wife to tell her that he has landed safely as he puts it. However, on this occasion David encountered a problem with his phone as he couldn’t speak to his wife and had to resort to texting which wasn’t easy on an old simple phone. Fingers that were used to turning spanners were not ideal to pressing diminutive keys the number of times required to generate the correct letter. As David struggled manfully to create a text he thought how much technology hasn’t changed over the years when you think about Wireless Operators in U-Boats in WWII using the German Enigma machines in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean to transmit messages to Lorient.
Having managed to send the text to his wife, David then evaluated the impact of having no mobile phone, especially when the Funeral Director, David Eason, was due to call to arrange a time to load the coffin. David sat back in the seat and gazed over the giant steering wheel of the Leyland Beaver and thought back to the 1950s the era before mobile phones and in fact a limited number of phone boxes on main roads. At the time the only way to contact help was to use an AA Box to which AA members had a key and these proved invaluable to Drivers in the 1950’s. However, Lorry Drivers had another method of communication. The owner of a haulage fleet who needed to contact one of his drivers would contact a number of Transport Cafes on the route and ask the Café to put out a blackboard with a message for the driver. This thought encouraged David to write a note for David Eason and post it into the Funeral Directors which would open later that morning. David first went to get a paper and some refreshments. A local Café owner made David a toasted teacake with a mug of tea and allowed him to use their toilet. She offered David the opportunity to use her mobile phone if David needed to contact anyone, however, all the numbers he needed were back in the cab.
As David walked back from the Café he passed the Funeral Directors but his idea of posting a note to the Funeral Director was thwarted because there was no letter box. David was not deterred, he managed to squeeze a note and one of his business cards through a gap in the door.
As David walked towards the Leyland Beaver in the church yard his inability to communicate was the least of his concerns when he saw a lady in a hatchback unloading items and then taking them into the church hall. The lady told David that she had a playgroup that would start at 1000 hours and run until 1200 hours. David suddenly saw the horrendous situation that could unfold with a coffin being transferred from the hearse onto the vintage lorry around 1200 hours in the full view of parents with young children.
David explained his problem with the lady and it was obvious that there had been some communication glitch, however, there was nothing anyone could do about it.
The first issue that the Leyland Beaver caused was that parents were arriving from 0945 hours with no where for them to park in the yard. David just sat tight in the Leyland Beaver and read his paper, however, he was more concerned about the reaction from the parents around 1200 hours.
At 1015 hours, David Eason arrived in a hearse and explained to David that he wasn’t arriving to transfer the coffin, he was on another funeral and he just popped in to check that the Leyland Beaver had arrived safely. This gave David the opportunity to explain the difficulties that the scheduled transfer at 1200 hours would create and David Eason said that he could arrive with the coffin fifteen minutes earlier.
At 1145 hours a transit van arrived with the coffin which was swiftly transferred onto the lorry as parents were starting to arrive. David made all his necessary checks of the load, jumped into the cab and within seconds the Leyland Beaver was pulling out of the church yard. There were no pictures taken of the Vintage Lorry in the church as there was no time available and also it is now not appropriate to take any photographs that might include children.

The family home was less than 300 yards from the church and David Eason stopped the traffic on the busy A35 road to enable David to reverse into the street and next to the family home. The widow came out to meet David and to his surprise she handed over an A4 envelope that was labelled ‘Information for the Driver’. Normally information for David to write Obituary articles is often sparse and most difficult to come by and getting it on the day of the funeral with voluminous hand written notes and pictures was certainly a first.

It was at this point that David realised that he knew the Deceased whose hobby was restoring vehicles including a Morris Breakdown Lorry. This used to partake in the CTP Bournemouth to Bath Road Run and often ran just in front of the Leyland Beaver in the days when David took part. Recently the Deceased had concentrated on the restoration of vintage cars like a 1926 Bean 12 Tourer which he had used in the Daffodil Run and won a prize, a picture from this day was included within the display at the head of the coffin.

David Eason had undertaken detailed research of the best way from the house to the crematorium on the east side of Southampton avoiding low bridges, vehicle width restrictions and areas with known high traffic densities.
The Leyland Beaver pulled into Wessex Vale Crematorium some 15 minutes early and the huge crowd gathered for the funeral watched intently as the lorry was positioned beneath the porte-cochere. The coffin spray had travelled very well and the lilies looked fresh. The picture of the Deceased was quickly removed from its stand and was placed with the coffin during the service.
When David got home he had a cup of tea with his wife and found that his mobile phone was working again. He also told his wife about the events of the day and reminisced about the 1950’s and the AA Boxes. David pulled out his ring of keys which included an AA Box Key from the 1950’s. David remarked that something that was felt invaluable in the 1950’s had no use now apart from being the tool of choice to remove foreign material from the soles of his boots.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Unexpected help received for a Luton funeral

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 1 September 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

A Funeral in Barnton Part One (Preparation)

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

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

Monday, 1 July 2019

The funeral of a 17 year old in Bognor Regis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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