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.