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.