A Week In The Life Of.
One Foggy Morn.
The Coloured Hailstones.
When I 'Nearly' Met Winnie.
The 'Lynch Mob'.
George's 'Night' of Passion.
Page 4 -
More Recollections and Anecdotes from my UK lorry Driving
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Being blessed with a fairly good memory, and helped by my diaries, I have so many good (and a few bad) experiences to look back at from my life which I can share with others through these pages.
I recall one week’s worth of UK lorry-driving work very well, and thought it would make a good example of some problems that can crop up, and how things can change fairly dramatically during the space of one day and a few hundred miles - even for UK lorry drivers!
It was the UK late-winter/early-spring of 1966 and I was driving for the Reading branch of the British Road Service (BRS). The lorry (we never used the word ‘rig’ when talking about a lorry (truck) in those days) that I used for part of the trip was a ‘low-loader’, consisting of a, at the time, fairly new Leyland Super Comet (‘Vista-vue’ with the Power-Plus engine) tractor unit, coupled to a ‘swan-neck’ (low-loader) trailer. My first load of the week consisted of three forklifts.
When I look back more than thirty years later, it’s interesting to see how even the humble ‘low-loader’ trailer has changed for the better. Modern low-loader (low-bed) trailers have small-diameter wheels so that the deck is flat for its whole length, with fitted (mostly hydraulic) ramps at the rear of the trailer that can be lowered for driving wheeled machinery on and off the deck, or a pair of ramps carried that can be fixed to the trailer for unloading wheeled machinery off either side. But back at the time of this story such innovations (as far as the BRS was concerned anyway) were a luxury that was still in the ‘pipeline’! The low-loader I used for that trip (made by ‘Tasker’s’ if I recall right) had four wheels (four-in line) at the rear of the trailer that stuck up above the level of the deck, making it impossible to drive anything off the rear of the trailer unless they were removed. And that’s exactly how the unloading of wheeled machinery was done - by removing the rear wheels!
The four wheels across the rear of the trailer were actually two separate axles of two wheels each, and each axle could be completely removed after using heavy hydraulic jacks to support the rear of the trailer. With the wheels removed, the trailer was lowered by releasing the pressure on the jacks and the machinery driven on or off the rear. Then the trailer had to be jacked up again so that the wheels could be replaced. The removal and replacement of those wheels was heavy work for the drivers and wasted a lot of loading or unloading time, but thankfully the modern low-bed trailer has done away with all that. The three forklifts could have easily been loaded up side ramps and left on the deck ready to unload in the same manner, but, as already mentioned, such simple loading/unloading methods hadn’t been employed by the BRS at the time. The three forklifts written about in the first part of this story all faced towards the front of the trailer and there were no side ramps carried, so they’d obviously been loaded from the rear in the normal (for that trailer - by removing the wheels) way.
Anyway, back to the story.
It was a sunny but cold Monday morning as I arrived at the depot and was instructed, by our transport manager (a huge & happy man who answered to the nick-name of ‘Tiny’ - I thought the world of him), to deliver the three forklifts down to a factory in South Wales. As was usual when driving as a tramper, I had my bag, filled with clean clothes, for both warm and cold weather, and shaving gear, with me (just in case - we never knew if we’d be on locals or long-distance, nor what weather we’d experience - especially at that time of the year). The forklifts were already on the trailer so, after checking the lorry over and ensuring the forklifts were chained securely, I filled out my log sheets and set off.
The Severn Bridge over to South Wales hadn’t been completed and opened to traffic at that time (it was actually opened in September of that same year). I went the ‘old’ way up through Gloucester then back down into South Wales on the Welsh bank of the River Severn. Finally, somewhere in amongst the mountains of South Wales (actual destination now forgotten), I wound down a steep narrow road into a deep valley and found the factory where the forklifts were to be delivered. Although it was towards the end of winter and the weather had been sunny that day, I recall that there were still many patches of snow scattered about the heights.
But a mistake had been made in the paperwork and the forklifts should have been delivered to another factory about twenty miles back along the way I’d just come. Over the years I’d had many loads redirected to another nearby destination - it was all a part of the job - so I wasn’t really worried as I slowly wound back up out of the valley and eventually found the other factory. Then, after I’d removed the wheels of the trailer and two of the forklifts had been taken off, I was informed that the third forklift had to be delivered to another factory - the very factory down in the deep valley that I’d already been to earlier!! Nevertheless, the customer is always right and so, biting my lip and showing a false smile, I replaced the wheels, then went back down to the original factory and delivered the third forklift after going all through the removal-of-the-wheels process again. It was late afternoon by that time and, after phoning the nearest BRS depot and being instructed to report to the Swansea depot the next morning, I set off to spend the night in that city.
On the Tuesday morning I reported to the BRS depot and was instructed to pick up a ‘track-drill’ from a factory in nearby Port Talbot. At the time I didn’t have a clue what a track-drill was, but when I reached the factory I discovered that it was a mobile drill on crawler tracks. They are used in the mining industry for drilling holes in rock faces, the holes being packed with explosives so that the rock can be blasted. After going all through the removal and replacement of the trailer wheels again, I had the track drill loaded and set off on the next leg of my journey. My destination this time was an ‘open-cut’ mine (quarry) just near a small town named Pateley Bridge up in Yorkshire.
I can’t recall if any part of the M4 motorway was open on the Welsh side of the Severn Bridge at that time (before the bridge itself had been actually opened to traffic), but I made my way up to Ross-On-Wye, where the M50 motorway began that would take me to the start of the M5 motorway in those days. With the holdups of towns and villages gone, the Leyland fairly swooped along the M50, then up the M5 and on up the M6. I had expected to spend that night at Preston (an easy place to get into a transport boarding house on any night), but, upon reaching the A59 turnoff from the M6 beside Preston, that would take me on towards Pateley Bridge, I’d still had some legal driving hours left and had decided to press on.
As I’d gradually progressed up the country that day, I’d noticed increasing areas of snow lying over the heights. By the time I’d plodded up the A59 through Clitheroe and Skipton, the fields on either side of the road were covered in snow, and the weather had began to deteriorate with thick grey clouds soon skudding across the moors. By the time I’d turned north at Fewston and finally reached Pateley Bridge, new wind-blown snow was falling thickly, things were looking very bleak and I was very grateful for the efficient cab heater accorded to the ‘Super Comet’.
As I recall, it was still only about 4.00pm in the afternoon when I arrived at Pateley Bridge, although the thick black clouds and driving snow had made it feel later than that. I thought I’d have time to get the track drill unloaded, inquire at the same time where I could get board in that town for the night, and at least be ready for a decent start back down to Harrogate (the nearest town heading south with a BRS depot) and civilization the next morning. With that in mind, I pulled up beside some folk who were struggling against the driving snow in the street and asked for directions to the quarry. Hurriedly they gave me the directions, then vanished off into the swirling white and grey of the freezing snowstorm. Those folk had obviously lived in the town for a while, for they’d given me the directions immediately. But, either due to the weather being so bad that their only main desire was to get home (I couldn’t blame them for that) or the thought hadn’t occurred to them, they’d neglected to mention one important thing. Nevertheless, unaware of what I was heading off into, I was grateful for the directions and began to follow them.
I can’t recall the exact directions now, but I seem to remember that I turned right in the town shortly after I’d asked for directions and found myself in a narrow metalled lane, barely wider than my lorry, with high hedges on both sides. It didn’t look as if any vehicles had been down that lane for days, not only was the snow thick on the banks and hedges either side, but it was also thick over the surface of the lane. I’d thought the snowstorm, that I was heading through, could have obliterated the tracks of any vehicles which had earlier passed that way to the quarry and so I’d crept on.
Then, through the murk and gloom of the snowstorm, I glimpsed a roadsign which told me to expect a 1 in 6 down-sloping hill up ahead. Still thinking that the new snow was covering the tracks of vehicles which had passed along the lane earlier in the day, and not having anywhere to turn around in the tight narrow lane anyway, I slowly slithered down the sharp hill, which suddenly cut down through high banks on either side and, unfortunately, had a bend to the left half way down. But, immediately upon reaching the bottom of the short hill there was a sharp up-sloping hill where the tyres finally lost traction in the icy snow-covered lane and the lorry skidded to a halt.
The lorry was stuck near the bottom of a steep-sided dip, almost, to myself at the time, like being in a large hole. The snowstorm was raging all around the countryside up above, but the lorry was relatively sheltered from the driving wind down in that ‘hole’. Even so, the snow was still falling thickly and building up over, and around, the vehicle, and I knew that I somehow needed to get to the quarry for help, or turn around and get back to the town.
I wasn’t too worried about being stuck out in a bad snowstorm. I’d already gained some basic experience of how to survive in such circumstances through my ‘sport’ of mountaineering. According to the directions I’d been given, the quarry wasn’t all that far along the ‘road’ and, as I’d taken the trouble to pack clothes for all weathers, I decided to put on my warm and water-proof clothing then walk on along the lane a short way in the hope that I could find the quarry and get help. With that in mind I set off, leaving the cab-door unlocked and a note on the dashboard, so that any persons would know where I was, just in case somebody tried to come along the lane behind my vehicle.
I hadn’t planned to go far from the lorry. The weather didn’t permit a full-scale hike and, with the gloom of the, by then, approaching evening, I hadn’t wanted to lose my direction back to the lorry. But, just after walking over the top of the short hill (as I remember it), I’d looked down through the stormy bleakness of the fading light over to my left and had just made out the dark depths of the quarry. Soon I was standing at the gated entrance, only to discover that the place was closed and, even if I could have reached that spot in my lorry, the snowed-up area outside the gate wasn’t large enough for the vehicle to turn around so that I could get back to the town. There was nothing more for it but to return to the lorry and try to reverse all the way back to the main street in Pateley Bridge.
As I slithered back down the short but steep hill, the stranded lorry looked very uninviting and forlorn in the cold grey/blackness of the approaching snowy night. The whole front and top of the cab, along with the track drill and deck of the trailer, was already covered in a thick mantle of snow, and the bright-red paint of the cab-side was just a cold black shadow in amongst the darkening grey of the surrounding snow. With fast-numbing hands I’d quickly brushed the worst of the snow from the windows and mirrors, hopped up into the cab and started the engine, then switched the lights on. With the reassuring sound of the engine throbbing beside me again, and the lights showing the bleak lane as something more like a Christmas card scene (why do snowy scenes on Christmas cards always seem so warm?), I felt a bit happier. But that happiness was about to be shattered!
The rear window of the cab had quickly become covered in snow again as I’d slowly reversed back down into the dip, and I’d soon been forced to open the side window and stick my head out into the freezing snowflake-filled evening air as I’d looked back with squinting eyes to ensure that my trailer stayed on the road. But, as I slowly reversed up the opposite hill and aimed the trailer around the bend, the driving-wheels started to spin and the lorry began to jack-knife into the nearside bank. Letting the lorry run forward back down the hill and partly up the other side of the dip, I stopped and tried to slowly reverse down into the dip and up the hill again, but still with the same result.
Five or six times more I tried to reverse back up out of that dip, with the engine ticking over and the lorry moving at a crawl, and each time the driving-wheels spun on the snowy surface at the same place causing the lorry to slowly jack-knife into the bank. I’d had to lean far out of the open cab window in my efforts to watch the red reflection of the rear trailer-lights on the snow, as the bend was on the blind side for reversing a right-hand driven vehicle, and the whole top half of my clothes and my head were soon covered in thick snow. Finally, after realising that I was well and truly trapped and not going anywhere, and also beginning to worry about a low fuel situation, I decided to walk back to Pateley Bridge for help.
Wrapping myself back up again, I left a new note on the dashboard and set off through the bleak snowy evening towards Pateley Bridge. As I recall, from the rear of my vehicle it was only about forty or fifty feet to get on around the bend and up to the top of the hill, then easy reversing back into the town. I remember feeling very frustrated that I’d been unable to reverse the lorry up that last short distance.
Barely was I at the top of the dip and able to see through gaps in the roadside hedge when I spied a yellow light shining out of the grey/black murk from across a snow-covered field on the left. The light looked quite near, homely and beckoning, so I squeezed through the hedge and began to cross the snow-covered field towards it. But the seeming nearness of the light was an illusion through that heavy snowstorm and had been a lot further across the field than I’d first thought. Even so, I'd plodded on and the light had gradually turned out to be the full lighted window of a house. The snowdrifts across that field were very deep and, not only was I covered in snow that was falling but I’d quickly become soaked up to the waist in freezing snow as I’d floundered towards the lighted window. Finally I'd reached the house, found the door and knocked.
I can still remember the surprised look on the man’s face when he opened the door and saw me standing outside in the gloom. He told me later that I’d looked almost like a live snowman. Nevertheless, as I apologised for disturbing him and briefly began to explain my problem, his surprise had quickly turned to concern and he ushered me into his hallway, telling me to take off my wet boots and coat, and calling to somebody for blankets. As I was taking off my boots a lady appeared. Without even bothering to ask what was going on, she’d quickly grabbed a bannister-brush and brushed the snow off my clothes onto her hallway floor. Then she’d placed a couple of blankets around my shoulders before the man led me into their living-room where a nice fire was burning in a range. Soon, with my clothes giving off clouds of steam and a huge mug of strong tea in my hands, I was able to tell of my problem in more detail. When I’d finished, the folk told me that the quarry had been closed down for a while, but it was expected to start operations again that spring.
I had to get in touch with the Harrogate depot of BRS to let them know what had happened to me and was a bit worried as I didn’t know what time the office closed. I hadn’t expected there to be a phone at the house, but fortunately, when I mentioned to the man that I had to get to a phone he told me that they had one I could use. Grateful to those folk and feeling lucky that I didn’t have to go looking for a phone-box, I was soon talking to the transport manager at Harrogate.
Amazingly, it was another destination error. The transport manager knew that the track drill was on its way up from South Wales, but had expected it to be delivered to the Harrogate depot for storage until the quarry re-opened. I explained that there was only the one destination address on the delivery docket, and he suggested that a clerical error had been made by the Swansea depot. I didn’t know, nor care, who had made an error. My immediate concern was for myself and the stranded lorry. Finally it was arranged that I’d find somewhere to stay in Pateley Bridge for the night, and a team would be sent up the next morning to dig the lorry out.
I told the folk (unfortunately, I cannot remember their names now) what had been arranged, and asked if they knew of a boarding house or cheap hotel in the town where I could spend the night. But that kind couple were already calling me their ‘Man from the Moors’ (much to my amusement) and wouldn’t hear of me going off into the night again. My protests that I’d caused them enough trouble were brushed aside as they firmly decided that I’d stay with them for the night. Soon I was sitting by the hot range, wearing a pair of the man’s pajamas, his dressing gown and a pair of slippers while my clothes were drying, and tucking into a huge meal that the lady had prepared. I recall feeling a bit guilty and apologizing when I saw the lady on her hands and knees mopping up the water from the melted snow I’d brought into the hallway, but she told me not to worry as it was a daily chore in the snowy weather. After a pleasant evening of chatting, I was eventually let upstairs to nice clean room where I settled down in a soft warm bed and went to sleep.
It was still dark the next morning when the man brought up all my clothes which his good lady had dried, ironed and folded. I felt that was better than hotel service and was very grateful for her kind efforts. Not only that, but when I got downstairs I discovered that she had cooked a huge breakfast the size of which would have normally lasted me a week. By the time I’d waded through that breakfast, and two hot mugs of tea, I could barely stand from the amount I’d eaten and drunk. The man asked if he could go back to the lorry with me and I agreed. I slipped a one pound note (more than the average for a night away in those days) into the lady’s hand for all her kindness and the phone call, thanked her profusely for looking after me so well, and she gave me a nice cuddly squeeze. As the man and I stepped outside, I saw that the snowstorm had gone, there was a thick mantle of snow over the countryside, and the tip of an orange sun could just be seen on the horizon promising a beautiful day.
The man seemed determined to the end to see me safely out of trouble and on my way. He led me around to a large shed which housed a tractor (I still don’t know if I’d spent the night at a farm house or something similar), where he chose a mattock and a long-handled shovel. Then, with myself shouldering the mattock and the man carrying the shovel, we set off across the snow-covered field in the direction of where I’d abandoned my lorry on the previous night, turning around every so often to wave to the good lady who was watching our progress from the house.
The lorry had been hidden from our sight down in the dip as the two of us had waded through the snowdrifts across that field, then squeezed through the gap in the hedge and began to slide down the steep hill. But when we first saw it, stuck half-way up the hill and covered in snow, I remember feeling very sad to see such a (to me at that time) beautiful and powerful lorry, that had swooped the two hundred-odd miles up to Pateley Bridge so easily the day before, trapped down in the dip and snowed under. Things are a lot different in the light of a new day, and I recall feeling very guilty at being partly responsible for the lorry’s plight by not being able to successfully reverse the vehicle back up that hill in the snowstorm. I wanted to see the lorry ‘alive & vibrant’ again!
With every determination, the man and I set to work and cleared the snow off the windows and mirrors. A few thin snowdrifts had blown under the vehicle to cover the tracks from the night before, but, when I drove it down the dip out of the way we were able to still see where the driving-wheels had spun across the lane, and that’s where we began to clear the ice and snow from the lane’s surface. I used the mattock to ‘peck’ at the surface snow and ice to break it up, and the man shovelled the broken lumps up into the hedges on either side. In that manner the man and I cleared the snow and ice from the lane-way within about a half an hour. Although the weather had still been fairly cold that morning, the rising sun had seemed to make a real effort at warming things up a bit, and I remember being very satisfied each time I’d looked back at our work and had seen the two ever-lengthening and wide black tracks of wet tarmac in the snow- and ice-covered lane as we’d progressed up the hill. Finally, the pair of us having chipped and dug until the cleared tracks were well back up on relatively level ground, I felt confident enough to get the lorry out of that ‘hole’.
Everything had been so different from the night before. As would be expected, it was much easier to see where I was trying to reverse to in the full daylight, and when there was no driving snow blowing into my face as I leaned out of the cab window and looked back. The positiveness of our work had encouraged me, and the bright sunny start to the morning had also helped. There was one small skid on the icy surface just as the driving-wheels reached the tracks we’d dug out, then the tyres had suddenly gripped the wet surface jerkily before the vehicle had slowly wound back up around the bend and out of the dip. I can remember that the man had squeezed back up the snowy bank and through the hedge into the field so as to be out of the narrow lane while I attempted the manoeuvre, then, as I’d reversed the lorry up the hill and on to level ground, he’d followed alongside, jumping up and down behind the snow-covered hedge and yelling and cheering at our triumph.
Before reversing right back to the main street in Pateley Bridge (which was the nearest place I’d be able to turn around and drive forward again) I’d stopped to thank the man for his generous help and kindness, and to wave happily to the lady who, I could then see from my cab, was still standing outside the house in the distance across the field. But the man wanted to make sure that I got out to the main street in the town safely, and had decided to follow me down the lane just in case I got stuck again. And so, with the man walking in front of the cab behind me as I slowly reversed back along the lane, I eventually got back to the street where the man stood out to hold up the traffic while I backed out then drove forward to the side of the road in the direction of Harrogate.
As I remember it, the main street had only been a short distance from where the lorry had been stranded all night, probably not much further than the distance I’d walked across the field. But I’d been well looked after by those folk and had no complaints at all in the circumstances. Finally, with much handshaking, well-wishing, profuse thanks and promises that we would meet again, I left the man, still waving farewell through my nearside mirror, beside the street and headed down the slush-covered road towards Harrogate.
All the time that the man and I were digging the lorry out and reversing back to Pateley Bridge there had been no sign of the promised ‘rescue’ team that was to be sent out. As I’d driven back to Harrogate I’d kept my eye open just in case, but no other vehicles passed until I reached the outskirts of that city when I couldn’t have stopped any oncoming vehicle even if I’d thought it contained my ‘rescuers’. Fortunately they hadn’t set out by the time I reached the depot, thinking that I wouldn’t have been too keen for an early start. My delivery docket was scrutinized, which proved I’d been given the wrong address, and apologies were made - Not that apologies were really needed as I’d been safe with the folk from the house and had thought of the whole thing as a bit of an adventure!
With the low-loader trailer dropped off in an obscure corner of the depot, and the Leyland checked over and refuelled, I was instructed to hook up to a conventional twin-axle flat-bed trailer, already loaded with boxes of goods on pallets, for Sheffield. The M1 motorway didn’t stretch up that far in those days, but going to Sheffield from Harrogate was only a hop-skip down the A1(M) around Leeds and Barnsley to just west of Doncaster, then on the A630 through Rotherham. As I checked that the load, ropes, and sheets were secure enough to my liking, I’d grinned to myself at the thought that at least I was heading back down south towards home. I recall even calculating that, if I got rid of the load that afternoon and was lucky enough to pick up a straight-through load for down south at the Sheffield depot, I might even be back home in Reading with my family for the weekend instead of still being up the country.
The weather had stayed brightly sunny, and the evidence of snow all around had become less and less as I’d progressed further south. It was late afternoon by the time I’d got the Sheffield load off and made my way into the local BRS depot. The transport manager there arranged my board for the night (that was normal if we requested it) and promised to have a load for me to take down south in the morning.
The next day I got a load on down south alright, but only to Birmingham. After checking and refueling the Leyland, I hooked onto another twin-axle trailer. This time I had long lengths of steel rods (like reinforcing-rods) tied into bundles and just covering the deck. I ensured the load was secure to my satisfaction as usual, then set off on the next leg of my journey.
In those days there was no M1 motorway scooting down past Sheffield that we could get on for a smooth ride down to Kegworth before making our way across to the M42 via the A453 and into Birmingham. The M1, if I recall right, ended somewhere just to the west of Mansfield around that time. It was the norm, when travelling between Sheffield and Birmingham, to go down the A61 through Chesterfield to Derby, then on down the A38 through Burton Upon Trent, Litchfield and Sutton Coldfield, and so to Birmingham.
Again the weather had been brightly sunny, and all evidence of snow had completely gone from the surrounding countryside. The Leyland purred happily down through the cities, towns and villages, and I eventually reached Birmingham. But, for some reason not remembered now, I couldn’t unload the rods until the next morning. And so it was the turn of the Birmingham depot’s transport manager to arrange my board for a night out.
It was another memorable morning weather-wise that Friday - this time fog! I left the boarding house to discover that a thick fog had clamped down over the city, almost looking like a London ‘pea-souper’. It was handy to be parked up at a depot local to the delivery point in such weather, as the transport manager could always be asked for precise directions before setting off, which was a lot easier than groping around in the mist while having to stop and ask people or policemen the way.
I have a sharp picture ingrained in my mind of waiting to unload those rods at a factory yard, with high storage buildings all around which were just showing through as dark-grey against the surrounding greyness of the fog, and the sun trying to pierce through that fog above one of the buildings like a fiery golden ball. By the time the rods had been lifted (by crane) off my trailer, the fog had almost dispersed.
Back at the Birmingham depot, I was instructed to trans-ship parts of loads from another trailer and a couple of small rigid lorries on to my trailer, then top up with some goods from the storage shed. So, although I had a mixed load (we called mixed loads ‘shopping runs’), it was all going roughly in the required direction for delivery - in this case, the London Docks. Many loads collected from companies for delivery were mixed, and sometimes it was better to sort mixed loads out back at the depot (even storing goods for a day or two) rather than have a dozen lorries covering the same ground. With the load covered and roped down, I collected the paperwork from the transport office then set off.
Naturally, I’d already given up on getting a straight run through to home. My new plan was to get down to one of the London BRS depots that evening, park up and go home for the weekend, then get back up to London on the Monday morning to deliver the load. But, while driving down the M1 motorway, I’d worked out my remaining legal driving hours and realised that I wouldn’t even have time to reach London. After a bit more working out (it all helped to pass the miles anyway), I decided that I’d just have time to reach the Watford depot. It would be harder to get home and back, but at least I wouldn’t go over my legal hours.
Eventually I arrived at the Watford depot, only to be told by the transport manager to leave the lorry parked up and to report to the Reading depot on the Monday morning for new instructions.
That’s how it happened with companies such as the BRS. Just when you were getting used to a vehicle (and a lot of us developed an affection for the lorries that were a part of our daily work - especially if they gave us no problems) it would be whisked out of your life and you might not ever see it again. Although I drove thousands of miles around the UK after that Friday, I never knowingly spotted that Leyland again to this day.
After catching a train down into London, an Underground train across to Paddington station, then a Great Western Region train out to Reading, I finally reached home late that night. On the Monday morning, I was given another lorry at the Reading depot, reimbursed with night-away, phone-calls, and travel monies, then once more set off up country.
Sadly, when I look back (and it’s too late now), I never did go back to visit those good folk at the house to thank them again for helping me that snowy night at Pately Bridge, although I went to surrounding towns on many occasions, and even spent weekends of climbing & caving up around the area. But, while I have a memory, their kind efforts on my behalf are not forgotten.
The UK winter of 1962-63 was one of the worst I can remember. It was a horror as far as I, and many others, were concerned. All my trips were up to London during that winter. At the time, being based in Reading and with only a short section of the M4 motorway having been constructed around Maidenhead, we'd use the A4 up to Maidenhead Thicket (junction 9b), then the M4 (partly A423(M) now) around Maidenhead to Burnham at the beginning of the Slough Trading Estate (junction 7a), then the A4 on up to London.
I was driving an old, snub-nosed, ‘O type' Bedford with a Luton-type body. The Luton was an extension of the box body that continued over the top of the driver’s cab. If I recall rightly, the Luton was so named because the hat makers in the town of Luton had thought up the idea so that they could carry more hats in their vehicles when delivering to shops.
The Bedford was fairly old, coach-built, and painted a dark-green colour. It had no heating system, and the headlight reflectors were green with age, matching the livery of the vehicle, and giving me about three candle-power each to see with during the dark hours.
The early morning starts in that bitterly cold weather were a small trial on their own. I used to wear two pairs of thick woollen socks, two pairs of trousers, a vest, a thick shirt, two woollen jumpers, a jacket, an army greatcoat, a pair of gloves, and an old cap, and I’d still be half-frozen in that unheated cab. On most mornings I’d arrive at the lorry to find it covered in snow and thick frost. After scraping the ice off the windscreen, side windows, mirrors, and headlights, I’d usually have to heat up the key with lighted matches so that the hot key would de-frost the door lock.
Fortunately, I never had any starting problems with the engine and, while the engine warmed up a bit, I’d write out my log-sheet for the start of the day, shivering like mad and barely able to hold the pen in my numb and frozen fingers. Then I’d pull out of the park, wheels crunching over the frozen snow and ice on the ground, and head towards London.
Before I’d gone ten miles, my hands and feet would be painfully numb despite gloves and extra socks. Outside in the cold pre-dawn darkness the snow-covered trees, hedgerows, and fields looked so bleak that I seemed to become colder just by looking at them. The only bit of warmth seemed to come from the glow of those two headlights whose rays only reached out a couple of yards in front of the lorry. I kept the wheels on the road by following the two black lines that were the wheel-ruts, in the snow- & ice-covered road, from previous vehicles that had passed that way during the night.
It was somewhere about this time that the second section of the M4 motorway was opened to traffic. This new section by-passed Slough and all its traffic lights, and ended at what we called the Colnebrook Roundabout, (now M4 junction 5). The overhead Brentford Flyover was still being built at that time and we had to negotiate the confusion of roadworks on the A4 below the flyover with great care.
One freezing, foggy morning I headed up to London a bit later than usual. The fog was so thick that I was forced to crawl as I stood up off the seat and tried to see the kerb in the dim glare of my headlights through the thick blanket of fog. The roads were still covered in a layer of frozen snow and ice and the lorry juddered and bounced over the frozen ruts and drifts. It was hard to know whether I was on the road, up on the verge, or bouncing along the roadside ditch. Eventually I reached the M4 motorway and crept along it, peering hard through the frozen windscreen at the tiny dull patch of fog that was lit up by my useless headlights. Occasionally I’d spy a white roadside post through the murk and know that I was still on the motorway.
By the time I’d reached the new part of the motorway, I had the added nuisance of a row of headlights glaring through my rear-view mirror from a queue of cars that had come up from behind. Those drivers were obviously using my tail lights as a guide to keep them on the road rather than have to drive blind. That wasn’t really so bad, but the leading car driver, who had insisted on driving well out in the road as if he was looking for a clear patch so that he could overtake, had his headlights on full beam and, every time that I jolted over a rut or drift on the ice-covered surface, those lights flashed into my eyes as I swayed around in the cab.
Almost frozen stiff in my standing position, with my eyes seeming to be sticking out like organ stops as I tried to pierce the grey/dim yellow blanket just in front of the little bonnet, and my nose numbed by the condensation of my breath that had frozen onto the scarf that covered my lower face, I crept along the motorway with the queue of traffic following. None of those other drivers seemed to want to get out in front and have a go at leading.
Suddenly, through the gloom I saw the dim blue glow of a road sign and knew that I was somewhere near the ramp that would take me down to the Colnebrook Roundabout and off the motorway. There were signs and orange cones over on the right to guide us off so that we wouldn’t drive on to the part of the motorway that was still being constructed, but I couldn’t see them although they were only one lane over to my right.
But, the further I went down that ramp, the thicker the fog became. It was just as if we were going down into a thick bowl of dirty grey water. The lights of the following cars were just a faint glow through my mirror although the cars were still just behind me. I threw my side window open and peered out, looking first just in front at the almost non-existent beam of my headlights, then down to the ice-encrusted road, then back towards the front again. Every few seconds I straightened up to look across to the left to ensure that I wasn’t driving into any signs or off the road. Time seemed to stand still as I tried to work out just where I was. The lorry was lurching all over the place as I crept onwards, straining my eyes out into the freezing black morning.
Then doubts crept into my mind and I began to worry. According to my 'feelings', I should have been at the roundabout. The way had flattened out and I felt that I was off the ramp, but I hadn’t seen any light from the street lamps around the roundabout yet. Cautiously I crept on with my eyes trying to pierce that very thick blanket of fog. The cars behind followed closely although I could hardly see the lights of the first one anymore due to the very thick fog.
All at once I felt something holding the lorry back then it surge forward again, at the same time I heard a sharp crack. Something was very wrong, I had felt uneasy for a few minutes and now I was sure that I wasn’t on the road anymore. I decided to stop and have a look around.
No sooner had I stopped when the driver in the leading car behind started tooting his horn. Feeling rather annoyed with myself for getting lost, I began to get angry with that chap and I was about to go back and tell him just what he could do with his horn when I noticed a thick clump of course grass sticking up out of the snow just in front of the lorry. Immediately I knew that I wasn’t on the road anymore. Somehow I had missed the roundabout and all its lights in the thick ‘pea souper’ and I thought that I was probably just inside of the field that was in the north east corner of the roundabout and motorway. I decided to turn around and head back a bit, hoping that no vehicles would come racing past the traffic that had been stopped behind me.
The driver that had been sounding his horn (and flashing his lights by that time) settled down as I skidded on the snowy surface and jolted into motion. Through my discovery I had forgotten about my annoyance with that driver, now I just wanted to get back onto the road. I did a complete U-turn and jolted back down the row of traffic, just keeping far enough away in case somebody was overtaking. The fog had thinned out a bit and I was very satisfied to see that leading driver sinking to his axles as he spun his wheels to try and get going. Some of the cars from behind him were already creeping out of the line to turn around. He cursed me as I passed on by but I was too busy trying to see ahead. At least, I had thought, the fog is clearing a bit.
And it was. As if some Divine Providence had decided to lend me a hand, the thick fog suddenly cleared for about fifty yards and I could just make out the soft glow of the lights around the roundabout. The long queue of traffic stretched right back to those lights. Some cars were already bogged, while others were trying to turn in a confusion of black ruts and skidding wheels. I kept well clear and slowly crept by with the engine ticking over in first gear. By the time I’d turned under the motorway bridge (being constructed over the roundabout at that time) to continue my journey up the A4, the fog had come in again. But I was lucky to have the street lamps, even if they did cause a lot of extra glare, to help guide me.
I didn’t realise the full extent of my early morning
wander until, on the way home, I drove right around the
roundabout to try and find out where I’d gone wrong. I was
amazed to see a mess of churned-up dirt and ruts trailing out in
the snow across a large field. The ruts were scattered in all
directions, obviously caused by vehicles as they’d tried to
turn around after following me out there. I also had time to
notice that I’d driven through two barbed-wire fences. I
hadn’t even noticed the first one right beside the road.
The second one had split the large field in two, quite a way from
the road, and driving through it had caused me to stop although I
hadn’t seen what had caused the sudden slowing or the
noise, I had been too busy being annoyed with the impatient
driver and my efforts to turn around safely and not get stuck
I wondered how that impatient driver had got on, chances are that he has probably never relied on the judgement of lorry drivers since!
And while still on the subject of weather: An amazing sight occurred on 1st July 1968 (according to my diaries) which has held a place in my memory ever since.
On the previous day of this story I’d loaded my lorry with goods (contents now forgotten) to be delivered to a company named ‘Fram Filters’ at the Treforest Industrial Estate, near Pontypridd in South Wales. On the day in question I was up early as usual and, when I walked outside, I noticed that there were ‘coloured splotches’ all over my car. Upon looking around I could see that other cars in the street were covered in the same coloured splotches as well. Although I’d never seen anything like it before, I was able to clean the splotches from my windscreen quite easily and drive off down to work. Arriving at the yard, I discovered that the coloured splotches had also covered the whole of my lorry and the tarpaulins over the load. Again I was able to easily clean the windscreen and finally set off towards South Wales.
I eventually arrived at the factory where I parked up in an open area between two buildings and began to take off the ropes that had secured the load. The weather had been fairly stormy as I’d made my way to South Wales that morning, but, as I pulled the final rope from off the load the sky had suddenly turned very black and heavy hail started to fall. Feeling lucky that I hadn’t had time to remove the tarpaulins, I raced for the shelter of my cab where I could stay dry until the hailstorm had passed. It was while I sat in my cab watching the hailstorm that I saw a sight that I’d never seen before, nor have I since.
The first thing I noticed was that, instead of the hailstones being the usual colour of white, they were all different colours. Those hailstones were coming down in every colour of the rainbow - pink, blue, green, red, yellow, brown, lilac, - and each one had it’s own separate colour, not a mixture. The second thing I noticed was the size of the hailstones. Every size was there from marbles through to larger than tennis balls. My lorry was facing into the storm and I became alarmed lest the windscreen should be shattered by the larger hailstones. Quickly I started up the engine and turned the vehicle around, then I settled down to watch the unusual phenomenon.
It wasn’t long before the whole area around the factory was covered in the coloured hailstones. I could see the factory workers gathered up on the loading-bays watching the sight, and each one seemed to be staring in astonishment. The storm gradually died down, leaving a deep carpet of hailstones that took so long to melt that the forklift was unable to come out from the factory to take my load off for over an hour. I recall chatting to many of the older workers from that factory and each of them telling me that they had never seen anything like it before.
Back at home in Reading that evening, I learned from the TV news that coloured dust from Spain had been picked up by strong winds and lifted high into the atmosphere. The high winds had carried the dust across most of the southern UK where it had eventually settled over many counties. I can only assume that the hailstones had got their colours from this dust. But the fact that each hailstone was a true colour instead of a mixture of colours (rippled, blotched, or sectioned effect) had amazed myself and the other folks who had witnessed the sight.
Having mentioned, on page 2 of this section, about some of the 'famous ladies' known, or heard of, by many lorry drivers during the 1960's to mid-70's, there was another lady who deserves to be included - 'Winnie The Gobble' of Darlington, Yorks!
At the time of this story I was a southern shunter for a Darlington transport company. I delivered loads around the south that had been brought down from up north through the night, then loaded the lorries with goods ready for the night trunkers to take back up north. Stan and Frank were my particular night trunkers, and as one was coming down south the other was going up north, so I had one or other on alternate days. Usually I would have a cuppa with Stan or Frank at the change-over point (actually the Tower Café between Reading and Thatcham on the A4 Bath Road), and they'd both told me very lewd stories of their 'encounters' with Winnie.
Winnie mostly frequented the Haven Café at Scotch
Corner on the A1. Apparently she only charged five shillings (or
a lift either way between Darlington and Scotch Corner) for her
And during the night of Friday/Saturday, June 9/10 1972 (according to my diary), while my girlfriend, Lisa, and I were on our way up to a Scottish holiday, I was brought to tears of laughter when I 'nearly' met Winnie.
Lisa and I had planned to drive up through the night, so, on the Friday afternoon I'd handed the lorry over to Stan, then headed happily home to begin the holiday. But, while changing clothes before setting off, I'd discovered that I'd forgotten to hand in the day's delivery-dockets to Stan for taking back up north. Horrified at the thought of the company having to wait for me to post the dockets on before being paid for the delivery, and knowing that our route up to Scotland was the same as that travelled by the night trunkers, I decided to either catch the lorry up, or drive into Darlington and deliver the dockets myself the next morning.
I knew that Stan only stopped at the Trowell Service Area on the M1 motorway near Nottingham for his main break, and then the Haven Cafe for a short break before the final drive into Darlington. He'd had a head-start on me, but I was confident that, with only those two stopping-off places to check if I didn't pass him on the road, I could catch him up.
Eventually, after a very pleasant drive up through the
night, Lisa spied the lorry parked up as we drove into the Haven
Cafe car park. Stan was in the cafeteria and I handed over the
dockets. Then he asked me if I'd go and check something out on
the lorry with him, and so, after taking Lisa back to wait in the
car, he and I went over to the lorry.
But Stan hadn't wanted me to check out the lorry. He'd suddenly seen his chance to 'show' me the famous 'Winnie' at last, and he was determined not to miss out on the bit of fun!
Stan explained that I wasn't to make a sound when Winnie appeared. We both sat in the cab, and Stan flashed the headlights over in the direction of where Winnie usually hung out (apparently that was the accepted signal that Winnie recognised if she was needed). Then we crouched down low so that we couldn’t be seen by anybody standing outside.
All was quiet for a while, then, just as I was thinking that Stan was having me on, there came a tapping at the door on Stan’s side of the cab followed by a little shrill voice calling softly "Winnie’s here." Immediately I went into a fit of giggles which were very hard to stifle, and Stan began to whisper at me to shut up. Winnie knocked the door and softly called out again, and I went into more fits of giggles. Then she walked around the cab and suddenly knocked the door on my side, quietly calling out that she knew somebody was in the cab and that she was there. That sent me into real raptures of uncontrollable laughter, which I tried to stifle as Stan hissed at me even louder to shut up.
But Winnie didn’t give up easily, she must have spent at least ten minutes banging on the cab and calling out that she was there. Gradually the banging and her voice had become louder, and the louder the banging and her voice became, the more I couldn’t control my stifled laughter. The more I couldn’t control my laughter, the more Stan hissed at me to shut up. The more Stan hissed at me, the more Winnie must have heard, and the harder she tried to get us to open the door. It was a vicious circle!!
Then at last she swore loudly at the cab and began to walk away, hurling curses back as she did so. Stan and I peeped up over the dashboard, and there, under the glare of the lorry parking area lights, was the famous Winnie, turning around every couple of steps with shaking fist to hurl more curses at us - and she was sixty years old if she was a day!!
Stan had known how old Winnie was, and, seeing the surprised look on my tear-sodden face, it was his turn to go into raptures of laughter. It took a long time for the pair of us to settle down enough to get on with our journeys. Lisa was let into the reason why I'd left her sitting in the car for a while, and we both kept going into fits of giggles as we continued on our way. I remember her saying jokingly that, if Winnie was all I could get while up country then she wouldn't have much to worry about.
By the time I arrived back at work two weeks later, the tale of how ‘Jesse nearly met Winnie’ had done the rounds amongst the other lorry drivers, and was a main fun and leg-pulling topic at my expense for quite a long while.
An unbelievable incident occurred to me during 1969 that caused me to become acutely aware of how easily a group of folk can be turned into an angry & nasty mob by the controlling and sympathy-seeking lies of others.
It was the late summer of that year. I had been asked to do a rushed load up to a biscuit factory just near Glasgow, and to get back as soon as was possible for another rushed load. It would be a straight-through trip - up and back without stopping - which was taking a chance if the Ministry lads were out on my route.
If I recall right, the M6 motorway had only been completed up as far as just past Carlisle (actually Gretna Green) at the time, so I'd be on A-roads from Reading to Brownhills, the M6 up to Carlisle, then the A74 on up to Glasgow - exactly 24 hours of driving there and back (including an arranged quick off-load) as it turned out.
I reached Glasgow, delivered the load, and hurtled back down towards the south until, with a sigh, I got back onto the M6 (the open motorways gave a chance for a bit of easier driving).
But there must have been some huge caravan-owner's convention up north that year, for I gradually came up to, and was soon stuck in amongst, two lines of caravans heading south. There were hundreds of them stretched ahead as far as the eye could see and, not being allowed to pass in the third lane, I was trapped and forced to potter along among them (you can imagine how I swore and cursed, eh?)
Finally, cheesed-off that I was being held down to such a slow speed, and feeling that I might just as well stop for a 'cuppa' until this mob of caravanners had spread out a bit, I decided to stop at the Charnock Richards service area, just north of Wigan.
That was a bad mistake because the area was already full of caravans, I had to park on the service road just outside the main shop & cafe, and within seconds my truck was surrounded by caravanners who also had nowhere else to park.
It was at that moment that a gorgeous young lady purred up to my cab!
It wasn't so much as a 'purr'! It was more like a glide of long legs, topped by a short mini-skirt, in turn being topped by a revealing open-necked blouse. All of this could be easily seen due to the fact that her un-buttoned coat was blowing open in the breeze as she approached my lorry. But the crowning glory was her face - it was very beautiful and surrounded by long, flowing, dark hair. Any man would have almost killed for her attentions!
Having watched her approach, and thinking that she was making her way back to one of the caravans, I waited for her to pass by before opening my truck-door to get out and go to the cafe.
But she didn't pass on by. She stopped below my cab-window and, in the most seductive voice, suggested that I might like to take her home to Liverpool. Without any thought I told her that I was headed down south, not going over to Liverpool.
To me now, the girl had obviously been dropped of at the Charnock Richards service area after being brought down south from further up. She'd seen that there were no other trucks there (due to the squash of caravans - giving her little hope of any help from, what were so obviously, family outings). Then I turned up!
The young girl seemed very determined that she wouldn't be left stranded in amongst the madness of those motorway mobile-homes. With no more ado, she then offered her body to me, for as long as I wanted it, if I would only get her home to Liverpool.
Naturally, I still had to tell her that I couldn't help.
Regardless of the tantalising glimpses of her assets and her
beautiful face, there were a number of reasons why I refused her
First and foremost, I had a girlfriend with just as nice a body, who was just as beautiful as this young lady, and who looked after me extremely well.
Second, I never gave lifts to females (unless they were accompanied by a male).
Third, Liverpool was too far out of my way even if I'd wanted to help the girl (if I recall right, requiring an extra 35/40 miles (from M6 to Liverpool and back to the M6) plus the time to do this mileage) - I had to get back down in time for the other important load by the morning.
Fourth, I knew about 'The Circuit', where Prostitutes from all over the UK moved from town to town, quietly plying their wares, until a local pimp, or the Police, became annoying enough to cause a move to the next town. Many of these girls used hitch-hiking as a cheap form of transport, and many lorry drivers were willing to pick them up. As the young girl offered her body for a ride into Liverpool, I immediately suspected that she might be one of 'The Circuit' girls. I'd never been near such a girl and wasn't all that keen on doing so - I was too scared of what I might 'catch'!
The young girl was obviously determined that, by hook or by crook, I was going to give her a lift into Liverpool. She tried pleading but I still refused. Then, with the open coat shielding her, she lifted up the front of her skirt to show me her wares. I told her that it was all very nice but I still refused. Then she offered to jump up in the cab so that I could 'get the feel of things' and I still refused.
Finally, she became angry and began swearing at me for not helping her. The bad language that she spat at me through clenched teeth was more than I'd ever heard from a woman up to that time. I pleaded with her through the open window, but her angry shouting had become louder. A few of the caravan-owners were beginning to look across and I'd begun to feel a bit uncomfortable and embarrassed.
Suddenly, the young girl turned to the caravan-owners and began pleading with them to help her. I listened in astonishment as she told them, between pretend sobs, that I'd got her pregnant a couple of months ago and now I was about to abandon her with nowhere to go and no money.
Within seconds, the girl had been moved over to a nearby caravan where some women tried to comfort her. The hateful glares coming across in my direction were full of venom! I heard such comments as "Typical man!" and "What do you expect from one of those lorry drivers?"
As the girl 'cried' and told her 'story', the women became more and more angry. The crowd of people began to get larger until I couldn't see the girl any more, she was surrounded by angry faces, and most of them were looking my way. Then some of the men approached and shouted that I'd better do the right thing with my young lady - or else! I tried to explain that she wasn't 'my’ young lady and one of the women shouted out that "Of course she wasn't now, after I'd had my wicked way with her!"
As the crowd became larger and angrier, I began to be more than a little bit frightened. I'd never seen such a mad mob like it before! My window was wound up and the cab-doors locked. But that didn't make me feel any safer from the men who, being egged on by the women, had soon circled my cab and were waving fists and banging on the doors. It was all so hard to believe! In the hope that it would make the men stand away from my cab, I started up the lorry, but I was still hemmed in by vehicles at the front and rear so I couldn't go anywhere.
Then I noticed three or four determined-looking men approaching - and they were carrying heavy jack-handles. I always carried my jack-handle beside my seat (in case of hijackers?) and it was already on my lap. But I was only one and they were many. I was in real trouble, only a miracle could save me from a thrashing or worse now!
The miracle that I needed would only happen to the 'hero' in some B-grade movie. Along would come the police, or the CIA, or even the Ku Klux Klan, and the crowd would disperse in terror, leaving our 'hero' to fight another day against the most terrible odds.
My miracle wasn't so dramatic, but it was just as amazing and welcome!
As the men crowded around the front of my lorry, the weight of their bodies forced the car in front, which had obviously not had the hand-brake secured properly, to move forward and bump into the rear of the car in front of it.
I'm no hero and I wasn't going to let a miracle pass by and be wasted. I quickly slammed my lorry into gear and slowly pulled out of the space to the sound of banging and hammering all around my cab. Even though those people were after my blood, I still couldn't bring myself to roar out and maybe hurt somebody if I ran them over or something.
With just enough room to squeeze through and move onto the slip-road back towards the motorway, I heaved a huge sigh of relief. There were still a few men running alongside and, as I straightened up with the way becoming clearer, I watched through the rear-view mirrors at them hammering the side of my trailer as it passed them by. Then I was safely back on the M6.
Who knows? Maybe that 'so-badly-treated-by-a-rotten-lorry-driver' young lady was given a lift into Liverpool by one of those sympathetic, misguided, caravan-owners, and the end justified the means.
I was just glad to be out of it - and feeling very thankful to still be in one piece!
It is situated beside the highway at Kwinana, just to the south of Fremantle.
Original photo taken by my best friend, Peter Sharpen - check out his excellent W T Stead & Titanic site!
Some of the girls had more subtle ways of plying their trade or getting what they wanted. This was well illustrated to me one night at Manchester when a girl again got one over on a lorry driver.
George was a lorry driver for one of the Reading furniture manufacturers. He was fairly old, with a wrinkled face, a mainly bald head with a bit of grey hair around the sides, and only one tooth in his mouth that hung down like a creamy/brown fang.
On the first occasion I met George ‘up-country’, I was amazed at the amount of money he carried around with him - later I’d learn that he ‘fiddled’ extra furniture into the back of his lorry while loading, then sold it half-price to shops in his delivery areas!
But George didn’t keep his ill-gotten gains all to himself, he was a very kind chap and lavished the money out on his friends. I couldn’t believe it when, during our first evening ‘on the town’ together, he bought me a packet of cigarettes, treated me to a huge T-bone steak meal, then paid for all my glasses of Coke in a pub for the rest of the evening, and no repayment was asked for.
On that occasion, I’d pulled into a lorry park for the night (location now forgotten) beside a large furniture lorry. The driver was still in his cab and, recognizing that I was from his own home town of Reading, by the company’s name & address on my cab door, waved across to me. Soon we were chatting like old friends, had arranged to ‘hit the town’ together, and for me to sleep in the back of the furniture lorry rather than my cab.
While on the subject of sleeping in the back of a lorry with a stranger without a second thought in those days: Homosexuality was still relatively well hidden and hardly talked (nor worried) about at that time. To us ‘straight’ men, homosexual men were termed as ‘Queers’, and the word ‘Gay’ meant ‘happy’! It wouldn’t have crossed our minds that we may have been sharing the back of a lorry with a homosexual man, and any such person wouldn’t have wanted his preferences broadcast - there was too much stigma attached to the act back then! I slept in the back of many lorries, with many men (sometimes five or six on some nights), and never once had the feeling that something ‘wasn’t quite right’ about any of my companions. So when George offered to let me sleep in the relative comfort of his furniture lorry (and on a soft settee at that!), I was quite happy to accept without any worries or suspicious thoughts.
After that first evening out together, George and I often arranged to meet up somewhere for an evening if we knew that our journeys would bring us within meeting distance.
At the time of this story, George was delivering around Liverpool, then going across to Manchester where he’d deliver the remains of his load before heading back down south to Reading. I had a load to deliver at Wigan, then a return load to pick up at Trafford Park, near Manchester, to take back down to London. I rang George’s home on the Sunday evening before I left, and we arranged to meet at a lorry park in Manchester. After a long drive up to Wigan, and my load delivered, I eventually reached the lorry park and George arrived a while later.
As had become our habit by that time, the first thing we did was to set up two of the settees in the back of George’s lorry ready for sleeping on when we returned from our evening’s ‘fun’. (This was mainly because George would sometimes go a bit overboard with the drink, stagger back and crash down anywhere in the back of the lorry, leaving me to try and sort out a settee to drag him on to, before trying to sort out my own settee - and usually doing this in the dark!) Then we had a wash & shave in the public toilets, changed into good clothes, and set off to ‘do’ Manchester.
With an evening meal eaten and a few hours spent in one of the pubs, we finally found ourselves outside a nightclub (named the ‘Bossa Nova’) in the Manchester city area of Piccadilly. Through the evening we’d met up with three or four other lorry drivers, and the whole group of us decided to see if we’d be allowed into the club.
Most club-owners/managers in the cities around the UK, knowing that us lorry drivers were away from home, would let us in without a joining fee, providing we paid the entrance fee and spent a bit at the bar - all we had to do was to say that we were lorry drivers! On the other hand, once inside the club, it was better not to mention anything about being a lorry driver as the local chaps didn’t always take too kindly to ‘foreigners’ (especially lorry drivers!!) dancing with ‘their’ girls.
As we stood outside of the club that night, a black chap came over and asked if he could accompany us into the club as our guest. We explained that we were not members, only lorry drivers who were hoping that the owner would let us in as was usual with other clubs. Probably seeing that as an excellent way of getting into the club himself, the chap asked if we’d say that he was also a lorry driver and we agreed to make him ‘one of us boys’ for the night. He sounded so keen to get into the place that we were beginning to wonder what kind of club it was!!
We passed through a door, climbed up a flight of dingy stairs, and came to another black man standing beside a counter at the top of the stairs - But this second black man was huge!! George was leading, I was next, our black ‘lorry driver’ friend was behind me, and the other drivers were still lined back down the steps. George reached the counter, and I just had time to tread on the top step, when the huge black man at the counter let out a bellow of rage and his face twisted in fury. He seemed to be aiming his anger in my direction and I just had time to see the huge man push George to one side like a limp rag doll before I threw up my arms in a desperate move to protect myself somehow.
But the big man’s anger wasn’t directed at me. With one hand, the huge man reached past me and lifted the other black chap off his feet and up on to the top step. Then, almost in the same movement, he spun the chap around to face back down the stairs, grabbed him by the collar and backside of his pants, and threw him head-first down the stairs. Due to the other lorry drivers crushing themselves against the wall so as not to be hit by the plunging body, the unfortunate chap didn’t touch a step until he was almost at the bottom of the flight!!
For a moment, all of us had stood there horrified as the poor chap picked himself up with a groan and limped out into the street through the door below us, then George shakily asked the huge man why he’d done such a thing. The big man answered that the chap was known, had already caused trouble there, and wasn’t allowed in to the club under any circumstances. We let it go at that, had no trouble getting in to the club ourselves, and settled down to enjoy the rest of the evening.
While George sat at our table supping away at his beers as usual, the rest of us had a few harmless dances with the girls. Then I began to notice that one of the girls seemed attracted to me, due to the fact that she kept coming over and asking for a dance, rather than waiting until I asked her. I had my own girlfriend and didn’t want to get involved like that, and, for a while we played a cat-&-mouse game as I saw her coming my way at the beginning of each dance and I grabbed another partner before she could reach me.
Then I became aware that George was actually up and dancing, though with an older woman, which was unusual for him. In between dances, he told me that the older lady was the mother of the girl who seemed to be keen on having every dance with me. With that bit of information, I felt safer with the young girl. Surely a mother would keep an eye on her daughter’s welfare - They were both obviously only out for a bit of harmless dancing! I allowed the young girl to finally ‘catch’ me and we danced on in to the night!
The jiving and twisting music gave out to the slower stuff as the night wore on, eventually those couples that were left on the floor were only smooching around. The other lorry drivers had already gone, and there was only myself and George left from our original group. I’d already told the young girl that I was happy with my own girlfriend, but she brought the subject up again at this time. She explained to me that her and her mother had a ten pounds gas bill to pay, and didn’t know where they were going to get the money. She went on to say that, if I’d forget my girlfriend for a couple of hours, she could make me very happy if I’d give her the money for the gas bill.
That was the end for me. I’d suddenly seen what was going on, and I’d wanted out! The evening had only been the usual bit of harmless fun, I told my girlfriend about everything I did and where I went while I was away. She trusted me and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to face her if I ever did do anything wrong. It was time to get out! With no more ado, I stopped dancing, pulled George to one side and suggested that it was time we went back to the lorry park.
But George had been doing his own bit of bargaining with the older woman, and it had been arranged that, if I wasn’t interested in helping out with the ‘gas bill’, then George would have second chance with the young girl, provided he pay the ten pounds - and the taxi fare back to their home (which, I recall from what George told me later, was at Cheetham Hill and quite a way up in to the northern suburbs of Manchester).
I thought he was mad and told him so. Ten pounds was almost a third of a week’s wages for me in those days, not to mention the cost of the taxi up to their home, and for himself to get back to the lorry park. But, as usual, George had plenty of spare cash on him, and he offered to pay the girl double if I wanted to go with them. I refused and George was still happy to go on his own. With a warning for him to be careful, I set off back to the lorry park.
I reached my lorry at exactly 6:00am as I recall. By that time it wasn’t worth getting too settled as I’d be starting work in another hour, so I just sat in my driving seat for a bit of a rest. At exactly 7:00am, just as I was filling out the start to my day’s log sheet, George was dropped off at his lorry beside mine. I couldn’t believe that he’d spent so little time with the girl for all that money. But it turned out to be a bit worse than that!
George and the two women had reached the women’s home, and George arranged with the taxi driver to be back within half an hour. The young girl had gone straight into the kitchen, apparently to make some breakfast for them all, and the older woman had asked George for the money in advance. George knew the time was getting on - and so did, I suspect, the woman - nevertheless, he paid up, but the young girl carried on cooking in the kitchen as if he had all day. Suddenly the taxi had returned and the driver was tooting it’s horn. George was back in the taxi and heading for the lorry park before he’d realised that the women had still kept the money.
I was horrified at the fact that he didn’t seem to care about losing all that money. But, as he would tell me much later, George wasn’t all that worried - He’d had two extra 3-piece suites in the back of his lorry which he’d sold for three hundred pounds that very day! (At the time, I hadn’t really believed that he was a criminal, I’d just thought he was on good wages and only bragging about the extra furniture. Now, looking back as a wiser person , I can quite happily believe it!)
Back at home, my girlfriend laughed heartily when I told her the story, and kept chuckling for ages at the thought of poor old George standing in the women’s home waiting for his ‘breakfast’! She also joked that she was glad I didn’t have anything to do with the women ‘up country’ - as we couldn’t afford it!!
But on one occasion another friend had a near miss with a different kind of woman which had me in the usual fits of laughter after the event!
This was one of those two-load trips up to Liverpool, the other lorry being driven by a chap who I shall call Jim. We travelled up together, got ourselves settled in Arden House for the night, then headed off towards the city lights.
Jim was one of those chaps who didn’t appreciate a good woman and, although he had a beautiful wife down home who devoted her everything to him, he made every effort to ‘get a bit of spare’ while he was away from home.
Even during working hours he had to be spotlessly groomed. Each day he’d shave (some of us didn’t always bother) and put on a fresh clean pair of white overalls (no doubt washed by his loving wife), and he was forever combing his hair. “After all” he’d explain “You never know that there might be the chance to ‘chat up’ a girl at some delivery point and meet her in the evening!” I never knew of any instances when such a thing happened, but Jim seemed convinced that his efforts would pay off one day.
Meanwhile, the pair of us had reached the city and it wasn’t long before Jim was leering longingly at the young ladies who passed by. When I say ‘leering longingly’, I mean just that. As he gazed at the mini-skirted women all around, his eyes seemed to stick from his head, and his tongue hung out from the corner of his mouth in the most lecherous of leers. Finally I managed to get him off the streets and into the Rainbow Club where Jim was soon sipping his wine while I swilled at a glass of Coke.
Barely were we settled, with Jim sitting opposite me, when he became very excited and began leering again. He whispered across the table that a beautiful blonde woman, who was sitting somewhere behind me, was giving him the ‘glad’ eye. I wasn’t game to turn around and view the woman, but Jim raised his glass to her and she had apparently raised her glass in return. There was no holding him back after that ‘salute’!
As was usual in such circumstances, with myself not being interested in going out with other women while away from home unless we were just dancing, I was quite happy to make my own way back to Arden House. What the other drivers did while they were away from home was no business of mine, and we’d already arranged to split up if Jim found a ‘suitable’ woman. Eventually he left me and went over to sit with the blonde woman, and I got a chance to glance around at her as he left. To me she was just another ‘painted lady’, not overly good looking, with very thick make-up, blonde hair, and a clinging red dress. I recall thinking that Jim might have to ‘pay’ for his evening of pleasure!
I still had half a glass of Coke to finish and, being in no real hurry to get back and settle down for the night, I idly sipped at the drink and listened to the chatter going on around me. Then, about a quarter of an hour later, Jim came over with another glass of Coke for me before he took off out the door with the woman. But it wasn’t long before he was back!!
I’d sat there drinking the second glass of Coke and beginning to get a bit cheesed-off. To me, it was a boring place to be in on your own. Then suddenly Jim came rushing back through the door and urgently hissed at me to “Hurry up and get out of this place!” For a moment I couldn’t move due to being amazed at the state he was in. He was red-faced and panting, his hair was all over the place, his tie was undone, and so was the front of his shirt. I’d never seen him looking so untidy! But then the panic in his voice had soon made me realise that something had gone wrong somewhere and it was time to get moving. After making a hurried exit from the club, we took off up the street towards the direction of Scotland Road with myself hardly able to keep up with Jim, and still wondering why the urgency.
With a fair distance put between us and the club, Jim thought it was safe enough to have a rest and we stopped in the darkness of a shop doorway to regain our breath. Finally he was able to explain, and it was just as well he hadn’t told me what was wrong before we took off, or I wouldn’t have been able to run through laughing so much!
Jim explained that, after leaving me to go with the blonde woman, he was pleased to discover that she lived in a flat just along the road. Apparently she had been very eager and, after only a few kisses she had quickly begun to undress. Jim confessed to me that even he had been surprised at how much the woman ‘wanted’ him and he’d fortunately been a bit slower than her to undress. But that was nothing to the shocked surprise he’d got next.
As the woman pushed up against him with just her panties on while she began to help him off with his shirt, he’d been unable to wait and had slipped his hand into those panties. It was then that he had discovered that the woman was really a man!
Jim had become enraged at the way he’d been ‘taken in’ by the man who was dressed and acted like a woman, not to mention (I suspect) his disappointment. Without a thought for the consequences, he’d begun to give the chap a ‘jolly good thumping’. But then the chap had shouted out for help and Jim had been forced to quickly flee the scene. Not wanting me to be around if the police (or the chap’s mates) were called in over the incident, he’d decided to get me away from the area as well if possible. And that’s how he came to be urging me to get out of the club quickly.
Having recovered my breath while I listened to Jim’s explanation, I was soon gasping for breath once again as I went into helpless fits of uncontrollable laughter at the thought of it all. I recall that he had become very angry with me for laughing, but I couldn’t stop myself. In the end he took off back to Arden House on his own, while I was forced to dawdle back, stopping every few minutes while I bent over with aching sides and tear-filled eyes through my laughter.
The next morning, fortunately, Jim had recovered enough to at least speak to me. We went on our merry way with me still going into fits of laughter as I looked back at his lorry through my rear-view mirror, and thought of him sitting in his cab and fuming over what had happened that previous evening.
Naturally that incident joined the ranks of stories to tell while chatting to other lorry drivers. But it may have done a bit of good in the end as I never knew Jim to go after a ‘bit of spare’ while away from home after that night. I feel he’d got his just desserts!
Page 4 - More Recollections & Anecdotes from My UK Lorry Driving Days.
I have memories of all the above recollections because I went for the type of work that suited my 'wanderlust & rebelistic' nature instead of giving in to doing any type of hum-drum work that would cause me to get very frustrated & bored.
Don’t waste your precious life on following the paths to drugs, crime, boredom, frustration, and useless exploits. Be determined, get out, meet good people, and channel your energy towards worthwhile & more interesting causes so that you can have some real-life adventures of your own to remember and write about - even if they are only simple adventures like mine!
Bygone Browsings......Fascinating stories by an ex-UK lorry
driver now living in Canada.
UK Truck Drivers..................A good site for UK truck drivers - with some world links.
UK Driving On-Line..............UK driving in general - with a lorry-driving related page.
The AEC (UK) Society...........Everything about AEC Buses & Trucks.
The Central Garage...............An interesting site on truck accidents in Scotland - with many pics.
Steve Forsyth's Home Page....Some good AEC pictures.
HGVWEB..............................A good-fun tongue-in-cheek look at UK truck driving.
Kingsley Foreman's Site.........Check this one out for Aussie trucker-related pages.
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