When I was still in uniform I took advantage of the opportunity of getting my HGV licence. It seemed a useful thing to do when I wasn't trundling around the german countryside in my little tank. HGV's have more gears than any contraption designed to be driven by gods or men. As soon as I'd finished the course and got the little tick on my licence I did my very best to forget it.
Then I was back in civvies being a tailor. One Easter Monday we had a delivery of garments and, as the shop was closed for the holiday I went in to unload it. Then I went off with the driver to unload at another shop south of the river. The manager down there was married and didn't want to miss time with his family but I was single so I didn't care. A more modern lorry now with a semi-automatic gearbox. The windscreen came down almost to the passengers knees and far above my head. Great view I have no doubt but it felt like I was a goldfish in a big fragile aquarium. If we bumped into something I'd explode through the glass and end up stuck to somebodys' roof-rack just flopping my tail and bulging my eyes.
We called this driver Captain Birdseye. Not because he had a nautical hat but because he strongly resembled a character from a TV advertisment who was always trying to sell you frozen fish fingers. He even had the pointy beard. So off we go in the snow. Halfway down the expressway I see something black overtaking us on the off-side and point it out to the captain. "Ja, we've jack knifed" he said "This might take a few minutes. Need to concentrate.". Since I'm writing this we obviously lived through it.
A few weeks later and the area manager calls 'round to see me. Kevin Fryer his name was and he used to be a stoker on the railways. Dreadful taste in colour and style of suits. Protruding eyes and the red complection of high blood pressure. This was a man who wouldn't make old bones. Turns out he wants me to make a few deliveries to some of the shops in North Wales. He anticipated a few days and none of the married drivers wanted to do it. It seems Captain Birdseye had fitted me up.
"Yes sir.... I see sir.... Quite understand sir". I quite fancied this. Who can resist the welsh lilt? I anticipated my usual expenses paid and nice hotels that they usually gave when I was sent around the country. Turns out the trip was expected to take a week or more and, due to the high value of the goods in the trailer, I'd be expected to sleep in the cab to protect them from marauding welsh people.
I hit him in the stomach (always go for the soft tissue). Put my left hand on top of his head and grabbed his chin with my right. Twisted his head to the left and when he resisted I changed directions and he assisted in snapping his own neck. It went with a satisfying crack of vertebrae and down he went in a heap. I dropped onto his breastbone with my knee and shattered it. Then I stamped on the splintered bones and ruptured his heart.
Then I woke up from my fantasy and he was still talking at me.
"Yes sir....Quite right sir....Understandable sir.".
I could have some money from petty cash so I stuck my sticky fingers in and bought myself a couple of thermos flasks. Then I went up the road and picked up a fleece lined jacket with a big black and red check on the outside and a baseball cap. If I was going to be a stupid lorry driver then I was going to look like one. I had them send the bill to head office who would pay it without having a clue what they were paying for. Then I bought every Yorkie in town that I could find.
Have you ever driven through North Wales? It's a beautiful place but the tracks that connect their little hilltop villages aren't much wider than the chariots they sometimes use to clatter around in. Occasionally a red dragon flaps lazily overhead. I had to go really carefully so I didn't slip off the edge, go through the windscreen and end up stuck in a tree where some creature red in tooth and claw would take the flesh from my bones with its rasping tongue and leave me swinging there with a Yorkie in what was left of my hand.
I'd made one drop off and now it was dark, throwing it down with rain and I was miles from anywhere. I pulled over and turned on my hazard lights.
There was supposed to be a sleeping space above the cab. I'd been reminded of this the first time I turned sharp right and a rope ladder with wooden rungs fell out of a hole in the cab roof. It frightened the life out of me.
I'd been stocking up on sandwiches and cakes from my drop off so I took those and a flask of tea upstairs. This was a metal box about two and a half feet high and the full size of the cab. Two little sealed horizontal windows at the front and one hinged at the top on the right. There was a thin mattress up there.
I turned my radio onto an easy listening station. Unrolled my sleeping bag and opened the side window. Poured myself a cup of tea and topped it up with brandy. Had a couple of sandwiches and a cake. Lit a ciggy. The rain was pouring down the windows and pitter pattering on the roof. I find that sort of thing incredibly soothing and was asleep in minutes.
I always parked in the middle of nowhere and it was usually misty or drizzling. One night it was incredibly clear and I could see a million stars.
The whole trip took nine days to get 'round all the shops. I called ahead when I was on the way back and the area manager was waiting for me. Nine days without a shave or a shower. I gave him the keys and walked off.........Let him buy his own Yorkies.