Wish I'd stayed at home pt2

Continuing my series of trips that I wished I’d stayed at home for, here’s the next installment, it’s more than 25yrs ago, so the details are a little sketchy in places…

I had a very good job, like all good jobs it changed and was no longer such a good job, so I found myself looking for something else, I knew a few people and one of them put me in touch with a bloke and I had another job. I wouldn’t say it was a good job, but it was alright, I could earn a decent wage and it was going over the water, which I enjoyed.

The lorry wasn’t as good as the one I just parked for the final time, but I was quite looking forward to driving it as it was rather iconic, in fact I would say it was the most iconic of all the iconic lorries. A big Henry, the mighty Ford Transcontinental, it was green and orange, so it certainly stood out from the crowd and had a matching green tilt trailer, which helped the looks a bit, but it was still green and orange, quite why anyone would paint a lorry in those colours is beyond me, but that’s what it was.

The work wasn’t bad, full loads of waste paper, lead or forklift engines down to Italy and groupage back, I shipped out Tuesday night and got back Sunday morning, a casual driver would tip and reload it on Monday and Tuesday ready for me to do it all again. It was a good system for the bloke that owned the lorry as it meant he got a trip a week out of it and it worked for me too as I was on trip money, it was quite good trip money to be fair, but I needed a trip a week to keep her indoors in the manner that she wanted to become accustomed to.

Then it all changed, in hindsight it done me a right favour, as time went on I did a few loads for a company that I ended up getting a very well paid job with, but at the time it was a bloody nightmare. In his wisdom the bloke that owned the lorry decided he wanted to get into the fridge game, only it was to become all too clear that he hadn’t done much research into the fridge game as you will see as you read on, assuming that you don’t lose the will to live before then.

The trip started out as normal, I went to the lorry and loaded my gear into it, the boss man turned up with my running money. (No cards on this firm) The lorry was full of fuel and it had twin tanks so I could get right down the bottom of France before topping off the tanks, if I was just doing a quick Como and going Swiss I could nip into Italy and get back into France on the diesel I carried, but this was a heavy load so I would be going Frejus and would top off before I got into Italy as French fuel was cheaper, not as cheap as the fuel in the larger of my two tanks, but that is a whole different story.

For the first time I actually had a proper fridge load, potatoes for a crisp factory in Novara, this meant a trip to the “vet” before getting the all clear on the paperwork at the Italian border, this meant that Frejus was out of the question as getting the vet out to the Italian customs which was in Modane on the French side of the tunnel was a hit and miss affair, I believe there was an arrangement with the customs in Susa for certain products like empty cows (skins) to go there for the all important stamp, but I had no idea how any of that worked, so Mont Blanc it was.

Now I know I’m getting ahead of myself here, I hadn’t even left London yet and we’re already at the Italian border, but it’s all part of the story, as going Mont Blanc meant lots of tolls and my running money didn’t reflect that, I mentioned this to the boss and he said I would have enough as I was loading near Turin with chocolate so everything would be ok.

So I set off down the A2 to Dover, did the usual standing on the steps stuff and got on the ferry, I planned to get a few hours done when I got off at Calais and was aiming for Peronne. And that’s what I did, switching my fuel tank supply and return pipes over to the tank full of “special” diesel after giving the lovely Douanes Francais his FF10 fee for not making my life a misery.

The next day was uneventful, it made a pleasant change to go down to the Blanc, my usual preferred route was, as I said before, through Frejus. I topped off the tanks at the services at the bottom of the Ski Slope (some call it the stilts, but they’re wrong!) went up the hill, through the tunnel, down the other side and down to Aosta were I camped out for the night.

Next morning I did my customs and the vet and made my way down to Novara, I was clearing customs on site, which meant my having to wait at Aosta for all the necessary drama there hadn’t lost me any time. Italy had a strange system where they cleared imports in the morning and exports in the afternoon, so if I had to clear this load in Novara it would’ve cost me an extra day, unless someone got a good drink.

The delivery itself was a bit out of the ordinary, I backed onto a ramp, dropped the trailer, opened the back doors and the ramp lifted the trailer up to about 60deg and the potatoes came out in about 30secs, they were in those big ton bags and the whole lot went into a hopper and onto a conveyor belt into the plant itself, I would’ve liked to have a wander around, but hygiene regulations meant that scruffy oiks like me had to stay out.

Standard operating procedures meant that in those pre cell phone days I had to find a phone box and call in for my reloading instructions, so I went to a bar and phoned mission control. That was typically Italian as they had those weird gettones for the phones, for those of you that don’t know what they are, they’re a little token with slots in them that fitted into the coin slot on the payphones, they could be used as currency and they were worth 200lira, about 10p, so a phone call to Britain meant you needed quite a few. Fortunately you could pre load the phones with them so you didn’t have to keep feeding them in as you made the call, which was useful if you had to write stuff down, but they made an awful racket as they dropped and the phrase ‘say that again” was probably the most commonly used English in Italy at that time.

There was no news for me, he was waiting for confirmation on the chocolates out of Turin, so there was only one thing to do now, head to Carisio to get on the ■■■■ and that is exactly what I did. I can’t go into details of that night, not because I did anything I’m ashamed of, but as anyone who has spent a night on the Vino Frizzante will tell you, I couldn’t remember a thing. I did find a very strange looking carved corkscrew in my cab, so if anybody lost one of those in Carisio around 1990, you left it in my lorry.

As you’ve probably worked out, the day was now Friday and I’m sat in Carisio with no load, things need to start happening sooner rather than later or I’m going to be weekended and although that could be a lot of fun, I would rather be heading for a reload home. Around lunchtime I made another phone call and the boss had a reload address for me, not the promised chocolate from Turin, but a load of fridges from Pordenone.

This was not what I wanted to hear, firstly it was about nine hours away which meant I was not getting that on until Monday and secondly it would stretch my running money a lot further than I wanted and I would need to get a draw somewhere. It also meant that this would end up being a two week trip, but my money would only go up by a little bit to take into account the extra distance involved.

I decided on a change of surroundings, I liked Carisio, but it could be dangerous on a Friday night, if any of my mates turned up it was likely that I would still be there on Sunday and with the driving ban I would have to drive through the night to get to my reload for Monday morning, then turn around and do it all again to stay on schedule, so I pulled out and headed for Peschiera del Garda, which as the name suggests is on Lake Garda.

It was another place where us Brits used to hang out, but I was less likely to bump into any of my mates and get into trouble. I spent Friday night there and left after a good lie in on Saturday. My plan was to get up to Pordenone and hang out there on Sunday, I was going to give it large portions once loaded and try and make up a bit of lost time, maybe shipping back out again Friday. I was prepared to tip and load my trailer too, rather than have the casual driver do it as I (or rather the mars) would need the extra money now that this was a two week adventure.

I picked up a nice bottle of Valpolicello whilst in Peschiera and made good use of my newly acquired corkscrew as I dossed around in a services near to my reload, spending the day having a tidy up and reading a book. I actually remember the book, it was the first Jason Bourne book by Robert Ludlum and if you like the films and haven’t read the book I recommend that you get a copy, it is one of the best books that I’ve ever read.

Well now it’s Monday and I went off to get loaded, this is where things took a turn for the worse. The fridges I was loading were not regular fridges that go in your kitchen, but big display fridges that were for a supermarket, they wanted to chock them in and that meant nailing blocks of wood to the floor of the trailer, now you remember that I told you it was a fridge trailer? Fridge trailers don’t have wooden floors do they, so you know what happened next, yep, they turned me away!

They kindly let me use the phone and I relayed the good news to the boss, who obviously was not too happy. He told me to hang on and he would sort it out, I told him they weren’t having none of it, but he said he would sort it. I went back to the lorry and picked up my book and waited. An hour or so later they came out and told me there was a phone call for me, so I went in and the boss told me that they weren’t going to load me, which I had already worked out. I was told to go and find somewhere to park up and call back in a couple of hours for further instructions.

I went back to the services I had spent the night at and changed up some notes into a big pile of gettones and made the call for what I hoped was another reload, but there was no good news for me, so I spent the night in the services. It wasn’t an area I knew well, I had passed through a few times on my way down from Austria on my previous job, but I was always heading somewhere, so I didn’t know if there were any decent restaurants about. The food in the services was ok anyway, so I had the default meal of Spaghetti Pomodoro and a main course of cooked ham and mashed potatoes, with a little carafe of Vino Rosso and settled down for the night with my mate Jason Bourne.

I waited until mid morning to make the phone call to the man, I was hoping it would take a while to get through as he should be busy looking around for my load, but I got through immediately, which wasn’t a good sign, however he had come up trumps and gave me a loading address in Verona, I was picking up 22tons of Batteries, not exactly a fridge load, but beggars can’t be choosers, it wasn’t loading until the next afternoon, but by then I didn’t care, I had a load and I was going home, so with a spring in my step I fired up the Big Henry and pointed her towards Verona.

That night Mr. Bourne and I parked outside the factory gates, I didn’t have time to mess around and the extra time I’d been out had eaten into my personal funds, so another night on the Vino was out of the question, I was going to have to knock the Italian tolls to make it home and would probably end up paying the unknockable St Omer toll out of my own money, I also had to go back through the Blanc as I bought a cheaper return ticket on the way down, I was planning on going Swiss with the light load of fridges, it would’ve been tight, but I would just about manage to get home on my running money, now I had 22tons of batteries that was no longer an option.

Bright and early the next morning I was backing on to a ramp and 22plts of batteries went in my trailer, I got the invoices and the name of the agent and went up to Sommacampagna customs (I think that’s what it was called) for clearance. The agent started typing up my T form and said Ventimiglia? I said no Monte Bianco, he asked me again, so I told him again and he asked me why I would go that way as it was much longer and far more expensive, I gave him a strange look and asked WTF he was talking about.

His response made me go cold as he traced out my journey on the map on the wall, his finger went to Ventimiglia then followed the Mediterranean coastline down to Alicante, bbbbut I’m going to England I stuttered, only I wasn’t, not with this load anyway. He must’ve realized that I was about to go over the cam as he passed me the phone and said call my boss.

Again the call was answered straight away, almost as if he was expecting my call. I told him the idiots had put the wrong load on me and I was going off on one saying it would be another day now and I was getting the pox of it all. He waited until I finished and then said “Sorry, I thought I’d told you it was going to Alicante” I replied that he obviously hadn’t as I would’ve told him to poke it up his arse!

Now I had two options, drop the trailer and come home, or take the load to Alicante, option one was not going to happen, so it looked like I was going to sunny Spain, but first I would need some more money and not just for the lorry, my own funds needed a top up too. The agent was going to give me money, but he wanted to know how much. I had never been to Spain on anything other than a plane, so I didn’t have a clue, the boss had never sent a lorry from Italy to Spain, so he was no help either. In the end the agent gave me 500,000lira and the boss said he would sort more out in Spain so I could get home.

Pulling out of customs I looked down at my blue EEC book and wished I set the [zb]ing thing on fire, but as I got used to the idea I was quite excited, I had as I said, never been to Spain in a lorry and this was in fact what proper continental driving was all about, here I was in a Ford Transcontinental heading off to Spain from Italy, I had dreamt of this kind of thing as a kid.

I made my way back to Milan, then headed down to the Italian Riviera, I had done enough by the time I got to Savona and spent the night in the services there, dinner was courtesy of the Pavesi Autogrille again and I was back on the vino as my mood had lightened. I had made the phone call home and told her the good news that I wouldn’t be back home for another week or so, she wasn’t happy, so normal service had been resumed.

Down to the border the next day, I had been down through the Vent before, some stuff I took down on my last firm had to go that way for reasons unknown to me, I didn’t care as it meant that I could run down the Route Napoleon to get there and that is one of the best driving roads in the world, this time I would be keeping the sea to my left all the way to the French/Spanish border and the roads would all be new to me. I was like a dog with two dicks, all the messing around so far was forgotten, I had a load on my back and a pocket full of cash, the big ■■■■■■■ was making mincemeat of the hills and the scenery was spectacular, I was living the dream.

That day was over way too soon, I was in tourist mode seeing signs for places I had heard of but never been to, the views continued to impress and I was disappointed as the sun went down and darkness fell. Not too disappointed though as this was the time of day when you could make up for lost time, the Gendarmerie were solar powered for the most part and you rarely saw them at night, so it was time for the left lane express. I stopped for the night somewhere near Perpignan.

When I woke up in the morning and put the kettle on for a cuppa I noticed another English lorry parked alongside me, I got chatting to the driver and he said he was going to the hotel across the street for breakfast and a swim, so my day started with a plate of ham and eggs and a swim in an outdoor pool, there are far worse ways to start a day’s work. From there it was down to the border, I didn’t have a clue, but it wasn’t rocket science and any problems that I may encounter would be solved with a few Francs. That was the attitude in those days, nobody got stressed out when things went boss eyed, which they often did when dealing with bureaucracy, you kept cool, dealt with it or left it for an agent or whatever to deal with and went on the ■■■■.

This time it all went according to plan, even though I didn’t have a plan and I sailed through the border and over the hill down into the infamous La Jonquera, I spotted a laundry and decided to get some washing done, I was used to doing a week away, so I brought enough clothes for that, my extended stay on the road meant that I was fast running out of clean clothes. I needed some 200ptas coins for the washing machine and as this was my first trip there I didn’t have any, luckily the launderette was also a bureau de change, I needed to change up my Italian sub into Spanish anyway, but the rate seemed very poor, so I dug into my wallet and found some Belgian Francs as I only needed enough to do my washing, I would shop around for a better rate for my running money.

I passed the Belgian notes over to the old boy behind the counter and he started jibber jabbering away saying something along the lines of extra commission, I thought yeah right ya thieving old git, but when I got my Pesetas I realized he had mistaken Belgian Francs for French Francs and I had five times what I was expecting, well four times as he had tried to have me over. Well right or wrong I thought the best option was to keep quiet, but then the little devil in my head came up with a better plan and I slipped out to the next bureau de change and changed every penny I had into Belgian Francs and went back to the launderette and cashed the lot in!

Now I had enough money not to have to worry about scrimping and scraping, I didn’t have a clue how much things were going to cost me, but I knew that now I had four times what I had started the day with that I was in a far better position. I aborted the laundry as I thought it was best to get out of there before they realized their mistake. Before leaving I popped in a café bar place right at the bottom end of town for a bite to eat, having only been to Magaluf before I had no idea what was what as everything on the menus there was in English. I liked the look of the Bocadillio de Lomo con Patatas and pointed at that, it turned out to be a pork chop sandwich with chips and it was very nice, I felt it needed some red sauce and I reached over for the bottle, it was one of those Libby’s tomato ketchup bottles with a huge neck and I did the usual turn the bottle upside down and slap the end trick, in hindsight this was not a good idea as the whole bottle of sauce ended up on my plate…

I ran down the motorway to Barcelona, it wasn’t as exciting as I was expecting, in fact the only memorable part was the disgusting smell around Girona, but Barcelona livened things up a little as only a big European city can, it was very much like driving in Italy except the FIATs were SEATs. I stopped in a services somewhere south of the big city and settled down for the night.

Next morning I thought it would be a good idea to look around for another English lorry so I could find out a few things about the place, I knew the motorways were expensive, so I was hoping to use the nationals if possible, but having experienced the Italian SS roads I wasn’t going to chance the Spanish roads without knowing if it was worth it. There were a couple of familiar lorries in the parking area, but no sign of the drivers. Not a problem as Brit drivers were pretty easy to spot, so I set off inside and sure enough on the table in front of a couple of blokes were the give away signs, a pack of B&H and a P&O lighter.

I said hello and joined them at the table, something which may seem odd to newer drivers, but that’s how it was in those days. The lads were a great help and told me the N340 down the coast was a good road and also put me on to a few good places to stop to eat. They also told me about customs down in Alicante and some other useful tips, they also insisted I stop at a club and go in for a few beers when I had time, they recommended one just outside of Castellon.

I pulled out of the services and followed the Autopista down to the exit they told me to come off at to join the N340, the weather was glorious and I was loving every minute of it. On one section I went past a cement works and the heat from the huge spinning dryer things that remove all the moisture from the rocks they use to make cement nearly scorched my face as I passed by. As promised the roads were good and I was soon coming into Castellon and the recommended club.

I saw the flashing sign and pulled into the parking area, I wasn’t planning on getting on it there as I still had some work to do, but thought it was worth a look. I made my way inside the club, it was very dark inside and unsurprisingly at that early hour it was almost empty, so I went to the bar and ordered a coke. I was still not used to the money, but the drink did seem a little expensive, but that’s clubs for you I thought. I hadn’t taken a swig of my drink when I noticed a girl sitting a couple of seats along from me out of the corner of my eye, I turned round for a better look and got the shock of my life, she was only wearing a bra and knickers! OMFG!

I soon realized what the smirking between the two Brit drivers was all about, so this was a baghouse then. I had heard lots of stories about them and here I was sat in one surrounded by scantily clad crumpet. It’s days like this that really make the job worthwhile. Although being spoken for and also young enough to be the son of the crumpet meant that I wasn’t interested in leaving a little bit of myself behind, it was still a pleasant experience, I guess the birds in there would be called MILFs today, but back then they were just tidy older birds and when they’re sat there all tackled up there are far worse places to take a 45min break.

I left the club and carried on down to where I had to clear customs, the directions the lads had given me were spot on and even though I went through some proper rough looking areas, I had no trouble finding the place and parking for the night. I went off in search of a place to get some dinner and ended up in a place full of pinball machines and kids on scooters where I had another Bocadillio de Lomo, this time without so much ketchup.

Customs was similar to Italy, except the beverage of choice was a café con leche instead of a cappuccino, I was amazed to see the customers chucking their sugar packets on the floor though, it seemed a dirty practice to me. I have been told that it’s done so that the flies stay on the floor and don’t land on your food, but I’m not convinced, maybe they need to throw more sugar down as eating in Spain without swatting flies is impossible, I had another Bocadillio de Lomo for breakfast and I was fast becoming an expert with the Libby’s ketchup in just a few short days.

I went and tipped the batteries and called into the man to see what was next, he told me to head up to Valencia and call back later as he had a few irons in the fire, so remembering one of the places the Brit lads had told me about I head up to El Puig and wait to see what delights he has in store for me. I mentioned that I was running short of money as I didn’t feel the need to share my unexpected La Jonquera bonus with him. My reasoning being that I never got more money if he got a better rate, so if it’s good for the Goose…

I arrived at Tillys and found it was similar to most British driver hangouts, food at the lower end of the gastronomique scale and cheap beer and wine, what more could a driver ask for! I phoned in and got the expected “call back in the morning” message from the boss’s wife, so I did what any driver worth his salt does in such a situation, I drunk my own body weight in San Miguel.

The next morning the phone call to base was made after breakfast, no point rushing things. There was no news for me, so I had a wander down to the beach for a look at the “scenery” I was losing track of time and it suddenly occurred to me that it was Friday again and I needed some instructions soon or I was going to be weekended yet again, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach, hardly surprising with the amount of beer I had consumed the night before, I went beyond getting ■■■■■■ and was in more danger of drowning, but I had plenty of experience of that, being weekended was not something I wanted experience of, especially not on trip money.

I spent the afternoon making phone calls on the hour and as the place started to fill with customers I accepted the inevitable, I was here for the weekend, oh well, I was ok for money and I was near the beach, it could be a whole lot worse. A couple of drivers I knew from the Italian Job turned up on Saturday afternoon and it turned out to be a good weekend. On Monday morning I awoke and the parking area was almost deserted, except for a couple of us, the rest had all departed to get their deliveries off.

Despite numerous phone calls, I never got the news I was waiting for, so as the day wore on I resigned myself to another night at Tilly’s, my mates came back after tipping their loads and they were in the same boat as me, no loads yet, the night in Tilly’s was a bit more subdued than the weekend, it wasn’t all gloom and doom, but for the first time since I arrived I can actually remember walking back to my lorry when I left.

Another morning of frustration awaited me the next day, but in the afternoon I got good news, my mates were not so lucky and I left them behind and went off for my reload, I had a full load of oranges and an envelope full of running money to collect from a packhouse somewhere between Valencia and Alicante, I can’t remember where exactly, but I can remember that is wasn’t far from Benidorm. Loading was as I would discover later as I did more Spanish work, a typically Spanish affair, which meant nothing happened until late evening, by which time I was too late to do revision locally (Silla or Sagunto, but I never knew of them at that point) and I had to do it at Villamaya (spelling)

I ran through the night and parked at the huge inspection center, the next morning I put my papers in and backed onto the dock so they could inspect the fruit, this was when the excrement and the fan reacquainted themselves as when I dipped the clutch to gently bump the dock it had no effect on my speed, I floored it and still nothing changed and hit the dock with an almighty crash, luckily I never shot the load out the back doors as I hit it that hard. The engine stalled and there I was jammed up against the loading dock with the engine off, the gearbox stuck in reverse and a non working clutch pedal. This was not good at all.

I managed to get it out of gear by a combination of brute force and trying to start the engine. As this was taking place I also got the magic stamp on my paperwork, so I now had to get off the dock, I managed to get it to slip into 1st gear as I started the engine and I bunny hopped away from the bay and out into the parking lanes. I put on my overalls and had a crawl around underneath, not quite sure what I was looking for, but I had to see if there was anything obvious causing the problem.

While I was laying there looking up at things somebody grabbed my leg and I nearly jumped out of my skin, luckily it was one of my mates, an owner driver with many year’s experience of running old crap, so he was just what I needed, however his diagnosis was that it was fatal, the clutch springs had rusted out and broken up, jamming the clutch in the engaged position. It was a big problem, but not an insurmountable one as with any Fuller box, the clutch wasn’t necessary once you were moving. I could start it in gear and get it rolling and then go up and down the box with no clutch, which apart from the starting it in gear part was how I drove it anyway.

So my mate and I set off, we went through the border at Irun, so another box ticked for me, I assume we went over Pamplona too, but I was following a set of back doors and concentrating on not missing gears, so I’m not sure. We got to Bordeaux that night, which I do know and stopped just north of there at a lovely little Routiers. For the first time in a week I didn’t have a pork chop sandwich for dinner, I can’t remember for sure what I had and I’m having a brain ■■■■ over the name of the place, but I stopped there often over the years as I did more and more trips to Spain.

Apart from an introduction to the fantastic restaurant at Vivonne the run up to Paris, we were shipping Calais-Dover, was uneventful, we ran up the RN10 until Poitiers then took the peage up to Paris, in theory it was late enough that traffic and my clutchless lorry would not be a problem, but this was Paris and of course, it was stop/start traffic all the way through, I managed ok and only had to resort to the starting in gear trick a couple of times.

From there it was a quiet run up to the boat, we got off back in Dover and parked for the night at the dock while customs did their thing, it was quite late, but a decent cup of tea and a plate of cheese on toast was in order before sleep could even be considered, it was also a good idea to monitor the board for a while before turning in, just in case the customs wanted a look at the load. They didn’t so I went to bed with a copy of the Sun instead of Jason Bourne to keep me company.

The next day was Saturday, my load was delivering into Covent Garden and Western International markets on Sunday night, so I only had to run the hour and a bit to the yard, I phoned the boss to let him know when I would be back so he could meet me with my wages and I headed off up the A2 to the yard.

Now I had been out for almost three weeks by this time, I had done a fair bit of extra work over a quick Milan round trip too, so I was expecting a decent wedge when I got back, I know trip money meant weekends were free, but I’d had a week of hanging around with no load and I wanted paying for that. To say I was a little disappointed when I got my wages was an understatement, I had been paid 525quid, it was explained to me that I had “only” done one and a half trips really. I mentioned the running up to Pordenone part and that Alicante was further than Milan and the week I had sat around waiting for loads and was told to take it or leave it, so I took it.

Now it may seem as if I had bent over and allowed myself to be shafted, but I had a plan, I had said I would tip the trailer as I needed the extra money and he smirked as he gave me another 50quid. This had got my back up a bit and I decided that I wasn’t taking this, I wanted paying properly for all the time I had sat due to his incompetence in finding me a load, it wasn’t like it was quiet in Italy, unless you had a poxy fridge trailer and no contacts for that kind of work. I didn’t expect everything to go my way all the time, but I had done my bit and I wanted more money for what I had done, nothing more than a fair wage for a job I’d done without causing any problems, despite all the hassle. The lorry was booked in for the clutch to be sorted on Monday, so I would be lucky to get a trip that week, which would mean that I would be on not much more than 100quid a week for that month and I’d probably spent most of that doing the job.

I now had the lorry keys and all the paperwork, so after the boss left, I did to, straight to a mate of mine’s yard. I then went home and explained the situation to my boss on the phone, I told him he had until the next afternoon to come up with a bit more money or the load wouldn’t be going to market. As you can imagine he didn’t react very well. I had an idea of what would happen next, so I had a few friends pop round to mine.

Sure enough a car pulled up outside my place a couple of hours later, four big middle aged blokes got out looking all mean and came up to my front door, I answered and the story went something like give the bloke his lorry back or we’ll kick your head in, I said that they were welcome to try as with my three mates and myself the numbers were even, but we were a bit younger and we had them more than matched in size too, they went away without the lorry keys.

Next up was the police, now this part is quite amusing as the owner of the lorry and the one that made the call to the law was running under somebody else’s O license, which meant the log book, insurance and permits were all under the other blokes name, I showed the police all the documents and denied all knowledge of the bloke that had called them and they went away happy. The next phone call I received from the boss confirmed my suspicions that he hadn’t seen the funny side of that little episode, some people…

In the end he agreed to give me a little bit more money, as I said, I wasn’t asking for hourly pay or anything like that, but I wanted my money to reflect what I had done, we ended up in the pub having a few beers as we started throwing numbers back and forth between us, I ended up with a bit more money and the promise that he would give me a bit more each trip for a while to make up for all the hanging around I’d done, I understood that there was only so much money in the job and that he wanted to keep some for himself, so I was more than happy with the end result and I stayed with him for another six months or so until I managed to get a start with Solstor.

The reloads got a little bit better, the chocolate job that he’d promised finally took off and it ran like clockwork for a bit, but it was still only a stop gap for me and we parted on good terms, he never did see the funny side of the holding the lorry hostage situation, especially the part where the police turned up at his house and gave him an almighty bollocking for wasting their time chasing a stolen lorry that didn’t exist.

Another fascinating read about your experiences, thank you for sharing them. I must say it confirms that I’m glad I never was attracted to doing continental work, I could never have handled all the hassle and changes to what was originally planned. I know that this industry has always had its share of rogues, charlatans, ne’er do wells, and fly by nights operating lorries, but the overseas work seemed to attract more than its fair share of them.

Bloody hell, running on cherry, robbing launderettes, holding trucks hostage, no wonder your in exile in Canada! Excellent read, making me late for a delivery but never mind…

Great stuff Mark…another trip down memory lane that I can certainly relate to.
You,ve got a talent for sure in your writing mate .
Bloody brilliant…look forward to the next one.

Another great story. Looking forward to the next one!

Enjoyed that. Thank you.

:smiley: The only thing this story never had was ferry trailers with F1 tyre changes :laughing: :laughing: …very enjoyable read …jimmy

:laughing: :laughing: :laughing: Great stuff Mark, had me laughing out loud at some parts, an excellent story and very well told, love it! :laughing: :laughing:

Love the “South London” style ending, I can just picture that happening. Just a quick question, did this chap used to park on the Purley Way? Look forward to hearing some more :wink:

Thanks for the encouraging words chaps.

Rick the yard was in Plumstead somewhere, behind what is now Bellmarsh nick.

As Gingerfold says there were a lot of wrong uns running lorries over the water in those days, there was a fair few driving them too, but that was what made the job so much fun.

I’ve got a few more tales of fun and games as I rampaged my way across Europe, when time permits I’ll get them up on here.

Like Tony said, plenty of you will be be able to relate to the goings on as it was a crazy time. Some of the stories you’d here as you sat in a restaurant were hilarious and as mad as they sounded, you knew they were true as that’s how it was back then.

YES Newmercman
As i know how much time, trouble ,that goes into any type of writing getting things right and not forgetting you will have some people like me who,maybe have done as much as you,or less, and wonder how on earth did you work for such people, or is it just tale.

The chocolates from Turin area would have been from ferrero rocher Alba,i doubt you would have gone out of spain via IRUN from VILLAYMA, you blue book ,that is what you should have kept and sold.“after your cab being broken in to”.wink,wink.
you wouldnt be the bank manager would you.?dbp

As I said, it was 25yrs ago and I’m working from memory alone, so it may not have been Villamaya, but we did come back via Irun. I only ever did revision once there and it was my first trip to Spain, I guessed at the name of the place, it was a good drive from Valencia, that I do know.

You ask how did I work for such people? Simple, I was young and inexperienced, I had to take what I could get, but I moved on to bigger and bettrr things after earning my stripes. And no, I’m not Jeff the bank manager.

Love to read Part 1 of your euro travels 25yrs ago. About the same time as me with similiar experiences.

Part one is on here somewhere, it will be a few pages back by now though.