CH TWO 17
Scotty collects the loaded lorry from Ken Chapman’s yard, where Patrick is waiting, wearing his new boiler suit which has been neatly pressed by his mother, and carrying a briefcase of all things which presumably contains his pack-up for the night. ‘Now watch and learn,’ Ken is instructing his son, ‘Scotty will look after you but he’ll expect you to work for your living, won’t you Scotty?’ His driver smiles in reply and the reluctant driver’s mate climbs up into the passenger seat, sets his briefcase on the floor at his feet and stares straight ahead. This is going to be a fun night, thinks Scotty.
All attempts to hold a conversation meet with monosyllabic answers and Scotty gives up, deciding instead to listen to the radio. It’s Country and Western Night again and the boy glowers in his dark corner as Scotty tries to ignore his presence by joining in loudly with the choruses. They arrive at their first drop in Spitalfields Market and Scotty jumps down from the cab expecting Patrick to follow. ‘Have you fallen asleep in there?’ He shouts, opening the door and letting in another blast of freezing air, which is heavy with diesel exhaust fumes.
Patrick reluctantly leaves his seat and stands with his shoulders hunched and his hands thrust into his pockets. ‘We won’t get much done like that,’ grumbles Scotty, ‘here cop hold of this.’ He throws a filthy rope down from the top of the load and tells the boy to loop it up. The only time he can get a response from the boy is when he physically involves him. Once he has finished that task Scotty calls him to climb up with him and help unload the 150 boxes of oranges the customer has ordered. ‘You pass them down and I’ll stack them,’ he says, climbing back down onto a pile of wooden pallets. It would be quicker to do the job on his own but Ken wants his son to learn the business and he will never get any experience sitting in the cab.
Scotty leaves the delivery note in its usual place on the stand, collects the ‘beer money’ which has been left out for him in exchange for unloading the goods and moves on to the next stand a hundred yards along. ‘Are we getting out again already?’ Patrick grumbles as he reluctantly leaves the relative comfort of the cab and hauls himself back on top of the load. ‘You may as well stay up there until we finish in this place,’ suggests Scotty, ‘we have another three drops in here.’
After the last drop Patrick helps replace the tarpaulin sheet and Scotty shows him how to fix the load with the hessian rope. Patrick has a go but has no talent for tying a dolly knot so Scotty finishes the job himself. Next they drive out to Brentford where they have just two drops and back to Borough for the last and biggest delivery of the night. Solly Jewel doesn’t trust drivers to leave his orders so they have to wait until his man gets to the stand which is usually four in the morning. Of course, Solly doesn’t know that his man is as bent as a five bob note but that suits Scotty as he has managed to hide some extra boxes on the trailer which Tiny will pay him for in cash. For once he is happy to leave the reluctant Patrick who is feigning sleep in the cab: he won’t have to share the £30 with him.
They are halfway back to the yard when Patrick remembers the picnic his mother prepared. He props the briefcase on his lap and opens it to reveal a fine selection of delicious sandwiches and pastries which he shares with Scotty. This will save him having to buy breakfast at the dockyard and puts him in a happy mood for the rest of the drive.
A watery sun is hovering on the misty horizon of the marshes as they trundle over the bridge along the Sheppey Way heading for the dockyard. They are back earlier than expected and there are only four other lorries ahead of them in the queue. Patrick has fallen asleep again so Scotty gets out to stretch his legs, have a slash and see if he can find a discarded newspaper in one of the bins. He then returns to the cab and makes himself as comfortable as possible, flicking through yesterday’s paper before rolling up his jacket and placing it on the steering wheel, resting his head and falling into a deep sleep.
The sun’s rays are burning his face through the glass of the side window when Scotty is woken by a sudden fit of coughing. As soon as it has subsided he lights up a cigarette to ‘clear his lungs’ and coughs some more, spitting out the window onto the tarmac below. Patrick shivers and rises from his slumber, glares at the open window and pulls his jacket more tightly round his skinny frame. Scotty winds the window back up and the cab fills with smoke. Patrick takes this as his cue to return to the world of the lorry driver’s mate, stretches his weary body and shakes himself awake.
Ivy switches the lights on in the canteen and Scotty takes pity on his reluctant companion. ‘Come on lad, I’ll buy you a cup of tea; that’ll wake you up.’ The boy follows him into the chilly building and they stand at the counter, warming themselves in front of a mobile gas fire as Ivy pours the tea. ‘No breakfast this morning?’ She asks, ‘that’s not like you.’ Scotty isn’t really hungry but he orders two bacon sandwiches in case Ivy takes offence. They drag two chairs close to the heater and sit with their purchases. More drivers arrive and all want to get close to the welcoming source of heat so the two move away a little to share the warmth. As they thaw out the usual banter begins, with plenty of ribbing aimed at the boy in the new clothes, who frowns, says nothing and eats his sandwich like a savage, taking out his ire on the crisply fried slices of dead pig, imagining they are slices of some other pig who he could gladly take a bite from.
They return to the lorry as the queue starts to move, with Patrick sighing like an old man. ‘Didn’t you do any work when your old man took you out?’ asks Scotty, fed up with the boy’s attitude. ‘He hardly ever took me; it was always Golden Bollocks except when he had better things to do. The few times I went along he would pick up some dolly bird hitch hiker and chat her up instead.’ Scotty reminds him that he shouldn’t speak ill of the departed and Patrick says that when anybody dies young everyone speaks of them as some kind of saint. ‘Kenneth was a royal pain in the arse, he was always right especially when he was wrong and I reckon my olds wish I had died instead of him.’
Scotty is quiet for a while as he drives onto the loading bay. The Stevedores tell him to wait as they are on a tea break already and he tries to think of something sensible to say to the boy. ‘Do you actually want to join the family business?’ he finally asks. Patrick looks him in the face; ‘I never told anyone this before but I really want to be an actor.’
This is not what Scotty was expecting to hear, especially as he considers actors to be a bit cissy. ‘I dare not tell my dad because I know what he would say but that’s what I want to do. It’s what I’ve wanted to do since I was at Primary school.’
The Stevedores re-appear and Scotty opens the cab door. ‘Well you can be an actor now,’ he grins. ‘Pretend you’re a driver’s mate and climb up there on the back of the trailer and get some work done.’