CH TWO 19
By Thursday Scotty is just about at the end of his tether with his driver’s mate and is further irritated when Ken decides that he needs him for a rush job at a building site. ‘They need to shift about six hundred tons of sub soil quick sharp so they can get on with the foundations before the weather turns again,’ he explains. ‘You’ll be driving one of Harry Tobin’s tippers. Beanpole will show you what’s what and you’ve got my Patrick to give you a hand so you’ll be alright, won’t you?’
Scotty is astounded by the stupidity of the man. ‘I’ve never driven a tipper in my life,’ he argues, ‘I wouldn’t know how to tip the load or anything.’ Ken assures him that Beanpole will show him what he needs to do, leaves his son in his care and drives away.
Brett is waiting for them at Tobin’s yard, where he hands over the keys and tells them to follow him to the site just outside Sittingbourne. The day is overcast and threatening more rain, which is not ideal for site work and they arrive to find the quagmire Scotty had feared. Sliding to a halt outside the Portacabin site office they go in to get their orders.
‘You must be kidding,’ says Scotty, ‘you can’t just tip it over a cliff; surely that’s illegal and dangerous with it.’ The site manager scowls at him and turns to Brett, ‘I thought you said this bloke knew what to do. He has driven a lorry before, hasn’t he?’ Scotty bristles at this but Brett calms the situation, assuring both men that it will be fine. They are directed to where the other tippers are queuing and watch as the thick clay is scooped into the digger bucket and deposited with a shake and a thud into the lorries. The measure seems to be that they stop loading when the tyres sink into the mud then move on to the next one.
Patrick seems very wary as the lorry shakes and shudders with each dollop of mud deposited into its hopper. Scotty is dubious also but he figures that if Beanpole can manage it then it can’t be that difficult. They wait until he has been loaded then follow him off site and onto the road, where they leave a trail of sticky clay in their wake which diminishes as they drive further up the road. The uneven load is causing the lorry to pull towards the nearside and Scotty is having a struggle keeping it in line. He is greatly relieved when they arrive at the tipping site without incident.
There are several men milling about at the former caravan site where the loads are being discharged. Scotty parks up behind Brett at the end of the pitted asphalt lane and they get out to investigate. As they draw closer to the cliff edge it is obvious that one of the lorries has gone too far. Its back wheels have slipped over the edge leaving the axle embedded in the mud and the men are gathered around decided how best to retrieve the situation. Scotty decides to stay clear of the scene, lighting a cigarette and watching from a safe distance.
Somebody ties a rope to the front of the stranded vehicle and attaches the other end to an old tractor which has been used in the past to move caravans about the site. It slithers from side to side as the driver tries valiantly to pull the tipper from its resting place but it groans and creaks until the rope snaps and the tractor shoots forwards, sending sods of turf into the air.
Next they try fixing a steel hawser to the stricken vehicle, attaching the other end to the back of an empty tipper. The engine and gearbox screech and roar as every effort is made to haul the other tipper from its rut. Slowly it begins to move away from the edge, the axle cuts a groove in what’s left of the grass as it is dragged back onto safer ground and the driver jumps down from the cab to inspect the damage.
The other men set to helping to scrape the worst of the mire from the underside of the tipper. It seems to be relatively undamaged and as soon as the driver has recovered from the shock he thanks everyone for their efforts and drives off.
‘Right, who’s next,’ calls one of the men. Brett and Scotty eye each other cautiously, neither wishing to meet a similar fate as the previous driver. Patrick says he has a suggestion, which is more than he has said all morning. ‘If we lay those fallen trees down near the edge you’ll know when you’re near enough to shoot the load without having to worry about slipping over the side.’ The others agree it is an excellent idea and do as he suggests. Scotty is still dubious about tipping up the back of the lorry so Brett goes first to show him how it’s done.
It still looks dangerous but the load needs emptying so Scotty slowly backs up and firmly applies the handbrake before asking Patrick to release the tailgate. ‘I’m not doing it,’ says Patrick, ‘the whole lot could come down on me.’ Brett elbows the boy aside and pulls the pins on the tailgate. ‘Send her up,’ he shouts, and Scotty pulls what he hopes is the right lever. The body rises into the air but the clay has settled in a lump and makes no sign of moving. Brett opens the cab door, ‘here, get out and I’ll have a go.’
Scotty is more than happy to get out and stands well back as Beanpole sets about the gearbox, rocking the lorry backwards and forwards until the load shifts and hurtles down towards the beach. Another few shakes and he’s satisfied that it’s all gone. He lowers the body and Patrick gingerly walks to the back to replace the retaining pins. Brett leaps out, leaving the door open; ‘see, nothing to it,’ he tells Scotty, ‘you can do it yourself next time. I’m off; see you back at the site.’
As they turn onto the Low Road Scotty thinks of the times when he and Fat Frank used to collect mushrooms for their breakfast, which reminds him that they have not eaten yet. ‘There’s a caff on the way back to the site,’ says Patrick, ‘we can stop there. Do you know why that white paint has been put on the trees along here?’ Scotty hadn’t noticed before but he doesn’t know either.
The road is flanked for miles with tall elms which are getting on for a hundred years old. They afford protection from the wind in the winter and shade from the sun in summer. Why anyone would want to disfigure them by daubing them with paint is a mystery.