CH TWO 35
The great day has arrived and Scotty sits proudly at the wheel of the shiny new Scania 80 pulling the pristine 33ft ‘tilt’ trailer on his way to Sheerness docks. Even the presence of a sullen Patrick in the passenger seat cannot erase the fixed grin from his face, which has been extra carefully shaved and applied with ‘Brut’ lotion in honour of the occasion. Adding to the delights of this modern cab is the Motorola radio which he can actually hear above the sweet rattle of the engine.
Patrick has been rehearsing in his head what he can say to convince his father’s star driver that he can dispense with his services and thus free him to join the drama course his mother has booked him on. Scotty’s daughter Janet is going and he knows that the man would much prefer to take one of his own boys with him, but how to manage this without his father finding out? He has asked Janet for some suggestions but she just told him to come right out and tell her dad he would rather be on the drama course than being dragged round the markets in a lorry, even a brand new clean lorry.
Ken is waiting at the docks when Scotty arrives and the two men walk round admiring all the modern innovations special to the smart new rig. Patrick follows them at a distance, trying to feign interest but still mentally going through his proposed speech, and then they all pile into the cab as their number is called over the public address speaker and proceed to the loading bay.
Scotty demonstrates the ease with which the curtain sides are drawn open and they stand back as the pallet loads of oranges are loaded on the deck. Ken climbs up onto the rave and shows Patrick how to secure the pallets with the strops fixed to the upper central rail then it’s a simple matter of shutting the curtains and cinching them taut, a far quicker process than the old sheeting and roping method needed with the old trailer. ‘What do you think of that then son?’ A proud Ken asks. Patrick says he is most impressed, trying not to ladle it on too thickly but wanting to appear keen.
‘I’ll pick you up at eight o’clock sharp,’ says Scotty as he heads back to the yard. ‘I got some things to do,’ says Ken, ‘do you want a lift home?’ Patrick declines the offer but asks his father to drop him off at the clock tower in town. He will just have time to get to the hall for the drama class.
Since the arrival of the twins, John and Jamie have taken to sleeping at their grandmother’s house. George seems to cry most of the time, except when he is being fed and this sets his brother off. Only the deepest of sleepers get any rest these days in the Stewart household. Dawn takes the babies for long walks along the seafront when Scotty is sleeping during the day but this means the housework rarely gets any attention. Heather and Janet had made all sorts of promises to help out before the twins were born but with their sleep being constantly interrupted and school work taking up most of their spare time their efforts have little effect.
Now that the holidays have arrived everyone believes they deserve a rest. Janet has signed up for this drama course, Heather has become expert at absenting herself at the slightest opportunity and once again it is left to Dawn and Mavis to take up the slack. Scotty is too tired to worry over domestic problems and breathes a sigh of relief whenever the time comes to get back on the road where he is the boss and nobody can make demands on his time. Janet has convinced him to let Patrick go to the drama classes with her, knowing that the lad is useless as a driver’s mate, and this suits Scotty just fine as it leaves him free to take Robbie with him. Robbie has been looking forward to going out in the new rig and Dawn is glad to see the back of him because he has been moaning constantly since being told that Patrick would be taking his place. As long as Ken doesn’t find out, then everyone is happy.
Scotty’s head is still buzzing slightly as he steers the rig onto the M2. ‘You’re quiet today,’ he says, glancing at his son. ‘Why are the babies always bawling, dad?’ Robbie looks tired, his eyes have dark circles beneath them and he has yawned several times since they left home. ‘Don’t ask me,’ laughs his father, ‘babies are a mystery to me; women go crazy for them but they don’t do anything interesting until they’re at least three years old then before you know it they’re off to school and you don’t see much of them.’ Robbie is silent for a while before adding ‘I’m not having any children, I’m going to be a bachelor and travel the world finding out things and being an explorer.’ Scotty tries to sound serious, ‘that’s a very good plan,’ he says, ‘be sure to send me a postcard from all those exotic places you visit.’ Robbie assures him that he will, then turns his attention to finding a better station on the radio. He can’t stand yet another night of Country and Western music.
The double seat on the passenger side of the cab makes a surprisingly comfortable bed for a boy of Robbie’s size and he stretches out with a pillow propped against the door, humming along to ‘A walk in the Black Forest’. He will go to the Black Forest one day and eat loads of that cake they have with the cherries on top. He will not do a boring job like most people; maybe he will drive a lorry like his dad but go all over the world instead of just the places they go to every week. It’s not long before he is asleep and Scotty re-tunes the radio; he is used to Country and Western music, he knows most of the words to the songs and sings along to keep himself awake. When he was Robbie’s age he wanted to be a Spitfire pilot.
Robbie is still asleep when they reach their first drop, in Covent Garden and Scotty hasn’t the heart to wake him. He draws back the curtain on the nearside of the trailer and watches as the forklift driver removes two pallet loads in less than five minutes. By hand the job would take at least three times as long, but this is progress and although it seems to have put paid to getting any extras for the time being he has to admit it is easier. He closes the curtain and secures it ready to move on to the next delivery. ‘Hey Scotty, I thought it was you,’ says a familiar voice. He turns to see College walking towards him. ‘Smart new rig you’ve got there,’ he adds, giving the trailer the once-over. ‘Are you coming with me to do that other job Saturday night?’ His tone is quieter as he doesn’t wish to be overheard.
Scotty has given the matter a good deal of consideration and decided it is a risk worth taking for such a nice sum of money. They arrange to meet after Scotty’s night out at the Bay Club. College says to wear something black and maybe a balaclava ‘to keep out the cold.’ Scotty gets his drift and a slight shudder crosses his shoulders as he climbs back into the cab and drives on.