Night trucking

After more than two years since getting my Class 1 LGV licence, I finally drove a lorry in anger last night/this morning.

Nigel, a bloke who goes to the same gym I do, offered me the opportunity to drive a lorry back from a trip down to Portsmouth to deliver some car parts destined for the Isle of Wight, Jersey, and Guernsey to get some proper driving experience and see if I enjoyed it. It’s a trip he has done five nights a week every week for the last three years, so it’s all pretty routine to him.

It was a 60 feet long Mercedes curtain sided articulated truck and the tractor unit was a 06 registration, so it’s quite a modern cab.

Lorry

He drove the lorry down to Portsmouth and we arrived at around 00:30, having set off at around 21:30 from Coventry. We grabbed a coffee whilst a guy in a fork-lift unloaded the lorry and replaced the full crates with empty ones. It took around 45 minutes for this to be done and then I took the driving seat, following a quick can of Red Bull.

I was a little nervous initially. Negotiating some of the tighter bends around Portsmouth with a 60 feet of lorry behind you requires special awareness for a rookie like me. The people who drive these lorries all the time make it look so easy and I’m sure it does become easy with practice, but, having not driven an artic for over two years, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t cause thousands of pounds worth of damage through a stupid mistake.

Once we were back on the motorway, I was able to relax a little.

The Mercedes lorry was a bit more up to date that the class 2 and 1 lorries I had learnt to drive in. It had a straight 8 speed gear box, exhaust braking and, rather usefully, cruise control.

The speed limits for lorries are 40 mph on A roads, 50 mph on dual carriage ways, and 56 mph on the motorway. The Mercedes was restricted to 56 mph, so there’s no danger of speeding on the motorway.

Ordinarily, when Nigel does the Portsmouth run on his own, he grabs a couple of hours’ sleep before heading back to Coventry, but there was no need today, as I took over straight away. However, by the time we got to Bicester, he was starting to fall asleep and so we swapped back again and he drove the last leg of the journey to keep himself alert.

Lorry

Once we got back to Coventry at around 04:30, I reversed the lorry back into the parking bay and detached the tractor unit from the trailer under Nigel’s supervision. Finally, at 05:00, I headed home, just as the sun was starting to rise.

I enjoyed the run, albeit a little nervously at first. I can definitely see the appeal of the work, especially at night when the roads are so clear. And I was bunged some dosh for the privilege of getting some practice in. Looks like Nigel, who runs his own company, would be happy to put weekend work my way in future, as he’s having to turn it down at the moment.

It certainly makes a welcome change from sitting in front of PC all day!

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Ministry of Beaver recorded

The main band with whom I play, Ministry of Beaver, recorded its first demo with me on drums this weekend.

We recorded at Pride Rock Studios on Depper’s Bridge Farm, in Deppers Bridge, near Southam, Warwickshire. We played a private 18th birthday party there back in May and Dutch, the owner of the place offered us free use of the studio, so long as we paid for the engineer’s time.

As it turns out, the engineer Matt, who’s a school music teacher during the week, did an absolutely fantastic job. He loved my drum kit (apparently, he’d been raving to the trainee sound engineer who was there yesterday about how great Yamaha studio kits are to record) and I didn’t need to argue with him about not muffling the toms – he was absolutely fine with that. Hurrah!

We managed to get all the recording done yesterday (started setting up at 10:00 and finished at 18:00), except the backing vocals, which I did this morning before mixing started.

Recording went extremely well, with most parts recorded in one take. I’ve never known a band nail its parts so quickly in a studio. It does help if you’ve played them on stage, but we hadn’t played together before yesterday for some time, having all been on holiday.

When it came to mixing, Matt told us all to sod off out of the room… I smiled a knowing smile. When it comes to mixing, too many cooks definitely spoil the broth and a good sound engineer knows exactly what he’s doing, even when what’s coming out of the studio monitors doesn’t necessarily sound right to the musicians involved.

He called us back after each track for any comments/changes we wanted. There were very few – maybe 2 or 3 slight level changes in certain parts, but Matt had pretty much nailed the mix without a word from us.

The tracks can be heard on the Ministry of Beaver site (http://www.ministryofbeaver.com).

Nick and Cathy’s Wedding

Nick and Cathy were married today in St. Catherine’s church, Ludham, Norfolk.

Nick’s brother Andy and I were best men; Murron and Philippa were bridesmaids for Cathy, along with Cathy’s sister, Laura, and Nick’s niece, Bea.

Mark (of Ministry of Beaver and Kill Clouseau) and Chris (of BAiT and Kill Clouseau) also came down and met up with us at Nick’s house at around midday.

Emma, Murron, Philippa, Tristan, and I travelled across to Norfolk yesterday and arrived mid afternoon. We went around to Cathy’s parents’ house yesterday evening for an open house, which apparently Nick had conceived as a means for wedding guests to meet up before the big day today. As it turned out, this was an excellent idea, even if it did give Cathy’s family even more to prepare before the big day. Nick, Andy and I stayed up quite late when we got back to Nick and Cathy’s new house, just talking over all sorts of things and listening to some music.

This morning, Nick and I took some items over to the reception venue – The Sainsbury Centre at the University of East Anglia, and to the hotel at which Nick and Cathy are staying for a couple of nights before they head off on their honeymoon proper. We hit the slow traffic around Norwich, but managed to get back only slightly later than we thought. I took Murron and Philippa around to Alex and Ros’ (Cathy’s parents’) house so that they could get ready and then headed back to Nick’s so that the bridegroom party could ready itself. Cathy’s brother-in-law, Matt, and Nick’s brother, David, and nephew, Raurie, turned up to get suited and booted too – they were to be the ushers. After a bit of a struggle with buttonholes and cravates, we were ready to go and made our way down to the church in preparation for the start of the service at 15:00.

The service went really well and was exactly as you’d expect a good wedding to be. There was a good sized congregation and a lot of the locals had come along. The vicar, Neville, was a bit of a character, and we suspect a Monty Python fan. Nick’s very musical family played a big part; his sister, Gerlinde, sang a traditional Irish piece, The Lark in the Clear Air, and Where’er You Walk by Handel; his brother, Christopher played organ throughout the service, including the Trumpet Voluntary for the entry of the bride and Widor’s Toccata, segueing into a piece written by himself (also Toccata) at the end of the service.

Nick’s brother Andy and I decided between ourselves that it would be best for one of us to give both rings to the vicar during the service, and agreed that, as Nick’s brother, it was right that he should do this. The bridesmaids did their jobs perfectly and I was very pleased with Murron and Philipa, who behaved really well. After the service it started to rain, so some of the photos were taken
inside the church and some outside the church. As is the norm with wedding photos, it proved quite a tough exercise to get people in the right place at the right time for the photos, but we got there in the end. Next, we headed down to the reception venue, which was about 30 minutes’ drive from Ludham.

There was plenty of time for meet and greet and people mingled well at the venue and in the grounds of the venue. Chris managed to get a few candid shots with his camera, so hopefully they’ll come out well.

The wedding breakfast was very nice – the food and service were excellent. Then came the speeches – initially, Cathy’s dad’s, then Nick’s, then Andy’s, and finally mine.

Andy concentrated on growing up with Nick and brought along a couple of props he had managed to retrieve from their mother, including a Ladybird book and a ‘gang’ t-shirt Nick had as a child. Andy did a really good speech and then handed over to me. I concentrated on Nick’s life from when he became a student. Amusing stories on Nick are a bit thin on the ground (I never saw Nick get into any scrapes), but Cathy was kind enough to furnish me with a couple of publishable stories from when they shared a house together, and I had one from when we went to Norfolk on my motorbike to check out a car that Nick was interested in buying.

After the speeches, everyone relaxed and the band that had been booked to play started up. The band were very good and played a good range of covers. It featured Cathy’s sister, Laura, on vocals, and Laura’s husband, Matt, on keyboards.

At some time after 22:00, Kill Clouseau reformed briefly to play a short set, featuring Nick and Cathy. It was great fun and a special moment, as it’s probably the last time that I’ll play on stage with either of them, so there was a little sad element there for me, but it was really good fun nonetheless, and Mark and Chris enjoyed it too.

After midnight, I took Emma and the girls and Tristan back to Nick and Cathy’s house, where they’ve very kindly put us up for the weekend. I went back to the reception venue for Chris and Mark, who ahd planned to get a taxi, but it seemed crazy that they should pay £40 for the privilege, when I could just make the journey back again. They bunged me some petrol money, so everyone was happy.

All in all, it’s been a great wedding day for Nick and Cathy, and one that they will treasure for years. They both have wonderful and close families and they’re living in a lovely part of the country. They deserve to have a very happy life together, and as I said in my speech, I’ll be sad to see them both go, but Coventry’s loss is Ludham’s gain.