Monday, 12 September 2011

Friday 9th September – Day of Departure

This is it after months of fund raising, planning and organising with Royal Mail, BT, AN Post and Air Com, emails galore to and from our friends in Bulgaria’s One Life and Lora’s Foundation charities we are ready and eager to go, now where did I put my passport?    
Thursday 8th September 
Seven of the vehicles decided to travel to Hull the day before we departed and park in the Hull Mail Centre which was organised by Mick Whiting the CWU Branch Secretary of the Hull & East Riding Branch. Mick also arranged for us to fuel up at the Mail Centre with the kind agreement of the mail centre manager Steve Stockdale.
Friday 9th September – Day of Departure
By 1pm all 10 vehicles had arrived safely at the Hull Mail Centre all keen to head off to the port, but first we had a few more things to do…
Royal Mail in Hull did us proud letting us fuel up and allowing all 10 vehicles to park in the yard so that the drivers could do their final rejigging of loads. RM also allowed us to hold the final drivers’ briefing in their boardroom and in conjunction with the local CWU Branch provided a fantastic buffet for the drivers. Paul Clays, CWU NE Regional Secretary and Trustee, also attended the briefing and wished the convoy bon voyage.   The NE Region under Paul’s leadership has sent a vehicle on the September Convoy for the last 6 years.
The local managers also arranged for two of the vehicles to be repaired when one was clipped by a car and another had a problem with the passenger door. Both faults were soon sorted to the relief of the drivers.
Billy Hayes CWU (UK) General Secretary and Steve Fitzpatrick CWU (Ireland) General Secretary both sent personal letters with their best wishes. Tony Kearns (CWU Senior DGS) also sent his best regards. Next year Tony is embarking on a sponsored cycle ride from John O’Groats to Lands-End to raise money for CWUHA.
After filling our bellies we then went back down to the yard to meet up with Rt. Hon. Alan Johnson MP who is a dear friend and patron of CWUHA. Alan was instrumental in the setting up of CWUHA when he was the CWU General Secretary.  Alan gave a rousing sending off speech in which he said the CWUHA was a credit to the CWU and the trade union movement as a whole and wished us all good luck.  Alan and Paul then posed for pictures with the drivers, all wearing their new CWUHA t-shirts and yellow high viz jackets. XXXL was the order of the day except for Linda and Mandy the only two female drivers who had asked for ‘medium ‘ as did Steve Fishwick who was just deluding himself.
Alan, Ted Stead, Ian Young and Carl Webb all veteran convoy drivers, then gave radio interviews, spoke to newspaper reporters including from the RM Courier whose NE Regional Officer kindly looked after the media and us. Carl had already carried out a number of interviews that week to promote the charity and the CWU. Sian Jones, CWU Press Officer and to be honest, CWUHA’s unpaid Press Officer (please don’t tell her) put out a number of press releases to promote the convoy which resulted in a fair bit of media interest.   One thing we all agreed on; Ian Young has the face for radio!!
We would sincerely like to thank Royal Mail Managers, Postmen and Women in Hull; the local CWU Branch, Mick Whiting, Paul Clays and Rt. Hon. Alan Johnson for making this the best send-off ever for CWUHA.
Mick’s work still wasn’t finished; he had to escort us to the ferry which turned out to be no easy task. Three lorries arrived effortlessly at the correct dock while the others followed Skippy & Dippy (aka Linda & Mandy) round and round the final roundabout; all 14 sets of eyes peeled for the elusive “ALL FREIGHT” sign. Attempts from Steve Rowlands to ‘talk them in’ via CB radio initially proved fruitless until Skippy got her nose to the ground and took the second exit. We boarded at 17.15 and proceeded to our cupboards cabins, then onto the bar for a swift one or two before an early night. We all knew we had a long drive ahead of us the following day.
Saturday 10 September 2011 – First Day On the wrong-side of the Road?
Up, fed and off the ferry by 09.30 - EU time, we were soon Rockin’ n Rollin’ on tarmac and, with over 300 miles to cover before sunset we were keen to get going. Stops for comfort, tea and bickies, fuel and the occasional fuse-replacement surgery were kept to a minimum. It had just gone 19.00 when we pulled into the Guest House at List in Germany.   The sleepy village of List hardly batted an eye as 10 lorries hurtled up a side road and proceeded to manoeuvre themselves into a car-park of postage stamp proportions. On entering the car park Max n Paddy (aka Craig and Jonny) demonstrated for the benefit of the group their signpost preservation skills and one of the Lost Boys (Steve A) almost lost his dignity as convoy co-leader Carl called us together for a convoy conflab, delaying the much-needed comfort break by a further 10 minutes. 
Well, it was all worth waiting for – the Guest House was clean, spacious and very welcoming. The hot water system didn’t so much as flinch as 20 drivers proceeded to wash away the remnants of a 30 degree day spent behind the wheel. 

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