Wednesday, 25 November 2015

A Lift with The Dray

The dray manoeuvres into the car park of the Temple Bar twice a week. Tuesday and Thursday afternoons - both of these happen to be my shifts. So I have tried to cultivate a good relationship with the draymen. 

Traditionally, barstaff and draymen were always on good terms. In times past, barstaff would offer the draymen a pint in exchange for doing all the heavy lifting and ensuring that the pub got stock with long dates on it. However, over time, social mores changed and it became frowned upon (1) for staff to steal pints from their boss to donate to their colleagues in a related industry and (2) for people to drive Heavy Goods Vehicles after twelve pints of bitter top. These days the only thing a bartender can offer a drayman is the use of the toilet. The dray now lack incentive to do anything other than dump their stock in the cellar, explain that the machine is not working, use the toilet and depart. (The machine is a little electronic signature collection box that doesn't work - all draymen must carry one).

I think it a great shame that one of the great working partnerships of the industry has so soured and that bartenders now have to rack their own barrels on a Tuesday.

However, the draymen that deliver on a Thursday are very much of the old school. Happy to rack 'tubs' (a quick linguistic note: draymen refer to kegs and casks as ‘tubs’ but you must never do so as this is a drayman word and they will give you a funny look if you say it) and rotate stock without being asked. The Thursday draymen are not at all like the surly Tuesday draymen. Last week, they saw me coming out of Pye Bakery (more on this soon - I am sure you are anxious to hear my verdict on their sausage rolls) and held up the traffic on Heigham Street so that they could offer me a lift to work.

I was obviously quick to accept. I love riding in lorries but the opportunity doesn't arise that often. Until that morning, I hadn't been in the cab of a lorry for about twenty years. When I was a teenager living in a rural county and unable to drive (before I grew into an adult living in a rural county and unable to drive) my main method of getting around the vast uncyclable distances between villages in the Westcountry was to hitch-hike. Lorries were always the best lifts because the extra height would give you such a fantastic view of the countryside and because the seats were on springs.

I was pleased to note that the dray had sprung seats and we bounced our way up Earlham Road and into the Temple Car Park.

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