Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Tragedy 25/08/09

When you drive for a living you will inevitably come across road traffic accidents. Some are fairly minor. Some not so. I thought long and hard about including this story. It was the hardest decision I have had to make. In the end I decided that I had to, as a monument to ‘Tracey’, and as an explanation as to why I now consider drink-drivers the very scum of the earth. I confess that before this incident I did not drink much, but would occasionally go out and have one or two drinks with the lads. What was the worst that could happen? I was a good driver. A couple of beers wouldn’t make a difference.

This incident changed my mind, and my life. It played a big part in making me the person I am today. If, when you read it, it makes you think twice about having ‘one for the road’ then maybe I would have done someone some good.

Names and locations have been changed. My feelings never can be...

There is a pub in Heysham, on the way to the docks. I don't recall the name; we all called it the Nuclear Arms, due to its location near to the power station. On this particular Sunday night I had taken a trailer load of toilet rolls to the docks, for shipping to Ireland. After dropping it off, I went to our agent's Portakabin to see which trailer I would be bringing back.

As it happened, on this particular night there was none to collect, so I would be going home "Bobtail", or unit only, with no trailer. This meant I would be home early. Result!

There were a few cars leaving from the Isle of Man ferry, and I tucked in behind the queue, waiting to exit the docks. The car in front was a Peugeot estate car, and sat in the rearfacing occasional seat in the back was a young girl. Her name, I discovered later, was Tracey, and that day was her 12th birthday.

The Peugeot went through, and I stopped at the barriers. A couple of minutes later I happened upon a scene of devastation. The Peugeot estate was stopped at the traffic lights. Embedded in the back was a blood red Peugeot 205 GTI.

Panicked, I grabbed my first aid kit from the truck, and rushed over to see what was happening. The driver of the 205 was yelling abuse, so he was okay. I looked in to the mess in the back of the estate car, and for the first time I understood what was meant by ‘my heart froze.’

I struggled in through the back window to the poor child.

Tracey was in a lot of pain. The floor and rear door of the car had folded in, crushing her from mid chest down. From the chest up she was cut by the flyingn glass. She was pale, and not crying, but talking quite calmly about what had happened. I started trying to clean her up, and calm her down.

We talked about the party she had been to in the Isle of Man with her auntie and her cousin. She told me she wanted to be a lorry driver when she grew up, like her uncle Trevor. I told her about my dogs, and she told me about her cats and her pet rat.

The emergency services turned up. They were concerned that I should get out and let one of them in, but I explained that I had spent several years as a paramedic, before I left to drive buses. It was decided that as I had achieved a rapport with her and was physically in there. I would remain, administer the IV and any supporting medication required whilst the fire brigade cut us out.

Over the next thirty five minutes we got to know each other very well. She wasn't too upset when I set up a saline drip, and she accepted my checking her blood pressure and pulse. I was terrified. I had not often seen such low blood pressure in a conscious person.

As the emergency services took her parents from the front of the car, and started cutting away the roof and sides, I got her to smile by telling jokes. She was not, to my surprise, scared by the noises going on around her. She was briefly worried that her mum would be cross when she saw that there was blood on her jumper, but I told her she would be so pleased to see her daughter she wouldn't worry. I promised, if her mum was cross, to buy her another jumper just like it. She decided she'd like one with a sheep on it. No. On second thoughts, she'd like one with a lorry on “just like yours.”

Thirty five minutes it took for the fire brigade to make everything safe for extraction. And then Tracey looked at me and said, "It’s alright. It doesn't hurt any more." And then did something I have not to this day forgiven her for.

She died.

The fire brigade got me out and the police were around. So was the driver of the 205. Apparently he had come out of the Nuclear Arms drunk and tried to drive home. He was still cursing the driver and family of the estate car for stopping at the red light.

I drove back to the yard, handed in the keys to the truck and asked them to take me off that job, effective immediately. I could no longer envisage going to Heysham. I could no longer pass the spot. I have never been back to Heysham since.

Her parents were badly injured in the crash. Her mother was pregnant at the time with what would turn out to be Tracey’s little brother. I stayed in contact with them for a while, but...the pain of the memory was too great. I understand that they moved to Spain to forge anew life for themselves. I'm sure her memory lives on in them as it does in me.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Customs Curiosity 21/08/09

Customs Curiosity

One of the more, um…interesting aspects of the driving job was that it forced you into close contact with that curious mindset, ‘The Official.’

Given to wearing impressive uniforms, often with even more impressive hats, these individuals have a job to do, and they are not going to let petty annoyances such as common sense and humanity get in their way.

That really isn’t a fair statement. For every ‘Official’ you meet you are likely to encounter tens of ‘officials’ who do their job so well and so unobtrusively that you never notice them. To these people I offer my humble apology, for the book will contain quite a few references to ‘Officials’ whilst barely acknowledging the existence of the ‘official’ who has made my job, my day, and my life just that little bit easier. To those people, those unacknowledged heroes of every day life, I salute you.

To the ‘Official’ however…

The job of carrying Ford car parts to Germany and Belgium was, for the most part, uneventful. Once we had been given suitable wagons we just got on with the work and tried, to the best of our abilities, to make our runs legal. It was not fun having to try and tiptoe a 38 tonne truck past every police car and weighbridge, trying to look inconspicuous. However, The Boss had decided that he didn’t have to bother with HGV road tax when ordinary car tax would do, so we were regularly getting pulled. It then fell to us to explain that yes, we knew the vehicle was not legally taxed, but that we were not responsible for that, and the very nice police officer would have to speak to our boss. I have no idea how many summonses he go about this, but I should imagine it ran into the high tens, possibly touching a hundred. Yet still he persisted in doing it.

The one bonus of the Ford job was that you almost always came back empty. The job paid well enough that a one way trip was worthwhile. Well, I say it paid well. Certainly Mr Boss made money on it, but we poor drivers were still getting paid £120 per week, whether we worked in the UK or abroad, and whether we went home every night or once a fortnight…

One thing Mr Boss did not mind was his drivers carrying passengers. This meant that I could at least take Girlfriend du jour with me when she was on holiday, so I got to see her. And it was on just one of these occasions when we were honoured by a demonstration of the thoroughness of the Customs Official.

Disembarking from the P&O ferry, we queued at the customs station. Now, frequently we would just be allowed through ‘on the nod,’ but on this occasion a young Customs Official came out and asked if he could search the truck. I nodded and climbed out of the cab, paperwork in hand.

“What have you got on board?” he asked.
“Glider engines,” I grinned.

He looked puzzled and wandered round to the back of the trailer, and asked me to open up. I got him to check the customs seal on the trailer, then broke it, an opened up the back. He looked in to a totally empty trailer.

“But I thought you said you had glider eng….OH. I get it. Yes, very good.”

He did not seem best pleased… He then asked if I would mind him searching the cab of the truck and again I nodded my consent. He climbed up into the cab and started poking around, opening cupboards, looking into carrier bags of dirty laundry…I watched in some amusement as he discovered the bag into which Girlfriend du jour had placed her worn unmentionables…

Finally he sat in the driver’s seat and asked if I understood my customs allowance. I agreed that I did indeed.

“Then why is it,” he inquired “that you have down here on the form that you have 400
cigarettes? You should know that your personal allowance is only 200”

“Yes, I know. 200 for me and 200 for her,” I replied and pointed to my girlfriend in the passenger seat. He looked over, saw her, apparently for the first time, yelped, and fell headlong out of the truck…

That’s right. He’d searched the cab, and totally failed to see my young lady in the passenger seat. Which is funny all by itself. But he’d also found her bag of used drawers. What the heck did he think that I would be doing with a bag full of lacy skimpies? No, on second thoughts, keep the answer to yourself, for I do not want to know

Monday, 17 August 2009

Something Offal 18/08/09

Something offal this way comes

I suppose that it is only fair, having pointed out how events that happen to other people can provide me with so much delight, to chronicle the (not all that) odd occasion when Murphy steps in to make me the butt of the joke.

People have varied images of truck drivers. To some the song ‘I like Trucking’ as shown on ‘Not the Nine O’Clock News’ epitomises the group. Overweight, dim as a penny candle, and endlessly scoffing Yorkie bars as they try to scare little old ladies out of their wits with their air horns.

Others see them as Knights of the Road, ever willing to offer help to stranded fellow drivers, to provide directions to the most obscure of places, and transport as well, if the need arises. To yet others the image is that of windswept and interesting modern day gypsy, endlessly driving their rigs to an unreachable yet beckoning destiny.

Each perception is right, in its own way, and each is entirely wrong. Especially the one suggesting the romance of the job…

“I want you to do me a favour.”

These words, taken at face value, are harmless. However, when Mr Boss spoke them they had an undercurrent of meaning. The words themselves were not important. The message was carried by the unspoken word. And the unspoken word said, “I have a particularly nasty job for you. A job I wouldn’t do if you were paying me three times the pittance I pay you. A job I have offered to all the other drivers, and which they have laughingly told me to shove where the sun doesn’t shine!”

Unfortunately I had been working for Mr Boss for less than a year, and was unaware of his duplicity, and helpfully enquired what the job entailed. Apparently he had a contract with a slaughterhouse to remove pallets of frozen offal to a disposal site. Oh, and the job started at 8pm, which would be nice, as it was the middle of a very hot summer. This, as it happens, would be an important factor in why the job went very wrong very quickly…

7:30 pm saw me at the yard, where I was met by Mr Boss. He looked a little concerned at my attire, but I had dressed for the weather in shorts, sandals and tee shirt. It would, in hindsight, have been nice of him to tell me what he actually knew of the job, but he was worried that if he told me the truth I’d turn around and go home, leaving him to do it. So he remained unhelpfully silent. I took the tractor unit and left the yard, heading for the meat processing plant a mile or so up the road.

On arrival the site foreman took a look at the paperwork.
“Ah, you want trailer 1776, it is parked over there,” he said, pointing to a long parking bay full of trailers. I walked over to the row and started looking. I reached the other end, turned round, and walked back. Nope, I couldn’t see it, so I went back to the site office, and explained that I couldn’t find fridge trailer 1776 in the row at all.

“Fridge trailer? It isn’t a fridge, my friend. You’re looking for a tipper trailer. Should be easy to find too, as it has been stood in the sun all week, full of offal!”

Ten seconds later I was on the phone to Mr Boss, who denied ever telling me that pallets or fridges were involved. He was so convincing that I started to believe him and question my own sanity. As it turned out, I was later to discover that the guy was more closely related to the weasel than the ape, but that is for later stories…

I found the trailer, using nothing more than my sense of smell. Dear gods, it reeked! I looked for the sheeting to cover it, but one of the company drivers who were doing the same run told me that they didn’t sheet the load, as the sheets were then unusable for anything else. When I asked him what they did for load security I was told, “Brake very gently, and deny everything.”

My lord, how the trailer stank. I reversed under the coupling, checked the trailer was fastened and climbed on to the back of the truck to fasten the airlines. Whilst there I was able to see into the tipper body. You don’t want to know. Really you don’t. Okay, but don’t say I didn’t warn you…

Anything that was not useable by the butchers (which, to be honest, at a time before the ban on mechanically reclaimed meat and spine/brain material wasn’t a lot) was in that trailer. And you have to understand that if the butchers wouldn’t use it even for pet food, it was not just offal, it was awful. Worse, it had stood, uncovered, in the heat of the summer sun for a week, where flies and other insects could get at it. It roiled. It rolled. It heaved. It fulminated. Things crawled in it. Bubbles rose to the surface and POPPED in an oily sludge, producing yet more smell.

See, I told you that you didn’t want to know…

8pm, and off we set. Three trucks, each with its cargo of doom. Each driver firm of chin, clear of eye and wobbly of stomach. Two of the three drivers clad in waxed boiler suits and waders. What exactly did they know that I didn’t?

We hit the M25, and headed for the Dartford Tunnel, which, before the opening of the bridge, was guaranteed to be busy. The two drivers in the ERFs of the company fleet had pulled some distance ahead of me, as my truck was old, slow and poorly maintained, so when I got to the toll booths I was greeted by a worrying sight. A fleet of Landrovers in Dartford River Crossing logos, surrounding the two trucks. Another Landrover drove over to me, stuck on its blue lights and a ‘Follow Me’ logo, and escorted me to the hard shoulder.

It turned out that we were persona non grata at the site. They would very much like us to go away. To leave. They would be massively grateful if we would consider turning round and discovering a new route avoiding the M25 tunnel, if we would be so kind. Sadly they were couching all this in words that would cause a nun to blush. They really were not keen on us being there. Stupidly, paying no attention to the warning glances of the other two drivers, I enquired why they were so hostile.

It turned out that on the last expedition from the processing plant to the disposal site, one of the drivers had been less careful with the air brakes on the approach to the tollbooths than was sensible. You may recall I mentioned the lack of sheeting on the trailers? It seems that the sudden application of brakes had caused what we would call ‘a load shift’ and what the toll road officers referred to as, “throwing ten tonnes of shit at the tollbooths.” Apparently there was a scattergun effect when the load left the trailer and quite a number of people got a share of the effluvium. One girl ended up with a sheep skull pretty much in her lap. Whilst lacking skin or flesh it still had the eyes attached, and they gazed mournfully at her. Apparently flayed sheep skulls are not as cute as the ones still attached to the sheep, and she was now off work and on tranquilisers. The toll collector in another of the booths was so affected by the smell as to projectile vomit over a car, whilst the fumes caused the abandonment of a number of booths, and cars, for a number of days. To be air, the chaps did have good reason not to want us going through the tunnel…

So, we were unceremoniously turned round, and sent away. The officials didn’t care where we went, just that we went. So, we turned round, and went all the way back along the M25, anti-clockwise, which is not, on the whole, the most sensible way of getting to Canterbury from the north of the country.

One of the things you see on motorways and especially the M25 in summer is convertible cars with the tops down, tailgating lorries. Not so that night,strangely. Any car that drew up behind us very quickly pulled way back or passed very rapidly.

At about 1am we pulled off the motorway, and drove down quiet country lanes, and eventually up a narrow winding track. It only qualified for the name road rather than cycle path because nobody in their right mind would want to ride a bike down it. The smell of corruption was overwhelming. Good lords, and I had thought the trailer smelt bad!

We turned into a yard, lit with powerful yellow floodlights. My command of the English language is not sufficient to describe what confronted me. I will try, but however bad it may sound, believe me when I say it was in actuality ten times worse. At one end of the yard was an old brick building. Windowless, but with a multitude of vents, it steamed in the demonic light. Had Dante witnessed this place his Ninth Level of Hell would not have been ice, and Judas would have had much more to concern him than chilblains. (Incidentally, did you know that Judas was a red-head? That’s right. Judas is carrot).

In a hut adjacent to the building were three men in orange boiler suits. One acknowledged us with a wave and then wandered out. He was an imposing being, having shoulder length grey hair and a massive beard. We stopped the wagons and got out. The two other drivers started pulling on long rubber boots. What did they know that I didn’t?

After a brief chat, the two drivers wandered over, and told me that we had to tip the load in the courtyard. I looked, and it was at this point I decided that when I got back home Mr Boss was going to die. The ‘courtyard’ was in fact an area of about an acre, possibly of concrete, but mainly of offal, several feet deep. I watched as the first driver reversed his wagon in to the slurry, and got out of the cab. And I realised the significance of the boots. The tipper trailers had a small diesel engine to power the tipping hydraulics and it was mounted half way down the chassis. It was started by a crank handle, and this meant that you had to wade through the gunk to reach it. I looked down at my spindly white legs and sandals.


I will draw a veil over the next twenty minutes, except to say that there are nights when I wake in the early hours, screaming.

Having pulled the wagon clear I availed myself of the hosepipe on the side of the building. It was meant to be used for washing the wheels of the trucks before we left. I had a far better use for it. Whilst I was washing myself down I observed the chap with the beard shovelling some of the goop down a ramp into the processing plant. And then pick up a sandwich and start eating it.

In my time I have seen, heard and smelt a lot of things that would curdle the stomach of less hardy folk, and not even flinched. However, I have to say that it took me several weeks before I could look a bowl of beef broth in the eye again without breaking into a sweat. And it took me several more weeks before I managed to get the smell out of the truck...

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Roadside repairs 09/08/09

Roadside Repairs
Life can be full of surprises. I am endlessly amazed at the potential for humour in the most unlikely of places. It is not impossible that my stint in the ambulance service has furnished me with a somewhat skewed sense of humour, but I delight in observing the absurd, the amusing, the wonderfully unlikely. Even the act of driving down a road can be a source of amusement. For me, if maybe not for the unwilling participants…

Having come home from Belgium I had delivered a load in Birmingham and was on my way back home, when I found myself in a small queue of traffic on the M1, heading south. Just up ahead I could see there had been a road traffic accident and a car and a peoplecarrier were limping off the highway. I pulled in to the hard shoulder, as, having been a member of the emergency services, I felt duty bound to render assistance if possible.

It quickly became clear that I was not, in fact, the first medical practitioner on site. Parked in front of me was a pastel blue Morris Minor. Synapses unused since I left the ambulance service started to twang. Nerves that had relaxed began jangling, the hair on the back of my neck stood up. I knew, I just knew who I was going to face. Nevertheless, true professional that I was, I grabbed my first aid kit, and got out of the cab. And there she was. Stately as a galleon, scary as a scary thing. The District Nurse. My knees went weak and my skin tried to get back in the truck, but I pressed on, certain that she couldn’t be as bad as…

“What do you whant, yhoung mhan?!”

Damn it, knees. Keep me upright. She holds no sway over you any more. Her powers are weak!

“Ay said! What do you WHANT! yhoung mhan?” the Voice demanded, once more. I knew I had to answer. The lore foretold that if a District Nurse asked of you the same question thrice, then your soul was hers, forever.

“Um…please, I’m ex ambulance service, Nurse,” I replied, and blow me if I didn’t nearly put my hand up in the air before I answered.

She looked me up and down. I probably didn’t present a particularly stirring sight. Although later in my driving career I developed the habit of wearing a white shirt, tie and pressed trousers, at this moment I was clad in denim shorts, a teeshirt with a very unfunny joke, and wood and cow-hide clogs.

“Ai dhont think you will be necessaryah. Ai have telephoned the real ambulance people. They will be along shortleah,” she said, dismissively, and got back in her blue Minor and drove out into the oncoming traffic, without looking, indicating or making any effort to avoid any oncoming vehicles. When you are a District Nurse, you leave all the organising to the rest of the planet, which obviously will arrange things for your convenience…a few hundred years ago she would have been classed as a witch…

Curious as to what had happened, I wandered further up to the scene of the accident, as my eyes started to water, my sides to shake and I had trouble breathing. Basic first aid requires that when you are faced with an open wound or a bleed site, you apply a sterile dressing. The handbooks suggest newly laundered sheets, clean handkerchiefs or any fresh linen. The problem is, very few people are fortunate enough to actually come across an accident whilst carrying any of the above. The advice continues that you should make do with whatever you have to hand. And she had.

As the local ambulance pulled in behind me, I grasped at the Armco, and lowered myself to the floor, eyes streaming, shoulders shaking with suppressed laughter. In front of me were the four ‘victims’ of the accident, all men.

It was bad enough that one had a split lip, one had a cut over his eye and one had glass cuts to his cheek. The District Nurse had applied what sterile dressings she had to hand, and so all three were pressing NHS sanitary towels to their faces.

But oh, how sorry I felt for the young lad that had the nose bleed. I won’t tell you what dressing she had applied, but the poor sod was stood there, red of face, with a small white piece of string hanging from each nostril…

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Taking the P*** 5/08/09

(Posted a day late, due to illness)

To some people the whole idea of driving trucks on the continent is anathema. To be away from home for extended periods, to be isolated from people who have the same culture and speak the same language can be daunting, but to be honest you can get the same effect driving from Sussex to Sunderland!

For others the idea of being a Continental trucker is what they have aimed for all their lives, and to yet others, like myself, they dread the idea, and yet when they try it they grow to love it.

Continental trucking is not, on most occasions, a structured job. You live from day to day, not knowing where you are going to go to reload, or when. You could spend weeks abroad, loading in one country, delivering in another, reloading in a third, or you could find yourself back in the UK for weeks, doing only local work. You could be flitting around the continent, carrying for different companies, or spending months, or even years on the same contract, carrying the same goods to the same destination. First, however, you actually have to gain employment...

One of the problems faced by a newly qualified HGV driver is that to get a job you need experience, and to get experience you need a job. Unless you are extremely lucky no good company is going to hire a newly qualified driver, which is why a lot of new drivers find themselves working for ‘cowboys’. Cowboys are that group of employers who believe that they are above the law and require their workforce to behave illegally purely for profit. I was no exception. I ended up working for a gentleman who will be referred to from now on as Mr Boss.

I’d worked for the company for maybe 3 months and had made it very clear that I would go anywhere, in any vehicle, and with any load, so long as I was home every night. Although I was single, I wanted to be with my parents, siblings and pets, and if I were dating, my Girlfriend du jour. Of course, I ran illegally. Mr Boss did not hold with the concept of drivers needling sleep, nor complying with tachograph rules, and weight regulations were written for people who were not him. However, he knew I wanted to be home at night, with my family and for the most part he endeavoured to make sure that I was. There were the odd occasions when I would be stuck with a night out, but most frequently he would give me warning of these, and if possible my Girlfriend du jour would come with me.

Eventually, one morning he rang me and asked if I had a passport. I informed him in the negative, that it had expired. He told me I’d better get one in a hurry, as I would be shipping out that night to Germany. I told him in no uncertain terms that this was not going to happen and he pointed out that there was any number of drivers who could do my job just as well. I buckled under the threat and got a 1-year visitor’s passport from the local post office.

The job, according to Mr Boss, was a sure-fire money-spinner. We’d load at the Ford factory in Halewood and ship to any Ford plant in Germany or Belgium. The catch was that the delivery had to be made within 24 hours of leaving Halewood. This was an ideal job for two drivers, but unfortunately Mr Boss thought that two drivers were better deployed in two trucks, so we did the whole job ourselves.

I was distinctly unhappy with the idea of going abroad. However, I needed the job, so I went. One of the other contractors doing the job was Paul Ashwell, the gentleman who found himself embroiled in the ‘Supergun’ affair [1]and imprisoned in Greece. He and I often found ourselves on the run together. He was easy to recognise, as his Leyland truck had a silhouette of a cannon on each door.

On the occasion in question he and I were parked at the Ford factory in Saarlois in Germany, waiting to get unloaded, when a bright red UK registered truck pulled in to the truck park. It parked up, and the driver leapt out of the cab, and ran over to me. I swear he would have hugged us if I hadn’t retreated. After he stopped flapping, he told me that this was his first trip abroad and he had been slightly lost, for three days in Brussels, ending up in a narrow dead-end street that had required the police to close off several roads whilst he reversed out. To say he was upset would be an understatement. He pleaded with me to allow him to run back with us, and being kind hearted, I acquiesced.

At that time German customs were very concerned about the quantities of diesel that trucks were entering the country with. The maximum you were allowed was 200 litres, and they checked every wagon. I had been told that the easiest way to circumvent the problem and indeed the fines the German officials imposed for every litre over the 200 litre allowance, was to try and arrive at the border with the tank nearly empty. It should then be possible to refuel at the services in Luxembourg on the way back and also get a meal and a cup of coffee.

We pulled in to the rather crowded truck park and all went for a meal. The new lad eschewed coffee for a couple of pints, which surprised me, given that he had told us he hadn’t eaten for two days. After the meal and drinks we sat and chatted away our 45-minute break, and he told me of the trials and tribulations of his first and, according to him, last trip abroad.

“At least now I’m with you nothing more can go wrong!” he avowed. It has been my experience in life that making claims like that is a bad idea, and so it proved…We returned to the trucks and he let out a howl of anguish. I looked, and there was a stream of liquid running from under his truck.

“I don’t believe it! The radiator must be leaking!” he said, and before I could stop him he had crouched, dipped his finger in the trickle of liquid, and tasted it. As he did so I looked along the side of his truck. There was a large gentleman urinating against the front wheel of his truck, and the stream of urine tricked inexorably under the front of my poor unlucky colleague's truck….When he realised what he had just done, the poor man broke down and cried.

We did, eventually, get him back to Calais and the ferry back to the UK. When we parked up to sort out the customs paperwork he got down on his knees, kissed the ground, and swore that he would never ever go abroad again. As he spoke I had an epiphany. Clearly he was wrong. I realised that I had loved the job. I wanted, no, craved to do it again. After all, it was so easy! I took to driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road like a duck to water, and after all, that was all there was to this continental lark. What on earth could ever go wrong?

[1] In the early 1990s, Matrix Churchill, a Coventry firm, exported some tubes to Iraq. The tubes turned out to be the barrel of a ‘supergun.’ The person contracted to deliver the load was Paul Ashwell. He was arrested and imprisoned in Greece, and there was considerable effort made to have him freed. The scandal that followed was widely publicised, and brought about the collapse of the Coventry firm, the arrest of its Directors, and considerable dissembling from the Government at the time, as investigation produced evidence of Government sanctioned spying, and a cover-up operation.

Paul made an effort to get his life and business back on track, which was where he was when I met him. Where he is now I have no idea, but I hope that he reads this and remembers me, and I wish him well in the future.