Archive for April, 2009

General ramblings

Hi, today has been a taxing one.

I crashed a pallet truck last week (they don’t have a brake, just a forward or reverse. If you want to brake you switch to reverse. I shot on to a wet trailer, put it into reverse, no grip so no brake, meaning the truck crashed to a stop and I  slammed into the corner of the steering column. Just on one rib it feels like.)

So that was less than fun. However after the initial staggering about like a shot hero’s death scene, it wasn’t too bad. If anything though, it seems to be getting worse. Silly things like lifting on my right hand side, bending over, sneezing or breathing deeply are to be avoided. This makes a physically demanding job all the more enjoyable.

However, after me slagging off the shunters at work they finally came good. On Sunday one of them took me for a bit of a spin in one of the works trucks, showing me how to use and position it. As a bit of a bonus he took me around some of the assessment course the works examiners use. Then we went back to the yard and he showed me a few reverses and talked me through a bunch of goes. The main thing I took from it was a realisation of how to make the trailer do what I wanted in reverse. Not that I can make it work yet, but that horrible moment when the trailer is pointing one way, the cab the other, and I know where I want the trailer to go but get totally confused as to how to make it happen, should be behind me.

The instructors have a trick; if one side of your trailer comes out and you want to be straight just steer towards the side you can see. Alas, when I am half way through a move and don’t want to go straight, I can waste lots of valuable room going the wrong way then having to correct the error. Not forgetting that as soon as you run out of room and have to pull forward, that is a minor fault on your test, and one of the two you are allowed. Three, as I know all too well, is a fail.

It really is simple; get halfway through my move, think ‘fine, now I want the trailer to start turning right’ put left hand down.

The other thing I learned, before my last test, was how to steer the trailer. You’ve got trailer turning towards your target area, but if you leave it it will carry on steering and go too far, so you have to get the cab straight behind the trailer to make it reverse in a straight line. This I was doing, but by the time I’d got behind it the trailer had steered too far. Simple again; BIG steers. I was shuffling the wheel round and taking too long to straighten up. Small bends, quick straighten, before the trailer’s had time to move.

Armed with these two gems I should be able to nail the reverse again.Those four hours I’m taking should get me back in truck/road mode. Hopefully pass this time.

While we were having a coffee break today I had a funny turn. One of our trucks was going out and one of the shunters must have noticed one of the assessors in it. He noted ‘someone going out for an assessment’ and my current boss said  ‘your turn next, Steve’ ( I go by many names, it’s complicated!)

That was the funny turn. My stomach turned over. Imagining going out with the assessor, everything hanging on that one drive. If they say no, they are probably not going to give me another go until something changes, i.e. me getting experience.

It can’t be any worse than going out for my driving test, and I do that with boring regularity, but it seemed really scary. I have issues enough just getting this bloody thing passed, but that would be the next big, and sadly unavoidable, step.

Positive Bucky. I can, I will, and if not I will elsewhere.

Hmm, not 100% successful in the positivity there. Positive but with caveat and a not very optimistic appraisal of chances.

In other news, the garden is going mad! I have masses of gooseberries plumping up already, loads of tiny pears swelling, and the apple trees are covered in blossom. Also the blue pine is doing mad things. I thought the little brown lumps on it’s branches were pine cones, but they are opening and there are a bunch of tiny green pine-leaves-looking things inside. More on that story as we have it.

I’m off for two days now, rest my rib and get over it hopefully. Time for dicking about in the garden and chilling.

Forgot to mention, our trucks at work are automatic. I’ve never driven one before. It is so weird! Slowing down and trying to find a clutch pedal that isn’t there, to stop a stall that doesn’t happen. That will take some getting used to!

There, end positively. Will take some getting used to.

Later,

Buck.

Well, I’ve mastered the reverse!

Am I an optimist? If so then I’m super happy that I’ve cracked the reverse manoeuvre. If not then I’m really outrageously pissed off that I then went and failed on the road!

This time he said I was passing too close to parked vehicles (if I’d have touched one then I would have agreed with him, as it was I was only close. If some fool can’t see a truck that is thirteen feet four inches high, the width of a lane, and the best part of sixty foot long they deserve to lose the door they are opening! Doors width gap my arse. We were going around Manchester, if I’d have stopped every time I had less than a doors width clearance I would still be on my test now.) That and my left turns. He rightly said that on a few occasions I should have hogged two lanes to get the position for a left turn, but again I think it should have been a minor fault (as opposed to a serious/fail one) as I still made each turn. I didn’t have to force anyone to give me more room, I did it all legit. I made it harder for myself, but I still did it. He reckoned I had mounted one pavement. I dispute that. As far as I’m aware I scuffed one. Not the same thing at all.

So, I finally got the hang of the reverse, (though I still had to take one shunt) then blew it on the road. I seriously do think I was marked harshly, but until I pass I’ve got to do it their way. To rub salt into the wounds, as we were turning into the street off which the training place’s yard is situated, an artic coming the other way saw how tight it was so just drove over the pavement! Six wheels, deliberate! Real world.

My run out today proved that it was just through being rusty. I flew through my first road test, the second I made two silly mistakes, this time I just wasn’t thinking truck. I was driving it confidently, but without the proper preparation for each arising situation. Just down to being rusty, and tired. I got about three hours sleep last night. Coming off a 2-10, trying to wind down, then trying and failing badly to get to sleep. I had terrible sleep when I did get off, and was awake before the alarm at about four thirty five.

This meant a tired and rusty Bucky.

I got home in a state of high dudgeon. I only had enough credit to take one more test, no more lessons, and that not for three weeks. I could only get rustier.

I had to reset my credit card internet account (as when it had asked me what the third letter of my password was I went A, B, C. The third letter is C. Three times! Yes it’s the third letter of the alphabet but that wasn’t the question, dumb-arse!)

Account reset I went on to see how much I had left on that card, (with the intention of paying the remainder on the other card, and maybe cash if they wouldn’t cover it) and they have doubled my credit limit!

It’s an Xmas miracle!

Got back on to the training place and cancelled my test, moved it back a week, and now have four hours training on Tuesday the twelfth of May, test the next day. And credit enough to keep training and testing until I do pass it.

Wendy is pointing out the cloud that wraps my silver lining, to whit I’m running up more debt, but unless I can pass I can’t pay it off. Well, I could. As a class II driver, but I can’t do it and stay in my secure job. They only have two rigid trucks in the fleet at ours, so only employ people who have both classes of truck license.

The story drags on. It was four goes to pass my rigid, and I am so much better in the artic than I ever was in that.

Running total with the lesson and test I booked today, from car to here, £4,200!

Gulp.

Toodles,

Buck.

The road to hell

Can you believe it? After last week’s debacle (when the shunters at work said they would give me some help with my reversing, then didn’t, then had the audacity to ask me where I’d gone, after they had said goodbye to me at the clock machine) I really thought the shunters would be too embarrassed to not help me this weekend.

They said they would, one of them took my ‘phone number (as it has been my weekend off) then when I texted him today to make sure he’d not forgotten me he rang me back asking who I was!

I told him, and he said "oh, I’m off today."

He was off bleeding work, and presumably knowing this had taken my number.

Oh yes, bit cheesed off.

Then he suggested I ring work to try and get the other shunter. I rang my department to get one of the lads to see him for me, and got some gob-shite who gave me lip. I will be finding out who that was and putting them straight.

Anyway, when I got through to one of the lads he went to try and get the shunter for me. He came back with a message saying the shunter was too busy to talk to me.

Thanks a bunch chaps. I didn’t ask for them to help me, they offered. One of them is the union rep and was saying how he’d square it all with the management, the other was saying he was a fully qualified instructor. Their help would have been immensely beneficial to me. But if they didn’t think they could do it why offer? They may have had good intentions, but I wouldn’t be pissed off if they hadn’t made offers of help they couldn’t be arsed following up on.

I didn’t go to my Advanced Driving jobby today in case they called whilst I was out. I think the Sunday lesson of Taekwondo was off (being Easter) but I didn’t bother to check because it would have been for an hour and a half in the afternoon, the likeliest time for them to be able to fit me in.

Anywho, other than that I’ve had a splendid weekend off. Any time off work is splendid time, but this weekend was splendid-er. It was supposed to be wet and miserable according to the forecasts I heard. Friday wasn’t so clever, but Saturday and Sunday have been glorious. I’ve been out in my garden for hours and hours. I took my seed trays out for a bask on both days, bringing them in for the night. I kept trying to sit and have a relaxing brew, but as Jo so rightly noted it’s just not possible. The amount of cold brews I’ve remembered too late. But considering I’ve not spent a penny all weekend it has been great. I seem to have found endless jobs that needed doing, (often at the cost of hot brews) but it is so deeply satisfying that it’s never a chore. Especially at this time of year. It’s such and optimistic time in the garden. The worst is over, life is returning. The hardy vanguard of helibore and daffodil are waning to make room for the intermediate displays of tulip and fruit tree blossom. Whilst in the pampered seed trays in the spare room (oh for a greenhouse!) a dozen different types of flower are sprouting forth.

The silver lips of lilies virginal,

The full deep bosom of the enchanted rose

Please less than flowers glass-hid from frost and snows

For whom an alien heat makes festival

(Theodore Wratislaw, Hothouse Flowers, 1896)

In my garden it is especially exciting as half of the stuff that is coming up I don’t remember planting, so I wait and hope. Oft it’s but a weed, but how much more rewarding then when it is something beautiful.

Hmm, Wendy has just come up and mocked this entry. I defend to the death my right to wax lyrical in my own blog! I merely write as I the muse takes me, and in talking about the flora one tends to become florid. Perhaps it’s because when your involvement in the garden is looking at it through the kitchen window and offering ‘helpful’ suggestions, you don’t invest as much in it and therefore don’t get as much out of it. (That told her!)

Ruined my flow it has (and, strangely, put me in Yoda speech mode).

Toodles then,

Buck.

Indomitable spirit

Hi and let me start by saying "OW!"

I have been making excuses for not going to Taekwondo for a few weeks, there was the illness, the headaches, my stupid shifts, etc. Last week I didn’t go on the Wednesday because I’d failed my HGV driving test and was incredibly gutted. Anywho, yesterday I decided there would be no more excuses, back to it.

Come the hour, come the man. Yesterday I trotted to the local school for the lesson only to find it all locked up because the kids are on another bleeding holiday. D’oh!

Not to be beaten, I came home and got down to a serious work-out, with loads of kicking exercises, starting at breaking knee height, up to knockout head kicks. I finished off with a load of stretching exercises. This is the first time in a good while I’ve actually got around to doing that. It was, and should be, several times a week or more.

So, though I missed the class I was still feeling good about myself.

Tonight was another class, at St Helens, (about nine miles away) so I made the effort and went to that one.

They have a fight coming up soon, so we spent the whole hour sparring and fighting. I was drenched in sweat, as was most everyone else, and exhausted. Fighting in those chest protectors is like going for a run in a sauna, wearing a basque (don’t ask me how I know!) 

Loads of people were picking up minor injuries; clashing shins, toes bent back, one lad copped a kick to groin and several people had painful knee collisions. I was no exception, I had a few incidents where I kicked at the same time as my opponent and our shins collided, also kicking at someone’s body protector and caught their elbow instead.

What amazed me though was people were getting upset about it! Admittedly one or two of them were only kids so were excused, but the adults were whining as well!

What part of the concept of ‘martial art’ or ‘fight’ don’t you understand?

You fight and keep going until it’s over. There is no middle ground. At times it will hurt, but if you don’t keep fighting you can guarantee it will quickly hurt a lot more!

So I’m stiff and bruised and have drunk two and a half pints of pop since I got in to try and rehydrate.

That’s all the ‘go me’ side of it. The down side is, apart from a more realistic expectation of what martial arts entails, I was crap. My kicks weren’t too bad, but I couldn’t get my foot down quick enough after each one to put me back in a fighting position for a counter attack, and I just couldn’t seem to get outside of peoples range.

It was a good lesson for that. It showed me how bad I am, how much I need to improve, and in what basic areas. Well, all areas. But moving back whilst staying in fighting position, the speed of my reset after each attack, the range of my kicks and stringing combinations together. Everything, really.

Bum.

I went, I saw, I got my arse kicked.

Back to the training.

Good news is I’m off for the weekend (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) and the shunters at work said they will try their very best to call me on Sunday and give me some lessons.

Off to exhausted sleep, me.

Later,

Buck.

Worried, me

Hi all, I’ve had a turn around and again with my driving. I was inconsolably gutted after the fail and the realisation that the money was running out. Then I went in to work and a couple of the shunters at work were saying they would try and sort me out with some driving and pointers if they could ( they would have to do it unofficially, but they said they would try and sort me out tomorrow if they can manage it. I’ll be sure to write about it if they do) and then one of managers asked me how I’d done, when I said I’d failed again he said he’d see our main manager to try to get me some time with the site driver trainer for officially sanctioned training! Even better!

Today we had a driver backing onto the dock where I work, and he hit the guide barrier four times before he backed it in. I was a bit made up, I was thinking ‘I could have got that in from there in one shunt! They’ve given him a job, I’m a shoe-in!’

Then it all turned around again. I was talking to the union rep for the drivers and he reckons due to the stipulations of the company insurance policy they can’t employ drivers with less than two years experience. Totally bummed out.

Since I’ve got home I’ve been thinking about it and there are some hints of light at the end of the tunnel. The main transport manager said to bring in my license as soon as I’d passed and they would take me out for an assessment drive. If I was any good they would be able to call on me whenever they needed a driver. Surely he knows the limits of the company insurance policy as well as anyone.

Also there was that initial conversation I had way back, when I still worked nights, with that shunter. I was asking if it was worth taking the training and if DHL/Iceland employed new drivers. He said it was and they did, citing a recent case of a chap who had just passed his test (after being a welder by profession) and got his first driving job at ours, after passing the assessment drive. The story hadn’t ended well, he had a roll-cage full of stock fall on him and break his leg so they had sacked him (he was still on his probationary period). The point I was focused on was that they had given him a job with no experience.

Lastly there is the ‘warehouse to wheels’ scheme. If they are taking people off the shop floor and putting them through thousands of pounds of training to get them their artic license, it seems unlikely they are then going to say ‘off you trot to some other firm for two years while you get some experience.’ Logic would suggest that they must,therefore, employ new drivers.

Long and short of which is; I have grounds for hope, but cause to worry. Should I ever pass my bleeding test I will be straight into the office to find out where I stand. I have (a different) union rep rooting for me, that manager who is trying so hard to help me, as well as some of the drivers I know who will put a word in with the transport manager for me. On top of that I will be going straight to H&R. If they are doing ‘warehouse to wheels’ at our site, as H&R said they are, I would be willing to jump onto the end of that. If I could see me getting a driving job by the  end of the year I’ll stick it out at our place. If that is not going to happen I’ll just have to take what I can get to get the experience. Even if the pay per hour is actually a cut, the amount of hours I expect to be doing should cover it.

Good news is, I have a spiffy red artic toy truck. It’s about two feet long and it’s well cool. The only problem with it is it’s left hand drive! Damn the French! No wonder my reverses aren’t looking so clever!

Well those are my worries, but as Wendy would quote, ‘sufficient onto the day are the evils thereof’, no need to go looking for more.

Later,

Buck.

PS now Sunday night. The drivers didn’t come good, I’ll have to see that manager tomorrow. However, the other union rep did say today to ignore that two years experience thing. So mixed opinions, but not a definite ‘no’.

Dammit!

Well I’m pissed off. I went for my test today. In practise I actually managed to do the reverse manoeuvre first time, no shunts. I was well made up thinking I had cracked it, my second go I totally ballsed it up, but with shunts made it in. At the test centre I totally lost it. It was going too near the barrier again so I took a shunt, but left it in a really weird position. Started to reverse and ended up in exactly the same place. So I took my final shunt, but then I was everywhere chasing the damned trailer. In the end he stopped me, said ‘you’re not going to get it in from there’ and again I’d failed before I left the test centre.

This time I only accrued four driver (minor) faults, as opposed to the eleven I had last time, but picked up two serious/ fail points. I clipped a kerb whilst trying to squeeze down the left hand lane of a two lane road (stupid, stupid, stupid) and mistook a line of waiting cars for parked, so tried to overtake them all! Incredibly stupid!

So, four minor errors, two stupid mistakes I shouldn’t repeat, but still not got the hang of that reverse.

I can’t afford to take any more lessons (not that I show any signs of getting the hang of reversing anyway) so I’ve just put in for four more hours and a test. Which is to say you pay for four hours, in which time you have a few reverses, an hour and a half run out, then your test for an hour and then your instructor drives you back, immeasurably gutted.

If I don’t pass next time (April the sixteenth) I reckon we can afford one more test, then that’s it. Until such times as Wendy gets a paid job, or I leave DHL/Iceland and risk getting a class two/ rigid driving job with more money.

The downer is I’m alright at the actual driving (two silly mistakes aside).

My instructor said on the first day ‘ a lot of people worry about the reverse. That’s what? Thirty five yards? It’s the other twenty one miles on the road you have to worry about.’

I beg to differ.

And he was still enthusing after this fail, saying how I could throw a good reverse in, and how well I’d done on the road, etc.

I can’t throw a good reverse in because I don’t know what I’m doing, and whilst instilling confidence is all good and well, without competence it is at best misplaced, at worst lethal.

One bit of advice I’ve heard off several drivers is to go and get a toy artic and play with it until I get my head around the concepts involved. I’ll nip Asda in a bit see if they’ve got any, if not Toys r us.

I’m tired, sweaty, and incredibly pissed off.

If at first you don’t succeed, don’t take up skydiving.

Buck.