4:30 am on a crisp winter morning, just another day in the life of Dave Black a forty-two-year-old truck driver for British Nuclear Fuels Limited, Cumbria Division, and divorced father of two.
“Oh well another day another dollar,” Dave yawned as he locked his car and headed towards the security gate.
He entered the transport office, smiled and waved at the CCTV camera and mouthed the words “good morning” to the security men.
“Right then let’s have a look at the game plan for today, oh great trailer NW0013, that’s not a good start to the day, ah well, it can only get better”
He took the keys for Unit34 of the key rack, and headed out to the truck park, did his usual walk around the truck, checking tyres and oil before starting the engine, checking the lights, then driving over to the loading bays.
He drove slowly along the front of the trailers parked in the bays, until he spotted trailer number NW0013.
He drove slightly past and reversed on to the trailer, until he heard the clank of the king pin as it locked in to the fifth wheel, selected first gear and tried to move forward.
The exhaust growled as the cab rose under the strain of fifty odd tons of dead weight.
“Yep that’s locked on, old girl,” He chuckled as he patted the top of the dashboard, before jumping out and winding the landing legs up, and checking the trailer lights too.
“Right number 13, I don’t want any trouble from you today, OK?”
He climbed back in the truck and drove to the exit gates.
“Morning lads, did you have a good night?”
“Fine thanks Dave; we actually caught some action on the CCTV just after twelve”
“Oh, aye and what was that then Bill.”
Fred grinned and laughed like a dirty old man, “It was a right show, a young couple parked up just around the corner from gate six, in full view of the cameras.”
“Oh, aye sounds a bit hot,”.
“Any hotter and the whole plant would have gone into melt down,” Replied Bill looking like a school boy with his first Playboy mag.
“What are you lads like eh, come on Bill open the gate and let me go get rid of this mobile nuke.”
Dave waved goodbye and headed out onto the main road, twenty-five tons of class one nuclear waste buried deep inside a twenty-ton canister on the back of his truck.
He had been doing this job for fifteen years now, although sometimes wished he was back on the continental routes he did in his youth, but he knew he would never make the same sort of money that this job paid.
He thought back to when he first started the job, the high security and the compulsory training days, on how to deal with a non-biodegradable nuclear waste product, should you have a leak or an accident.
Fifteen years on and it was all bullshit, security never checked his paper work and he hadn’t been near a training day for five years, even the canisters weren’t getting the safety checks anymore, he couldn’t even remember the last time he had a police escort, ah well its only radio active waste what could go wrong.
He often joked with the lads in the pub that he doesn’t need a light on at night anymore, as he gives off a green glow.
He grabbed a low gear to begin the long climb up onto the moors and catching his final glimpse of the power stations floodlights in his mirrors, see you in five hours’ lads.
As he approached the second of the tight hairpin bends out of the five on the hill, he noticed that the air pressure in his main tanks was a bit low, must keep an eye on that, at least the auxiliaries are fine though.
He knew it wasn’t unusual to lose air pressure when it’s below freezing.
just a bit of ice in the tanks, oh I wish I could have one of the new motors that them lads on days got, heated tanks, electric windows, air conditioning, the lucky bastards, they want to try these bloody dinosaurs that we have, oh well that’s the price you pay for an extra fifty quid a shift, besides I like the quite roads no traffic to cock up your trip, just get there unload and come back, five hours twenty-two minutes and one hundred and eighty quid in the bank, that’ll do nicely thank you.
Dave also knew that even if he had to drive a forty-year-old truck, he would still do the job, he didn’t love it but he loved the money, five shifts a week, nine hundred quid, how many other truckers bought a new jaguar every two years and had a holiday villa in Spain, well OK he used to have a holiday villa in Spain, that now belongs to his ex, he just makes the payments.
Oh yeah he loved the money, almost as much as he loved his kids, that’s something else his ex had, the kids, every time he wanted to see them she would make some excuse, then when he tells her which shift he’s working, she would say `Oh that’s a pity because you could have had them over then, yeah Dave knew she was taking the piss out of him but he sure as hell wasn’t going to start a battle that would affect the kids.
He rounded the last bend leading onto the moors, and sighed with relief, that bloody hill, eighteen bends and sixty-four gear changes it’s enough to give you a hernia.
At that moment, the ice warning light flashed at him, right well I best keep my speed down a bit, don’t fancy doing a Torvil and Dean down into the village.
A few minutes later and the radio crackled into life,
“Unit 34, come in please.”
He grabbed the mic off the dash, “Yeah John what’s up mate.”
“There’s been a bad accident on the bypass near Kendal, your going to have to go through the back roads, oh and watch your speed there’s a lot of ice about.”
Dave stared at the radio in disbelief for a few seconds before replying, “You mean you want me to take twenty-five tons of class-one nuclear waste through a quite little village, have you sorted it with the police, do they know the change of route?”
“Look, just take the back roads, it’ll be fine, I’ll notify the police OK, stop panicking.”
“Yeah OK I’ll take the back road, but don’t blame me when the Daily Mail runs a picture with the story, nuclear waste in the gardens of England.”
John laughed “Yeah well just smile for the camera, we don’t want them thinking you’re not happy with the job.”
“Happy I’m more than happy I’m delirious or maybe that’s what the radiation poisoning does to me”
He hung up the mic and couldn’t help imagining his picture all over the news, as the man responsible for destroying the tranquillity of the English countryside; well we all get our fifteen minutes of fame eh.
As he turned off the main road and nervously began the four-mile decent down to the village, he wasn’t happy about this at all, having used this road before, but only in the summer, he knew with the threat of ice, the narrow roads and an old truck without ABS braking he was in for a long and scary morning.
By the time, he had reached the first bend he was down to less than ten miles an hour, every time he touched the brakes he could feel the trailer brakes lock up.
“THIS IS NOT MY BLOODY IDEA OF FUN,” He shouted as he wiped the sweat from his brow.
“CURSE YOU JOHN, I SHOULD HAVE BLOODY IGNORED IT”
Three bends down and Dave spotted a set of headlights coming towards him, “OH SHIT, just what I wanted, well I hope you like grass mate, because there’s no way that I’m moving over.”
He then realised it was a milk tanker coming towards him, and knew he would have to move over.
He dropped it down into first, to minimise the risk of jack knifing, and very gently applied the brakes and moved over to the nearside, edging his nearside wheels carefully on to the grass, before he came to a stop just before the next bend. Opened his window and folded his mirror in towards the cab, to allow as much room as he could.
He watched the milk tanker come around the bend, the nearside drive wheels spinning and fighting for grip on the ice, the driver frantically trying to find the right balance between speed and traction.
As the tanker passed by the driver shouted, “I hope you kissed your wife goodbye this morning, it’s bloody deadly down there.”
He chuckled to himself; yeah, I kissed her goodbye three years ago, when she left with the kids.
Dave decided to get out and have a pee before carrying on, because he had a nasty feeling he would wet himself otherwise.
He stood between the cab and trailer thinking as he peed, why do I do this job, oh yeah, I know the money, well who needs money, I really should quit.
“Oh, god I just peed on my bloody foot now, the day just keeps getting better.”
He climbed back in the cab and just sat there, he really didn’t like the look of the bends ahead at all, there was something telling him not to carry on.
He thought about the night before when his brother had tried to convince him to skive work, he had wanted to take him to London for a couple of days, see the sights, get drunk, maybe even get lucky with some ladies.
Dave had spent two hours trying to convince him self to go, but the thought of spending two nights sharing a room with a guy that could snore for the country kept putting him off.
Alan, his brother had been bugging him to go for months, and then when he turned up last night with two first-class train tickets, he nearly gave in.
“I SHOULD HAVE BLOODY GONE.”
He looked at the bend ahead; saw the streetlights in the village below twinkling and shining on the frost, just like a scene from a Christmas card.
Well there are probably worst places to die.
“I’m going to have to go now, it will be getting light shortly, I don’t want to drive through there in daylight, and there would be at least a hundred phone calls complaining by the time I get back to the station.”
He took a deep breath and shoved it into first gear, slowly released the parking brake and gripped the steering wheel like his life depended on it.
“Well here goes nothing.”
The truck moved slowly off the grass, he kept his foot over the brake and off the accelerator, as he came to the bend he felt the steering getting lighter, he started to turn, but nothing happened.
He was about to press the brake when the tyres found some grip, the cab lurched to the left and the truck began to turn.
“That wasn’t bad, only another ten bends and I can relax again.”
Eight bends later and he started to smile, looked at his watch it was seven am.
“Where the hell has all the time gone, I should be at the discharge station now.”
He noticed a lot of movement in the village, people off to work, milkman on his rounds.
“Oh well can’t be helped now.”
As he got half way around the last bend the radio startled him,
“Unit 34 Dave stop your truck now, repeat stop, don’t go any further.”
Dave nearly grabbed for the mic but thought better of it,
“I’ve made it this far down I’m not stopping until I get off this bloody hill.”
As he began to turn for the last bend that would lead him the final six hundred yards into the village, the voice on the radio shouted at him.
“UNIT 34 COME IN NOW, DAVE YOU HAVE TO STOP THE TRUCK NOW, DON’T GO ANY FURTHER, REPEAT STOP THE TRUCK NOW.”
He pulled into the village square and parked up outside the greengrocers, before answering the radio.
“Well on your head be it, but don’t blame me for the bad press John.”
“Where are you Dave?”
“Erm, do you really want to know?”
“Yes, stop pissing about this is important.”
“Well I’m sort of in the middle of the village.”
“What oh bloody hell, err, err oh shit, I don’t know what to do now.”
“What the hell is going on John? You told me to go this way”
“Yeah, yeah, I know but that was before, before, oh god what am I going to do.”
“What’s wrong, have the ministry done a check or something, did you not get clearance from the police, don’t have a fit just tell me what the hell is going on, I’m going to start attracting a certain amount of attention from the villagers shortly.”
Dave could hear John breathing heavily.
“Dave what’s the chance of you turning around and going back to the main road?”
Dave shook his head and rolled his eyes, “You must be fucking joking, it’s just took me two hours to do four miles down that bloody hill, there is no-way I’m going back up there today.”
“You have to trust me; you must turn around now, just do as you’re told and turn around now.”
Dave almost spat into the mic, “And if I don’t, then what?”
“Then I will have you fired for disobeying a direct order.”
“Oh, come on John you told me to come this way, there’s bloody ice all over the road, I wouldn’t get this rig up there, remember I’m still loaded.”
“You either turn around or I will tell them that you didn’t follow the set route and that you refused to obey my orders, they will fire you on the spot.”
“Are you threatening me John?”
“YEAH I SURPOSE I AM DAVE.”
“Listen I don’t know what sort of weird shit you have been smoking John, but it’s done something to your insides, because every time you speak shit comes out, just tell me what the fuck is going off?”
There were a few seconds pause before John answered.
“I can’t tell you anything you just need to turn around, that’s all I can tell you, please mate just turn around.”
“Have you got something stuffed in your ears, I told you I can’t turn around, I would never make it up the hill, do you really want to see what happens when twenty-five tons of waste plutonium crashes into a village pub.”
“Rather that than a whole city gets wasted,” whispered John.
“What was that?”
John stuttered, “Err nothing I just meant at least it’s a village and not a city, please just turn around.”
“Listen, I’ll tell you what I will do for you, I’m going to go and get a newspaper and a chocolate bar, god knows I need the energy after that bloody hill, when I come back you tell me what the hell is going on and I’ll see what I can do for you OK?”
“Dave no turn round mate, come on please.”