Celtic Illumination, part 351, Where there’s muck there’s brass.
One of the main reasons people would use the Lugga Bus service is because of the parking problems around airports. And the parking problems affected us too. Directly outside the main terminal was a circular parking area for airport transfer companies as long as they paid an annual fee. When I drove Arthur’s bus I was able to park here, now that I was driving the investors bus I had no access to this area. I promise you that there was nowhere within a two mile radius of Manchester airport where you could park, for free that is. Plenty of spaces, if you wanted to pay through the nose, and an army of traffic wardens, who were only doing their job. I managed to find a garage within the airport perimeter where I could park as long as I was a customer, so coffee it was then.
Actually it wasn’t bad because I finally got some peace and quiet and could park up, buy my coffee and work away on a manuscript for an hour or two. I can’t say that the garage was very busy, apart from the hire cars I noticed continually coming in and out. First of all they would zoom in, park next to the bins, where things from the vehicle were dumped, then over to the pumps for some fuel and then off. Every car followed the same pattern and this intrigued me, so the next time that I pulled in to the garage I stopped by the rubbish bins and went and had a look. I was pretending that I was emptying something from my van in case the attendant was watching me. I couldn’t believe that the bin was three quarters full of road maps and car mats.
Like a lot of men I loved maps so took one out and had a look. There was nothing wrong with it, I mean it didn’t even seem to have been used and the rubber car mats were in a similar perfect state. I hate seeing waste so began to empty the bin into my van. I know that I can be strange at the best of times so four rubber mats would be enough for me, but it seemed daft that almost one dozen mats had been thrown in the bin when there was nothing wrong with them. I stowed the maps and mats under my seats in the van and parked up watching each hire car as they came in and without fail, the mats and maps were slung from each car whether it would appear they needed to or not. Some companies must be making one hell of a profit if they can afford to be so wasteful in other areas.
It was like being back in the air force where I collected old uniforms from the station dump and put them through the clothing stores system again. Now I would offer other drivers some nice new rubber mats and a couple of maps for their vehicles and accept a coffee and sandwich as payment. It must have been the good ol boy in me, never wasting an opportunity. You may think me strange, collecting rubber mats and road maps from waste bins, but if I tell you something else I collected you will probably think me complete crazy and ready for the men in white coats. My two favourite mornings to go out driving were Saturday and Sunday morning, just as dawn was breaking. There was nothing aesthetic in my motives; I looked forward to discovering the mayhem that the drunk drivers from the previous evening had created for me.
I collected the aluminium posts that held up the road signs that the drunk drivers seemed determined to eradicate from the face of the earth. I didn’t carry any tools with me so could only collect single posts that had become unattached from the road name. Sometimes there might be a lump of concrete on the end of the post which I could normally remove with a firm smash against the ground. Normally, and because of the crash, these posts would often have a bend in them so when I got them home I would cut the post, giving me the longest possible straight piece, but I would always cut at an angle, so that the remaining post would look like an organ pipe. Then I would clean the pipe and spray paint it some vivid metallic colour. I think I was the only person in Skelmersdale with a set of wind chimes that would wake the dead. They certainly annoyed my neighbours.
I remember one morning driving to a village called Formby where three of us were picking up a large group of people, somewhere around eighteen passengers. Due to some set back we had to change who was picking different parties up and I now ended up with a full bus load which wasn’t in my plan as I had a six foot aluminium post rolling about in the back of the van and still with a huge ball of concrete stuck to the base. I can’t remember why I hadn’t removed the concrete but it was a problem as the post wasn’t exactly going to go unnoticed. I pulled up in front of this quite plush house, with a very neat drive and garden, and as the people began to come out I asked them to drop their cases by the side of the van where I would collect them and place them in the vehicle. They were very pleased with this level of service which I only employed as I didn’t want them to see the mess, on their drive behind the van, where I had managed to remove the concrete off my latest wind chime acquisition.
As we reversed away I asked for some assistance to make sure there was no oncoming traffic which meant that no one noticed the rubble all over their drive. The post I had slid down the side of the seats and it stayed well out of sight until I got it home and into my shed. Like most men I needed my shed, or my man cave, where I could retreat from life and the wife and children. My first ever shed had been in Belfast where I would sit on my own and listen to the rain, just me and the spiders, so relaxing I should market it and charge people money. Driving all over Lancashire, especially at ungodly hours, allowed me to take note of various things that might have been dumped or unguarded, so I managed to collect enough wooden pallets to build a nice large garden shed with. I did cheat as one, well two, of the walls were part of my garden fence but I covered the inside of the fence with rubber car mats as a form of weather protection.
I envied writers like Roald Dahl who had sheds where they could retreat and write all day long. I suppose the closest I came to that would have been the Lugga Bus as it was quite pleasant sitting there with the rain pelting the roof of the van while you read or edited some work. I could never write in the van but I could research and make notes. The speed of the snail mail between the UK and America was still driving me mad and with my constant outpouring of ideas the outflow and inflow most certainly did not match. Our first problem with American clients was trying to find out who to talk to. Publicists, agents, managers, sometimes I don’t even think they knew who I should talk to. Everyone in America, even the postmen, seemed to want their ten per cent cut. I had found a new reality show that I felt might have legs, as long as the ‘stars’ were willing to participate in the project.
The programme was called American Chopper and featured the Teutul family, well; three male members of the Teutul family. A father and two sons, the father, an interesting ex drug addicted motorcycle builder, seemed to be the main stay of the show. The eldest son Paul was the creative force behind most of the motorcycle designs and the third son Mikey was mainly I think for comic effect. So I felt that I could use all three Teutul men in a story but have Mikey pretend to be the writer and also have him promote the books or books. Jeffrey wasn’t convinced and if you remember that he thought The Gladiators were too down market for me you can probably imagine what he thought, or didn’t think, about the Teutul family. I gave it a go anyway and waited to see what they would say.
I wonder how many people passed, or drove in to, the garage near terminal two at Manchester Airport and saw me sitting in my van thinking, look at that poor fellow having to wait for his passengers, when in fact I was creating stories for some of the most popular up and coming reality shows in America. I didn’t tell many of the passengers that I was a writer as I don’t think they would have been able to comprehend the situation. To them I was the driver, the foreigner, who ferried them to and from the airport and I was very happy for the relationship to remain at such a level. I didn’t have to explain myself to anyone, as far as they were concerned I was doing a job and if I did it well enough I might get a tip at the end of the journey.
My best tip ever would have been the twenty five English pounds sterling I was given by the lovely bunch of Scousers from Aintree. However the tip, or one of the tips, I shall never forget was from an elderly woman in Aughton, a village outside or on the outskirts of Ormskirk, where everyone liked to think they were really posh. The lady asked if I would help get her case to the front door which I did with a skip and a smile. At the door she rummaged in her purse for her front door key and as she opened the door she asked, ”Driver do you mind if I give you a tip?” “Of course not,” I said, wondering, as she was so posh, if it would be fifty pence or one pound, but I was wrong, again. For she turned to me, in all seriousness, and said. “I think you should lose some weight.”