Having never been one to sit around, after leaving the Thatchers I answered a call for help from Mauldons Brewery. Their trusty drayman ‘Dainsy’ had retired, and left without a replacement they asked if I might mind a few days on the road until they got sorted. Always happy to see the beer industry from a different perspective I happily obliged. Over the past month I have spent about ten days helping Mauldons. During this time I have also been working on my next career move (more news on this very soon!).
I’m not quite sure what I was expecting, but despite visiting up to a dozen pubs every day, the life of a drayman is quite a lonely one. A brief bit of banter with the brewery staff before setting off on my rounds might be the highlight of my morning whilst day dreaming of a pint back at the Mauldons Brewery Tap in Sudbury at the end of my long day. I hadn’t quite anticipated how little a driver might speak to each customer. Whilst most were friendly, there isn’t a lot of time at each pub when you know you have 250 miles and a dozen drops to cover in a day. That said the offer of tea or coffee and a quick chat was always welcome and I must admit I now feel very guilty for not offering a cuppa more often in the past!
I have travelled from the brewery in Sudbury to Lowestoft, Harwich, Colchester, Southend, Billericay, Watford, St Albans, Cambridge, Peterborough and everywhere in between. There are some cracking pubs out there, and a few odd ones, it has been a great reminder of how diverse this industry is. There always seems to be a pub to suit every person and every occasion and there are certainly a handful that I will be seeking out for a beer or a spot of lunch in the future.
Perhaps the most surprising customers were the ones who didn’t offer any help. Surprising partly because their awkward cellar drops can be tackled in less than half the time with two people, but mainly because they happily presented me with a signature and a wodge of cash without ever having seen the beer. As a publican I find this strange and certainly wouldn’t have let a new drayman in my cellar unsupervised let alone have blindly signed and paid for the delivery!
The early starts, manual labour and high mileage are tiring. The life of a publican isn’t an easy one either, but this has been completely alien to me and totally wiped me out. One night, after three consecutive days on the road I was busily inspecting the inside of my eyelids by half past eight and stayed in slumber for a full twelve hours!
When driving all day it is inevitable that the odd road user will disrupt your karma from time to time. The key is to get back in to character, happy and smiling ready to deliver beer by the time you next get out of the van. I only had two disagreements whilst out on the road, one was with a customer loosely described above and one was with a telegraph pole in Finningham opposite the White Horse, I am not proud of either! However, overall I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as a drayman and hope I remember how welcome those coffees were next time I am receiving a beer delivery.