Author Topic: Dark Days Despatching  (Read 347 times)

Offline Radar

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 670
Dark Days Despatching
« on: June 21, 2008, 01:37:39 PM »
My experiences as a courier in 1985...

Redundant is a pretty nasty word at the best of times, but when someone is saying it to you when you are only twenty and on the last day of a four year apprenticeship, suddenly the real meaning becomes all too apparent.
Well if we wind the clock back to August 1985 I was that twenty year old, and the manufacturing industry was under repeated attack from the hoards of Blue nasties led by the she devil Thatcher herself, my redundancy came like a hammer blow. My chances of getting another decent job in such a bleak environment wasn?t great, so I decided to make use of my bike licence, and try get a slice of the ?500 a week action the bike press always seemed to be on about at the time and be a despatch rider. Getting paid to ride a bike, got to be good, hasn?t it..?

There was a courier firm based less than a mile from where I had just been made redundant, so I headed around there. A quick chat with owner and hey presto I had a job! No problem, the fact it had been so easy in the middle of a depression that Marvin the Paranoid Android (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marvin_the_Paranoid_Android), would be proud of, didn?t set any alarm bells ringing; oh the joy and naivety of youth!

So that was it then, I was a cool hard courier a knight of the road! I was chuffed to bits and turned up on my first Monday, parked up my RD350 and expected to leap aboard a battle scarred Kawasaki GT750 and roar off to deliver desperately important top secret documents or vital bits of nuclear reactors. The reality was rather more mundane;
?You, take the CD200 and deliver GKN?s internal post?
A whole 3 miles, on tired 70,000 mile Honda Benly. This wasn?t quite what I had been anticipating. To make matters worse, GKN was the company that had just made me redundant! Oh isn't irony a wonderful thing?
My fellow riders were a disparate bunch of drop outs, students, more mature riders just looking for a bit of earning power, and rejects like myself. All had nicknames and these doubled up as our call signs on our crackly radios. Mobile phones were few and far between in 1985.
There was ?Fast Nick? an ice cool degree student who had dropped out the system and who had the knack of getting anywhere quicker than anybody else. ?SPG? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_Patrol_Group), was an ex copper, tough but friendly, while ?Biggles? (http://www.biggles.info/), was a very well spoken CB400F rider who sported a white silk scarf and a handlebar tache and looked for the world as if he had just stepped from a Spitfire fighter plane rather than a beaten up despatch bike. We all hummed the theme to The Dambusters film whenever he rode in! My title was Sidevalve as I rode an RD350 Powervalve?

We all gathered in a shabby touring caravan drinking tea and eating bacon sandwiches waiting for the next shout, ?Fast Nick? tended to get the plum jobs using one of the firms three Kawasaki GT750s while new boys such as me wound up on local stuff on one of half a dozen CD200s the firm also ran. Classic amongst these was the so called ?Piss run? which was the rather charming title for a regular run from a hospital mortuary to a pathology laboratory with body fluids from the recently deceased! I used to leave my gloves, lid and jacket zipped up when taking this to the client! The is your ?Rites of Passage? run and after a couple weeks another new rider would join and you get to hand over this delightful task to them! Soon I was out and about on the motley collection of clapped out CX500s that formed the bridge from the Benly to the GTs. These all had at least 80,000 miles on them and were tired to put it politely. It was aboard one the CX500s that I set a personal biking record that stands to this day of 820 miles in 24 hours; the bike had 105,000 miles on it to. Boy was I knackered, and I even managed to fall off at one point, drag it out of hedge and carry on. In fact crashing was a pretty good way of passing time as a courier and in my brief stint I managed to stuff 3 bikes, a H100, the CX and a GT750 pretty spectacularly!
Riding courier style also tended not to go down terribly well with the plod and one particularly memorable occasion I was storming out of Tamworth on the A453 aboard one of the GTs clocking about 80-90mph when I spotted a plod pointing a hairdryer at me. Remember hand held speed guns before the days of unmarked vans and fixed cameras behind road signs!? Anyway I lamped on the brakes as hard as I could, the single piston double disc set up testing the Avon Roadrunner on the front to the max (God has brake and tyre technology moved on since 1985!), and buried the headlight in the front mudguard. I came to a squealing halt with back end going light. The copper strode over to me in that ?I could have been in the SAS you know? manner they all have and uttered the immortal quote;
?Well done sir, only 48? and promptly wrote me a ticket. I kind of miss the personal approach!
The job took me all over the country and the miles racked up quickly and after only a few weeks you feel like a veteran. The staff turnover was phenomenal, and one guy only did one morning aboard his Honda CB750F before packing it in because he got wet! What the hell did he expect!?
All the runs blur in to one another, but one day I was sent to the Premiership of the courier world?London. I was taking photographic proofs from Rover (RIP) to the offices of CAR magazine in the Smoke, but I got hopelessly lost in the swirl of vicious dog eat dog traffic down there. Getting late and desperate I spied a another courier at the side of the rode taking a fag break along side his Suzuki GS650GT Katana. He was 45-50 and wearing a battered belstaff, I pulled up alongside and explained my plight and pleaded for help.
Cool as a cucumber he said ?follow me?, stubbed out his tab on the pavement, slowly put on his lid, climbed aboard the Suzzy thumbed the sarter button and then took off like Enterprise going into warp! I gunned the CX in an effort to keep up and the next few minutes saw us slicing through traffic at breakneck speed. Every rule of the road was not merely broken, but absolutely pulverised, mirrors were clipped, roundabouts ridden over, it was like some wild ride on the back of an unbroken Mustang. Then with a flicker of brake light he pulled up, pointed and then roared off again. Weird. Cheers mate whoever you were!

Well after 2 months and 8,000-10,000 miles I packed it in too, the lousy money, crazy hours, crashing and tickets all got too much for me. I would never do it again, I would never recommend that you do it either, but it was one hell of an experience.

moto_psycho

  • Guest
Dark Days Despatching
« Reply #1 on: June 21, 2008, 01:44:46 PM »
where as i still wanna give it a bash when my apprenticeship is up :big grin:

Offline Radar

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 670
Dark Days Despatching
« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2008, 01:50:29 PM »
This in Brum, but was back in 1985. Firm was called Baron Couriers, long since taken over

Offline FUNKY BANDIT

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 807
Dark Days Despatching
« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2008, 10:07:10 PM »
i might be looking at redundancy myself this year and i'd give it a go just to keep me off the dole (which i feel lucky to say i've never been on)
when in doubt drink beer

Offline Pug

  • Coffin Dodger
  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2862
Dark Days Despatching
« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2008, 10:41:02 PM »
My Adice to anyone thinking about it...............Don't bother

done the Job in London for 13 years on lots of different Bikes an more than a few Courier Companies  

when i finally got out in 2000 i was  very happy the Industry was past dead by then god fucking knows wot it's like know

1 bonus i killed at least 10 Honda's :big grin:
Today the Forum God

Tommorrow the World will be under my Influence :wink:

Offline Betablocker

  • DTP Founder
  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 10616
    • http://www.betablocker.co.uk
Dark Days Despatching
« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2008, 06:03:29 AM »
Nice one Radar

The real version of Despatching :thumbs:

If it was any better there would be no jobs, as all us old farts would be doing it !!
Diplomacy is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.

Offline welshbandit

  • DTP Member
  • Hero Member
  • *
  • Posts: 1903
Dark Days Despatching
« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2010, 08:02:06 PM »
Thanks for the gitty truth radar. Had thought bout giving dispatching a go on a few occasoins, but after reading your experiences i`m thinking fuck that i`d rather go on the dole first which is prob just as shite.
SheepShaggers L.T.D.

Offline HEATZ

  • PIKEY MOD
  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4623
    • http://www.jdslawnmowers.ie
Dark Days Despatching
« Reply #7 on: August 30, 2010, 08:41:05 PM »
Raders experiance of dispatchin sounds better then mine tis a shit job and no way in hell id do it again :shakeno:
Ballbags

Offline frankgwasere

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 453
Dark Days Despatching
« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2010, 08:41:06 PM »
Reminds me of 20 years ago when I first started work as a computer engineer covering Newcastle to almost as far south as Peterborough. The deadlines of an SLA meant you had just about enough time to say hi before you were back in the Van and heading to the next call. We didnt have enough time to fix anything hardly we just would order a whole working unit for next day delivery, knowing you would be back to replace the broken one. I changed this ethos of the company by actually having some standard spares, but when I started to loose a fortune in fuel allowance I realised it was all a con. Cos we made a fortune in expenses - bought me my first car. Atleast not being on the bike meant I was warm and dry but always exhausted from the travelling.

Offline Radar

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 670
Dark Days Despatching
« Reply #9 on: October 03, 2010, 09:47:51 PM »
Quote from: welshbandit;286254
Thanks for the gitty truth radar. Had thought bout giving dispatching a go on a few occasoins, but after reading your experiences i`m thinking fuck that i`d rather go on the dole first which is prob just as shite.

No worries, glad to be of service

Offline Radar

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 670
Dark Days Despatching
« Reply #10 on: October 03, 2010, 09:49:33 PM »
Quote from: frankgwasere;286259
Reminds me of 20 years ago when I first started work as a computer engineer covering Newcastle to almost as far south as Peterborough. The deadlines of an SLA meant you had just about enough time to say hi before you were back in the Van and heading to the next call. We didnt have enough time to fix anything hardly we just would order a whole working unit for next day delivery, knowing you would be back to replace the broken one. I changed this ethos of the company by actually having some standard spares, but when I started to loose a fortune in fuel allowance I realised it was all a con. Cos we made a fortune in expenses - bought me my first car. Atleast not being on the bike meant I was warm and dry but always exhausted from the travelling.


The courier firm I rode for had a few vans and pick-ups too. I drove these as well, they were all lethal! Happy days...

Offline Radar

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 670
Dark Days Despatching
« Reply #11 on: October 03, 2010, 09:50:08 PM »
Quote from: HEATZ;286258
Raders experiance of dispatchin sounds better then mine tis a shit job and no way in hell id do it again :shakeno:


Who did you ride for and where?

Offline HEATZ

  • PIKEY MOD
  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4623
    • http://www.jdslawnmowers.ie
Dark Days Despatching
« Reply #12 on: October 03, 2010, 10:10:49 PM »
Quote from: Radar;290823
Who did you ride for and where?

cant remember the name now was just off Mitchem road in south london in 95ish

i had the best bike in the firm!
a 70,000 mile GT750 that was fucked 30,000 miles before i got near it and i wernt treatin it with kid gloves eather so god help the next guy that got it :big grin:
Ballbags

Offline Mustapha dump

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 65
Dark Days Despatching
« Reply #13 on: January 10, 2012, 08:06:59 PM »
I spent 3 years despatching in and around London during the mid nineties, CX500, GT550, NVT600, all cracking bikes in their own way. I did a lot of long distance stuff, averaging around 1500 miles most weeks through all manner of weather conditions. Loads of thrills and spills. I collected a pacemaker one day just outside London and rushed it to Hammersmith hospital at warp factor 10. Summer was fantastic, winter was usually shite. I loved it for the first couple of years, but during the third year I started thinking about other things, and after several big crashes and luckily walking away from them with not too serious injuries, I had a mate get taken out down Faringdon road when a minicab U turned from the curb, he pushed his femur out through his thigh severing an artery, he only survived through the sheer fluke of a Paramedic van being stopped at a sandwich bar getting the morning coffees. They managed to administer the treatment he needed o as not to bleed to death before getting him into A&E. Life expectancy was around 18 months beore you had a biggie, I was lucky I walked away from all of mine with only the odd busted rib etc. Would I do it again? If I was younger then probably I really fuckin' enjoyed riding like a total cunt for 14 hours a day, and having receptionists think I was cooler than a penguins bollocks. If ya wanna learn how to ride a bike quickly then get a job despatching, there's nothing like riding the Hyde Park GP circuit with the pegs down round Marble Arch. Little contests with yerself like riding from the Holloway road down to Canary Wharf without putting yer feet down at all, and 80mph up a bus lane being chased by some twat whos wing mirror you've just taken off. Ey lads them was the days.