A.J. Walker

writerer

Back to Work

Amazingly this week I've been back in work after my accident last week. The accident was quite horrible and very discomforting over the following period. It was quite a fall as I'd gone up some steps in a back garden to deliver a parcel. On the way down I stupidly stepped backwards rather than turning around. And as the steps were not finished (the garden was being worked on) my foot went into free air and I went spinning through the air from a foot or two above the ground and as I twisted through the air in something like an ice skating move, perhaps it was a Salchow. Anyway this exciting move was aborted early by my back finding a rather uncomfortable sudden stop on a metal railing. From where I bounced down to the concrete path. It was all quite dramatic. Severely winded and sore I lay there for a while wondering how far my swearing had travelled. I went to sit in my van for a while wondering what damage I'd done. I couldn't breath properly due to the pain. I wondered whether I'd broken a rib and pierced my lung. All sorts of things swam around my head. But ultimately I decided it couldn't be that bad as I could still move albeit painfully it wasn't making me faint or anything.

Eventually I wen on to the next stop, before ringing work and telling them about it - and that I should be able to finish the route but would likely not be in again for a while. It was sure to stiffen up and get worse. And it did.

The next day the agony getting out of bed - where I'd had to sleep sat upright, wedged between two pillows - made me think I had indeed done more damage. I struggled through a shower just in case I needed to make a last minute call to go to A&E. Over the next couple of days I thought the same on several occasions. At one point I was pretty sure I wouldn't get into work until late this week at the earliest. And what happened? I ended up being off work from Thursday through to Sunday. I've been in for a normal working week - 5 days. They gave me an easy day on Monday, and I finished quickly but was sore the next day. The following day I was back on a normal route and boy was that hard. I struggled with the pain in the evening. Next day was a smaller route in terms of number of drops and was a lot easier.

Anyway, here I am ten days after a most painful accident and I've done a week's work. In terms of working days lost, incredibly I only lost two days. All in all, if anything, it shows how resilient the body is. Where it can fix itself it does an amazing job. Looking back at the accident it could have been a lot worse I guess - as a glass half full person - the railing could have had sharp edges instead of being curved and maybe if I hadn't landed on the railing and bounced to the ground I would have landed on my head and done some more serious damage. If I'd bashed my head I'd have lost a lot more time off work, at the very least.

Moral of the story: don't walk backwards down steps you don't know. And the world is precarious for each of us.


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A Quick Visit to a Distant Past

Trefignath

With the long days and longer weeks at work over the last five months – not to mention historic/tourist sites and parking bays being closed throughout Wales – I haven't done any of my archaeological visits since last year. Today I was over in Anglesey again delivering to the Morrisons by Holyhead. It was only a few weeks ago that I saw from the main road a neolithic tomb just a couple of minutes from the supermarket. Today I decided (after getting a wee shop in at Morrisons) to pop over to it. Funnily enough now with all the summer's growth of trees and bushes the site is not as evident from the A55 as it was when I saw it earlier.


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Trefignath view from site entrance/stile


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Trefignath Selfie

There is no proper parking for the site. But it is by a new and relatively quiet road, evidently built for an industrial park which is yet to be built. After a short walk from the road, along a narrow partially tarmac path, there is a stile entrance into the site. There actually don't appear to be any signs, at least in the direction I came from, showing where the site is, which is a little odd. Maybe it is to do with all the 'new' roads along the edge of the area.

The site at Trefignath is a mind boggling 5300 years old, according to the information board at the site – charcoal found at the site date to 3300 BCE (plus or minus 70 years). It comprises three chambers built over a long period in the
Severn-Cotswold cairn form. The first chamber has some very large stones forming the walls but no roof. There is little evidence on the surface of the second chamber. The best one (at least in terms of having a roof) is the third more recent chamber.

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Burial chamber view chamber one nearest and main chamber three furthest away

Whilst the site doesn't appear to be signposted there is at least an information board half way along the northern western boundary of the site outlining the history of the site and describing the three chambers of the tombs. Unlike other sites I've visited, which have been at least partially excavated into the ground, due to the geology the chambers appear to have been constructed directly onto the bedrock. Some of the stones used are very large, particularly the large wall stone of Chamber 1, the two vertical stones at the entrance of Chamber 3 and the roof stones of that chamber.

It has been heavily reconstructed (despite the lack of much of its form) and you will see brick and mortar columns supporting some of the stones in Chamber 3.

The sides of the cairn are made with loose stones and rocks. I'm not sure whether originally it would have been left as stone or grassed. I assume it would have just been stone. Why this spot was chosen was for the cairn unclear. Who knows, maybe it was where the people lived, or maybe they just wanted to be handy for the Morrisons. An alignment of stones at the site though are apparently in just 1 degree away from the winter solstice sunrise, which I guess may be more relevant than the supermarket.



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Chamber one

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Chamber three

If you are visiting this site you may also want to go to the single, large standing stone "Ty Mawr" several hundred metres to the north of the site in another field–you can't miss it from the road. I didn't go over to see it on this occasion as parking again didn't look straightforward and because I needed to get home via a debrief with the one parcel I had been unable to deliver (mistakenly on my route – Grrrr.)

It was only a tiny diversion from my return home and I didn't spend long here, but it was nice to take the opportunity to visit the site. Definitely worth a visit if you'd otherwise be whizzing past on the way to or from Holyhead. It's not up there with
Capel Garmon, but then again it is a very different position and up to 2000 years older!

If you fancy seeing
Capel Garmon take a look at my blog from November, which was now several life times ago.
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Bloody Phones

Been a mixed week on the IT side for me. Whilst I am doing a delivery job the mobile phone is second only to the vehicle (or third if insanity is counted) as a requirement to undertake the job. Amazon stopped providing equipment years ago so drivers have to get their own phone that will run the delivery application. This saves Amazon money and time in caring and charging for equipment but means the drivers have to have a decent phone - but not too decent. Taking it out for deliveries all day, whilst carrying parcels and asking people to sign on it - in all weathers - there is a great risk of dropping the damn thing. Once there's even a tiny crack on it the phone becomes useless once it starts to rain.

Battery life is also important. My rule of thumb is that the app makes the phone use about 1% battery per delivery. This means if you've more than 100 deliveries (or start with less than 100% battery) you need to leave it connect to a power source as you go for a great deal of the day.

After dropping my previous phone several times (a Redmi one) the crazed screen meant it only really worked on dry days. After that the route was all in the lap of the gods. In addition to that one more little drop and it would no doubt be useless. So I had to bite the bullet and buy another phone. After a bit of research I went for the Blackview 5500. A reasonable price and very rugged. It worked well and survived several drops completely unscathed, with its inbuilt rugged cover and toughened glass. And the battery life was fine. It was ideal for the job.

Until Tuesday. Suddenly it went wrong. The battery didn't charge up fully overnight and then it was using the battery up rapidly through the day. Changed cables over the next four days and could get it to 100% charge, but the battery was dropping faster than West Ham in the league. Hadn't put on any new apps. Went through and deleted some - just in case - and made sure all the notifications and locations were turned off for everything but the work App. But to no avail.

Couldn't find any information online about current issue and in the meantime I could barely finish a day at work when I only had 63 drops - let alone a day when I would get over 100. I needed to sort it. Only advice I could see was trying a factory reset. This would be painful: having to reload all the apps (and fail to remember all those usernames and passwords). In the end this was not a problem I had to deal with… as when I attempted the reset it failed and the phone will not even boot up. I think they call this a 'soft brick'. So basically I have no phone to do my work. Arghhh! I may be able to fix it but it may take some time - and still may fail. A lost day for not being able to work due to phone is the same as buying a new phone. So, I'll have to bite that bullet.

So I'm off to buy another one. And then yet again another bloody case. I'm not going for the Redmi again as it was too full of bloatware that couldn't be deleted, or the Blackview as now I don't trust the software/firmware. Think I'm going to go for the Motorola G7 Play: good deal at Argos at the mo. Will have to get a case online.

Anyway, thanks goes to Amazon for not providing equipment, and to gravity for causing screen breaks, the weather for causing difficulties in the rain, and software issues for affecting batteries: thanks to all.
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A Fine Line

Doing a delivery job is a bit of a lottery every day. Imagine all the bad driving you see every day and then put yourself on the road for 200 miles plus each day, whilst having to stop regularly on every type of road and track you can think of. That's interesting enough on any day, but in the winter when the days shorten the difficulty is multiplied painfully by the early fall of dusk and then night. At the moment come 4pm it is very hard to read numbers or names of houses/businesses and when you are looking at delivering twenty or so an hour in a suburban environment you are suddenly down to 12-14. Which can add hours and stress to your working day. As for finding isolated houses on unlit country roads… well that's harder still (not to mention slowing down and parking up on narrow roads to make your delivery (or just to read a house name)). Oh, then theres the cold, the wind, the wet. The ice. Yep, winter stinks.

Yesterday I was driving around 4:15pm on the road south of Llanwrst which is a National Speed Limit road. And I was doing around 50mph with only one vehicle ahead. So far, so standard. Then I see the reverse lights come on the black van in front of me. On a National Speed Limit road! And they didn't have hazard lights on. I did well to even realise what it was doing. I swerved out a little to give it room. In the horrible dusk light I then saw across the middle of the road step ladders. So there was the explanation for his sudden reversing. I had to swerve again to miss them. I actually just clipped the top of the ladder and in the mirrors saw it rocking slightly in the road. I was terribly lucky not to damage the van seriously (or even 'just' get a flat) or veer into the oncoming reversing van. Anyway, I breathed a sigh of relief and got on with the last few drops of my day in the dark thankful. I hope the guy who didn't secure his ladder properly has unusable ladders, but I dare say they'll be usable still. At least next Friday maybe he won't be in a rush to get home and he'll do a better job.

The day before one of my colleagues fell when she was getting out of her van. She smashed her arm and feared it was broken. After six hours in A&E she was relieved to find she'd only dislocated her elbow. At least that means she'll be out of work for a week or two rather than months. There but for the grace of… well, we all each day could have this type of thing happen to us. Trips, falls, dogs, all sorts of hazards are so much more dangerous in the dark. Not so often step ladders.

It's nice to be lucky. And hopefully that luck can hold out.

Stay safe out there people. And please secure any roof loads.
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Bite Marks

One of the nicest parts of delivering stuff all over the place is the lovely scenery and nice places I get to see. Also lots of lovely dogs and animals (not cats). Of course though not all dogs are lovely, often due to their owners and the way they are or have been treated. Sometimes they are just doing their job as they see it - guarding the property and/or owner, albeit it over zealously.

I've been quite lucky really as getting bitten by a dog kinda goes with the territory of the job. Whilst we are not paid to take risks we can't hide every time a chihuahua
barks at us. Sometimes the issue can be unforeseen other times all too obvious.

The other day I arrived at a farm and two border collies circled the van whilst I sat in it. One going clockwise, one anticlockwise. Meanwhile a third dog sat impassive, watching. What do you do? You have a delivery to make. Are the dogs going to be okay when you get out of the van? Are they ALL okay or is one a bit of a nutter? You can see these three, are there more around the corner? In the first instance I beeped my horn to see if anyone was about. No one was. Then I tried ringing the customer to see if I could ask them about the dogs. No answer. In the end I risked it with a bit of trepidation. They were okay. Although as soon as I got back in the van two of them tried to bite my rear tyres and it made manoeuvring risky: 'You're parcel's in the shed–beside the run-over dog. Sorry…'

This kinda thing happens every day. I got bitten over a year ago on a hot day when the customer had left his front door open to cool the house. The customer was on the sofa and as I opened the gate I saw him let his dog run out. It ran straight out and bit me on my thigh. He asked if it bit me, whilst I walked around in circles crying out 'It bit me, it bit me. Fuck, it bit me.' – which I thought should have been a giveaway. The man shooed the dog (a border collie) into the house, asked if I was okay and whether I needed any water or antiseptic etc. I said yes please, at which point he realised that he'd closed the door after the dog and of course after being sat on the sofa who wears their keys on them? Yep, he'd locked himself out of the house. I limped away, leaving him to is and sorted wound cleaning in the local co-op car park.

There but for the grace and all that, it could happen every day. But it doesn't. And most dogs are great–If you follow my Twitter feed or Instagram you'll know I regularly put up pics of dogs I see whilst I'm out. I didn't take one today. Yup, I got bit.

It was a strange one. I went up to the house and they didn't use to have a dog (I've delivered there before). The dog was on a long leash (basically the length of the garden) and was sat by the door. I hardly noticed it until I got near the door. The dog (another border collie) lay down disinterested. I knocked on the door. It is sometimes then, when you go to the door, that they do get bothered - protecting their entrance and all that - but no, the dog remained disinterested. The customer came to the door. I chatted with him. The dog stayed lying down. I even said I'd managed to get past his guard dog and he laughed. It was sometime after this that the dog darted up (perhaps he was offended by my 'guard dog' jibe) and bashed into my knee. It came out of nowhere, the speed was rapid. I swore a bit and felt my knee bashed and bitten. As it happened he'd at least gone high enough that it went through my shorts, which would have afforded a little protection. Only one tooth got through and pierced the skin. It could have been worse - there was no clamping of jaws! The customer had only had the dog three weeks, it was a rescue dog and they were 'just getting to know it' – I guess they learned a little more today. All I got for my troubles was a baby wipe to clean the wound and a bit shook up.

Needless to say for the rest of the day when this happens you remain a bit more concerned around dogs than you are normally. At one farm a dog which does have an attitude was being a bit too close at one point - I'd mentioned the incident to the farmer and he said the only one he worries about if that one - it then snapped at my arse. I could feel the nose against me. Luckily the teeth missed thought they gnashing together audibly. The farmer shouted at the dog. Personally I think maybe if he worries about it, then maybe he should, at the very least, hold on to him whilst visitors are there doing him a favour! No? In future I will bring the parcel into the front at this farm and stay in the van.

Then on my last delivery a house with an open door. When I was half way up the garden a black dog came careering down the stairs outside and straight at me. I used the parcel as a defence between me and his snarling mouth before backing out of the gate. I'm not sure whether that one was going to bite me or not. But I wasn't going to take a chance. The woman said 'don't worry he doesn't bite' but they all say that before they follow up with 'well, he hasn't done that before' or 'it's the hi-vis' (not sure how they see that from upstairs).

Hopefully I won't get bitten for another year - or, even better, ever again. Maybe #DailyDeliveryDog will be back tomorrow. Fingers crossed (whilst I still have all ten of them).
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A Saturday of Some Limited Successes

The sunshine in the north west has continued solid for a couple of weeks now and yesterday was not to prove an exception. I was down for working but had one overdue issue; the courier's bane: balding edged front tyres from all those damn curbs we climb up on. It had got to a point which was borderline a potential losing argument about legality. After failing to get them sorted on Tuesday I finally got it booked in for yesterday (doing about a thousand miles a week tyre issues can quickly change from borderline to "what rubber?") This meant an increased likelihood of yet another unwanted day off, but better a few quid down that a £1000 and 6pts on the licence.

At least it meant I had the chance to take a walk in the early morning sunshine and go get a breakfast, albeit in a County Road kind of way. I had a piece of writing I wanted to work on for a competition Owl Canyon Press were running. The closing date was yesterday and I had been working a little on it on and off over a couple of weeks. Needless to say that I was only half way through but if I had to take the day off I could at least work on it and get something submitted however rushed.

Two phone calls later. A route in Altrincham if you want it; over 140 stops with a very late start? No thanks. Second call. A miss-sort route, ready now. OK. 21 drops spread all over: Liverpool city centre, Birkenhead, Ellesmere Port, Wavertree, St Helens, Warrington, Timperley, Lymm, Kirkby. Ended up being a bit of a late finish with the delayed start (and actually 168 miles), but less tiring than 140 stops in that sunshine. Oh, and driving on new tyres was a lot more relaxing not worrying about pulling up next to the rozzers or parking next to one in a car park. And relax...

Driving around whilst listening to the exciting France v Argentina match was good. Normally you can't hear much as you're in and out of the cab so much you miss more than you catch, but with 21 drops there was more driving than delivering. Huzzah! Whilst it meant I missed watching a great game there was the Portugal game to come - Suarez vs Ronaldo. So I got to watch that. And the joy of watching Ronaldo knocked out of the World Cup at this early stage made it a mildly joyous evening.

So a quick bit of reviewing at breakfast had been overtaken by work and left me fifteen hundred words short of the story with the deadline of the competition looming quicker than a German exit from the cup. The closing date was 30th June, but it was an American competition so there were more hours to play with from Blighty. By midnight I'd printed it out. Read and edited. Made the changes and uploaded by 1.30am. Yay! I got it in with over 5 hours to spare. Result. 5,500 words. All the right ones, just not necessarily in the right order etc etc.

Memo to Self: Don't leave it to the last minute next time.

Reply to Memo to Self: Yeah, right!



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Long cold evening out

Long Evening and Night - Over and Out

Well it's been a funny old week at work; and by funny I don't mean funny at all. Sometimes you just have to shrug, grin (or not) and bear it; days and weeks come and go. And some are better than others. Sometimes adversity looks great in the wing mirror. Ho hum. Maybe not but I'll just give you my bit of wisdom based on my van breaking down on Wednesday evening...

The van broke down due to a catastrophic failure of the coolant pipe. No coolant.. no drive it! (Error message read '
Hazard of Engine Failure' Eek!!! It happened at 6.15pm when I was on the A55 about 40 miles from home. I got home at 1am. Sheesh! ZZzzzzzzz

Wisdom to take on board for next time:
keep on driving... just a little bit further. Or even go back to where you came but on no occasion EVER stop at a service station in a telephone blackspot (okay, I'm with 3Mobile so that may rule out a fair few service stations, but hey ho). And worse; no phone signal AND no wi-fi. Do not stop at a service station in the evening when it has a Little Chef... that closes at 3pm?!

Do always always keep a book with you. Keep a sleeping bag with you. A torch and a notebook. Gloves maybe.

Remember if you ain't got any cooling you can't run your engine - and so you won't get any warmth. When it's a starry night and 2C it's a bugger of a fault to get. I got out to walk to warm my feet. It warmed my feet but the rest of me got colder. Five and half hours in an unwarmable vehicle is not a cool place to be. Well it is. But you know.

It's also a bugger when the AA turn up 30 minutes later than they said they would be ('at the latest') and
then tell you that they are due a 15 minute break!

Oh, there's more. So much more but my feet and fingers are still numb and I'm so so tired.

Over and out.



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