Manners Maketh White Van Man


LaM (Lord and Master) burst through the front door and slammed his keys down on the table. I’m sat on the kitchen floor de-burring the spaniel. The painstaking process is endured with stoicism by my floppy-eared friend and, as it’s a not-infrequent occurrence, (the bursting, slamming and so forth), the dog and I look up with only a polite interest.

“Oh, bad day darling?” I ask. “Thump, thump” enquires the dog’s tail. “Bloody white vans. There ought to be some sort of supremely difficult exam that white van man has to pass. Or better still, an incredibly slow speed restriction. Or both.” The dog’s fur, now rid of all manner of ingenious seed carrying vehicles, had returned to its habitual smoothness. Stroking her was very soothing. I was able to make suitably sympathetic noises, whilst mentally checking the contents of the freezer to locate the peas that were to accompany the fish pie currently in the oven.

Encouraged to continue, he ranted “Overtook me on the dual carriageway at god-knows-what-speed, then realised that it needed to take the next turning off, so slammed on the breaks just in front of me and, well, I nearly died!” Love him and his sense of the dramatic.
LaM stepped over the dog, poured himself a scotch and sat down at the kitchen table. Dutiful dog went to greet him, presenting her head on his knee to be stroked. The recuperative combination of Famous Grouse and soft silky fur, restored his sense of proportion.

“I’m happy that you made it home in one piece, darling.” And I was. He was an irascible old stick, but he was my irascible old stick. Plus, there were a whole stack of manly chores lined up for his weekend’s spare moments, no doubt shoehorned between the round of golf on Saturday morning and the rugby international on Sunday afternoon.

“On the whole, though, I’d have to say that I find van and lorry drivers to be some of the most courteous and considerate drivers on the road. They pull over on these narrow country roads and put their hand up in thanks when I do the same.” I commented mildly as I retrieved the peas from the freezer and popped them in the microwave.

“That’s because you rarely drive more than a 10 mile radius of the village, my darling, and hardly ever leave Hampshire. Your world is in miniature, sweetings.” A fair point, if a little patronisingly delivered, I had to concede. I’ve got to a certain age and know what I like. And what I like is my home county, Hampshire. With its cities, towns, villages, beautiful countryside, rivers and seaside – it was indeed a wonderful world in miniature – and was all I needed. But I pressed on regardless.

“Today, for example, a little old lady cut right across my side of the road and proceeded in a series of lurches, kangaroo-stylie, as she turned up Parson’s Lane. I had to slam on my brakes, and instead of putting her hand up to say ‘sorry’, which would have been nice, she just glared at me as if I was a dangerous driver and everything wrong in her world was now my fault.”

“Isolated incident.” LaM was dismissive. But actually, now that I gave it some thought, that sort of thing happened quite a lot in my world.
Perfectly lovely, smiley, sweet natured old dears of the village got behind the wheels of their cars and assumed a scowling, slightly demonic expression, coupled with ‘interesting’ driving techniques. Was it, to cut them some slack, merely a lessening of awareness brought on by their diminishing faculties? Note to self as I opened the oven; keep close eye on LaM, who, let’s face it, wasn’t in the first flush of youth.

“No – you cannot speak of the ignorance and recklessness of white van man in the same breath as our friends and neighbours.“ he said with a grandiose finality. The dishing up of the fish pie rather brought the conversation to a natural end.

The following afternoon, after he returned from the golfing expedition, LaM offered to drive me into town. His destination, a DIY store (remember the aforementioned manly chores?) was next to the garden centre that I needed to visit. Returning, loaded up with bags of Feed&Weed and quick set cement, we were pootling along the road to our house. Drawing up behind a small cordoned off section of roadworks on our side of the road, due to some much needed superfast broadband for our village, we waited for the flow of traffic to break so that we could move on. We waited. LaM tutted. We waited some more. He tapped his fingers on the steering wheel. A steady stream of cars continued towards us with no sign of letting up. “Oh for goodness’ sake!” LaM had reached the end of his (rather short) tether “Will no one stop and let us through?” he shouted at no one in particular. As if by magic, the next vehicle approaching stopped and flashed his lights. It was a white van.

“Look darling, that white van has stopped and the nice man is letting you through. Isn’t that kind and helpful of him?” The irony was apparently not lost on LaM, who harrumphed and mumbled something that sounded like “One swallow doth not a summer make.”
As he went to pull away, already raising a hand in thanks to the smiley white van man, LaM was forced to slam on the brakes. Weed & feed and quick set cement slid forward and collided with the backs of our seats, as we were overtaken from behind by an elderly couple in a brand new SUV. From their lofty perch, manufactured somewhere in the Pacific rim, they grimaced at LaM and white van man both, as they cut across our path and roared away.

White van man shrugged and raised his hands, palm up as we drove past him with a cheery wave from me and a shake of his head in utter disbelief from LaM. LaM’s absolute certainty in the-way-things-are-supposed-to-be had been somewhat shaken, so I allowed myself the merest of gloats as I patted the dear old stick’s leg.
“Welcome to my world, darling.”

© 2018 Lucia Foster-Found