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John Pettitt holding the “Ryder Cup” 1985

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Albanian Aid

I had just returned from a trip to Greece when my boss Brian Hogg said. You are going to Albania next trip. I replied that we did not do Albania. Well, he said. “The Essex Police, Fireman and Ambulance Service have collected a number of items to send to Albania as an aid package and they asked me if I could provide a vehicle to transport these goods to Korce, in the northern province of Albania. I naturally agreed to their request, which means of course, you are the driver. He said that Fords of Dagenham, BRS and P&O Ipswich had all agreed to lend vehicles for this venture and that being the only professional driver it would be up to me to lead the convoy”. What was I letting myself in for? As it turned out it was quite an interesting two weeks in my life, as I will endeavour to tell you.

All the vehicles were loaded from a warehouse in Colchester. Essex. And on the day of departure, the cameras of Anglia TV were there. As I am camera shy, I decided that as it was their show anyway, I would sit at the back of the convoy. The first leg was only to the ferry terminal at Harwich and I had to do a small diversion to fill up my belly tank with diesel that had kindly been donated by someone who owned some hotels in Walton-on-the-Naze.

The convoy consisted of four artics and one minibus. The minibus carried all the supporting personnel including a couple of WPC’s. The driver was a policeman (CB fat man). The drivers of the other three artics whose names, apart from Simon in the BRS Rental truck, escape me, all had CB handles. BRS was (Cornflake) Ford Cargo was (Plastic Chicken) and P & O I cannot remember.

Once on the ferry, we had a meeting with the organiser Mr Peter Donkin and it was agreed that as I already knew the way, I would sit on the back door and act as sweeper. Seven hours later, the ferry docks at Hook of Holland. We disembark and leave the port en route to our first overnight stop that had been arranged at Liege. Now we are on the wrong side of the road, it is raining heavily and I cannot get into top gear because I now realise that up front are people who have never driven on the continent on the other side of the road. Because of this, it was one thirty in the morning before we slipped off the motorway into Liege.

The mini-bus went off on its own to find the school where we are going to park for the night and also the church where the people in the minibus are sleeping. By three o'clock in the morning they had not returned, so I said to the other drivers that I would go on up to the German border at Aachen and I would see them in the morning. This I did.

It was ten o'clock in the morning before they arrived and then I found out that the minibus could not find the school & church, so had enlisted the local police. They found the school and the church, which was side by side but then, had forgotten where they had left the trucks. By the time they found them there was not much time left for sleeping. So as you can imagine, they were not looking very good when I saw them.

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