Romania was my next destination, with 54 drums of insecticide used for spraying fruit trees. Fred Archer had another load of the same drums going to another town nearby, so he instructed the driver to show me the way. I met up with Jock Gardner on the quay at Felixstowe, as we waited to drive onto the Sunday afternoon ferry to Zeebrugge. Jock was in his late 40s, with about ten years; experience of Middle-Eastern and Commie-bloc work. He knew just about all there was to know about the job and had worked for nearly every East Anglian company doing continental haulage. However, Jock made it clear that it was my responsibility to keep up with him. If I was at the borders with him, then he would show me what to do – otherwise I was on my own.
I got little encouragement from Jock’s attitude, as he was driving a brand new Scania 112 and I was still with an old Mercedes. It turned out that keeping up with Jock was not a problem as he was not in a hurry and his main priority was to make sure he found somewhere to have a drink in the evening. Jock knew every truck stop on the route; he even stopped to buy supplies at a village shop in Bavaria. Jock encouraged me to buy something, saying that I never knew when I might want to shop there again.
The next morning, when we crossed into Czechoslovakia, I found out about Jock’s other great passion, besides drink: women. It seemed that Jock’s ideal trip was to get drunk every night and have a woman in each country, on the way through. Jock knew every watering hole in every country, but I do not think Fred wanted him to stop at them all, when he asked the Scotsman to show me the way. We went from the Motorest at Pilzen, to the Motel Rokycany, and then to the services at Brno. At each place Jock showed me how to change Deutsche Marks on the black market, how to buy diesel fuel for Marks and where to find the best looking women.
After Prague, the motorway to Bratislava made our journey easier and we were soon in Hungary. Once again, we stopped at the places traditionally frequented by British drivers. These included the Hotel Wein in Budapest and the Windmill, a restaurant in the countryside, south of the capital. The old Mill had been converted into a smart eatery: it was not only popular for its good food, but also for the shower block built in the truck park. Jock thought there was a better class of girl at the Windmill, too. He recommended Erica, who he reckoned was every British driver’s favourite Commie-block whore. Sadly, she was having a night off when we were there.
First thing next morning we crossed into Romania, where Jock certainly knew all about the paperwork. It took half a day, but Jock managed to clear Customs, get the TIR carnets stamped and buy our visas with 200 Marlboro, a jar of Nescafe and some Wrigley’s chewing gum - it was the normal procedure when delivering in Romania, which allowed us to go straight to our destinations without dealing with further bureaucracy.
It was also Jock’s birthday, and to celebrate it, he wanted a woman. When we left the border, it soon became clear how he was going to get one: Jock stopped at every bus stop, in every town and village, to ask any waiting females if they wanted a ride. As he did not seem to be having much luck, I soon got fed up pulling up behind him every few minutes. Eventually, I pulled round him and made steady progress on my own. But on leaving the next town, there was a girl hitchhiker. This was the very thing Jock was looking for, so I stopped to pick her up. She was tall and slim with long black hair to go with her olive-brown complexion. If it were not for her brown teeth, you would have said she was a ‘ten’. The teenage Romanian was bubbly and full of life. As we went along, she tried on my sunglasses and went through my cassette collection, pleading with me to let her keep one of my Dire Straits’ tapes.
I drove on for a few miles, before stopping in a rest area for coffee and to wait for Jock. Minutes later, he swung into the car park and pulled up with his driver’s door next to mine.
“Where the fuck did you get her from?” raged Jock, as he peered across at my passenger.
“Two towns back. Had any luck?” I asked, although I could see he was alone.
“No, I haven’t. You jammy git,” replied Jock.
“She’s yours then – my birthday present to you. Take her,” I offered.
“No. No, you found her. You can have her,” shouted Jock, as he slammed the Scania into gear and roared out onto the road, showering everywhere with gravel.
We made love on the bottom bunk of the Mercedes, as the afternoon sunshine shone warmly through the gaps in the hurriedly drawn curtains. I soon saw what a perfect body my passenger had, once she had taken off the shapeless nylon tracksuit that all Romanians seemed to wear. My good looking lover was also good between the sheets, where she took control in an unexpected performance that belied her youthful appearance. Afterwards, she told me her name was Paula and she gave me her address in Arad, telling me in sign language to call on my way back.. I dropped Paula off in the next town, but not before she climbed across the cab for one last kiss.
“Marks, you give me marks?” asked Paula, as she ran her hands across my pockets, feeling for my wallet.
“Ten out of ten, very good,” I could not resist saying, but Paula did not understand why I was laughing – although she was well pleased with the ten Mark note that I gave her.
By this time, the daylight was fading; also, I had no idea where Jock planned to stop for the night. It was not that I needed his expertise anymore, I just wanted to be sociable. Jock had warned me of the dangers of night driving in Romania, with the common hazard of unlit horse and carts, so I took it slowly, driving defensively. I avoided the horses with their dozing drivers, while keeping half an eye out for Jock’s Scania. I found him – parked in a big rest area on the outskirts of Carensebes. Jock had not found a woman to share his birthday celebrations, so he had drowned his sorrows by drinking his bottle of duty free Johnnie Walker. When I arrived, he was asleep at the wheel, with the whisky bottle lying smashed beside the cab.
I was woken at 5 o'clock in the morning by shouting and banging on the cab; amazingly it was Jock.
"Come on, get up, we're going."