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Good Evans: Fuel tanker driver hadn’t allowed for tin-hat turkey

This month Roger Evans comes up against the full panoply of Health & Safety, but finds that his pugnacious tin-hat turkey stags were curiously omitted from the comprehensive list when the regulations were first drawn up.

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I always read the letter pages in our local newspapers. I like to see what motivates people and what winds them up. Except that they are not all readers’ letters are they, there’s always a half of them from national organisations which presumably bombard every local paper in the country with the same letter.

A huge percentage of that half are antifarming, pro-environment at all cost, and a lot of them are anti-dairy farming. When dairy farmers are struggling with lower milk prices these letters can be very irritating, and I am often tempted to write a reply. But it would probably be a waste of time.

Firstly, the writer of the letter is unlikely to read the reply because they are not local anyway, and secondly, the letter might be anti-milk but it would be a waste of time trying to argue the case because the anti-milk bit is just a part of their agenda. So when they tell people that milk has pus and blood in it, along with antibiotics and hormones, and it is produced by cows that live all the year round in dark, damp squalid conditions, it’s not that they are anti-milk and antidairy farming, it’s because they are vegans and don’t want any livestock farming of any kind.

But don’t let this sort of stuff frustrate you too much because help is at hand. In a dairy industry beset by problems of oversupply and low prices, there is a shining light in our industry. It is called the Dairy Council. The Dairy Council spends a lot of its time cutting these ridiculous rumours off at source. It does it effectively and it does it well. And it does it with limited resources. If I could choose on the matter I would like a lot of the levy I presently pay to DairyCo to be diverted to the Dairy Council. I’ve been banging on about this for years and have yet to meet a dairy farmer who didn’t agree with me.

Most people who come here with a lorry are given the chance of a cup of tea. Milk tanker drivers know full well that if they get here in the snow they will get a cup of tea, a bacon sandwich and a sit by the Rayburn. It all works quite well. The only problem I ever seem to get is with fuel tanker drivers. Years ago we ran out of diesel for three days and I had to ‘borrow’ some from my next door neighbour. It’s a lot of extra work, carting diesel in five-gallon cans, and I can’t do with diesel on my hands.

So as I went out to milk on Saturday afternoon, I was delighted to see a fuel lorry come up the yard. I retraced my steps to get him a cup of tea but when I took the tea to him, he said he couldn’t deliver any because the tank was up on a stand. I’d guess that the top of the tank was 10 feet high, and he wasn’t allowed to go more than a metre off the ground. (You will have spotted by now that fuel lorry drivers live in a metric world.)

Who says you can’t go more than a metre off the floor? You’ve guessed it, Health and Safety. Not to worry, I tell him, I’ll go up the ladder. (There’s me in my 60s and him in his 20s). You can’t do that, you are not licensed to handle the hose. And he was serious. He prepared to drive off. At least fill these cans for me.Can’t do that, we have a minimum delivery of 1000 litres. But you are here now. The cans could fall over while I’m filling them, then we’d have a fuel spillage on our hands. And he gets in his lorry and drives off. And he drank the tea!

Last autumn, same firm, different driver, comes with some oil for the Rayburn. So I go to see if he wants a cup of tea. No answer. This tank is on a metal stand in the garden about a foot high and there are supporting 2x3ins pieces of wood on the stand. The driver is poking the wood with his penknife. Don’t think I can leave any fuel as this wood is deteriorating and the tank could topple over. Eventually he agrees to leave the fuel, but first I have to put a cargo strap around it to tie it to the fence and promise to make improvements next time it is empty.

We buy our fuel through a buying group, so when I place an order I never know who will bring it. So, last week I order 1000 litres for the Rayburn and within an hour they are back on the phone. The firm which has the order won’t come unless I’ve improved the stand. I say I have, so that’s ok. So I go to the tank, put my shoulder to it, pull out the ‘deteriorating wood’ and the job is done.

But just remember the tank is in the garden. In the garden is where the turkeys live. So the driver, when he comes, puts the fuel in the tank while he has to fend off three aggressive stag turkeys with the garden rake. He only agreed to do it if the missus provided back up with a hoe. Strangely they don’t mention turkeys in the Health and Safety manual!

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