My Lowdown on ‘The Lockdown’….!!

Our very own Heather Tuffs has been on the road everyday with her trusty delivery bike

As an avid adventurer and roamer of the wilds, (especially in those beautiful  Scottish Islands and Highlands) you can imagine I wasn’t too keen on the word ‘Lockdown’…! However, I am a strong advocate of making the best of whatever situation you find yourself in. So I saw this as a golden opportunity to give something back to our local community. I’ve been riding my bike 6 days a week, with a trailer attached, delivering food and prescriptions from the local High Street shops to all the vulnerable people in Nidderdale. I’ve met some truly inspiring, immensely generous, hardworking and positive people. I can honestly say I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the last month. Hard, hilly and hungry work but so rewarding!

I have long admired the work of the Pateley Bridge High Street shops. They go above and beyond in their care and support for their local community. They’re never without a smile (mostly real and just occasionally forced..!). Infact, if you ever need a lesson in customer care look no further. They’ve dealt so positively with a huge challenge they could never have anticipated and done their very best to look after the people of Nidderdale. It’s been an absolute pleasure to be able to serve them for a change.

The real Lockdown Heros

Before I continue, I really would like to make it clear that I don’t want this blog to result in any more embarrassing accolades for the fun I’ve been having. Look at it this way; I’ve been riding my bike all day (which I love), in the Dale’s (which I love). Mostly in glorious sunshine (pretty nice), meeting some amazing people and helping out some who I greatly admire (which I have loved)! I am well aware that I have been fortunate to be paid throughout this period. I think it only right that I make myself useful in some way.

I’m also aware that I’ve just swapped one job for another. Whereas it’s probably not an exaggeration to say that the workload of those in the Spar has doubled as a result of this; ‘much worse than Christmas…’ has been quoted many times. They’re jobs will be so easy after this! Below is an example of just one of Lee Chandler’s recent 16 hour days in Spar Pateley Bridge (and on his Anniversary too)…

      Get up at 2.30am to go to Leeds market, unload and stock the shop, help take 40 orders off the answer phone, run round shop gathering orders, run shop as normal for customers, coordinate delivery and collection of payment, unload more stock deliveries, restock the shelves, quick 15 minutes for lunch if lucky, take more orders off the phone, pack more boxes, deal with Mrs So in So who wanted green grapes not red grapes, and Mr So in So who wants his order on Saturday not Friday because he wanted the Saturday paper….and Mrs So in So who needs her order after 11am because she won’t be up before then…and another customer who broke down and cried on the phone (unofficial counselling is all part of the job too you know…)

Then try and estimate how much stock he needs to order for the next days bored and currently ravenous public. Eventually get home, glimpse his own kids before early bed, whilst his wife Liz drops off an order for Dallowgill (50min round trip) that came in at the last minute. Then get up and do it all again. A relentless cycle but always done with a smile and continual effort to never let anyone down. And if that’s not enough work, try lifting a local disabled man with no legs into your own car on your day off to take him to the bank in Ripon…

And as if they don’t have enough to deal with at the moment, despite our protestations, the Spar shop have insisted on paying for two new Mountain Bikes for Bewerley Park as thanks for the delivery help. They are so generous, kind and caring in that shop. I will continue to help them out as long as this goes on. I just hope I’ve made their lives a little easier and maybe brightened the day slightly for some of the lonely and suffering people I’ve delivered too.

So if after reading this you want to sing anyone’s praises, heap your praise on the true Local Heroes I’ve encountered in the last few weeks; Liz, Lee, Shaun, Tilly and Co in Spar; Paul Kendall and his fellow useless direction givers in Kendall’s Butchers; Sam and her team in Pateley Bridge Pharmacy, Cath of ‘Fish with a Twist’ and all the other High Street shops who’ve remained open to serve their local community. They’re the ones who need more than a medal or a plastic badge at the end of all this.

Reflections of a delivery rider

The following are just some of my reflections on my experiences of the last month:

Firstly, the ‘Lockdown’ has shown me a side of life that we rarely encounter; that of the severely ill, frail and disabled who we never see because they are just unable to venture out. Delivering to these people has shown me just how difficult life can be when your health fails you. Not to mention how dependant people are on the goodwill of others right now.

I’ve visited a nearly blind lady who thought she was giving me £10 when actually she was handing me £20; a horrendously arthritic lady living alone who could barely struggle to her door; a loving wife caring for her dementia riddled husband who doesn’t remember having eaten a meal so continually tries to raid the cupboards and has no clue about Covid19 so keeps trying to go out; a man with no legs who should still have one leg but the wrong one was amputated..; and so many more examples of mentally alert elderly people whose bodies just won’t let them do what they’re minds are still capable of. The positivity of many of these suffering people is amazing.

Some of the conversations I have with these people on a weekly basis now are truly inspiring. Health is definitely not something to take for granted. And it’s rather difficult to adhere to the 2m rule when faced with such physical struggles; a mutual holding of breaths is sometimes the only way…

Another thing that has struck me whilst riding around is just how beautiful the Dales are. I have felt so lucky to live where I do and cannot imagine being stuck in a flat in the middle of a city right now. The weather has been glorious. It’s felt like nature is rejoicing over the fact that we’re being forced to look after her a little better at the moment. The air has felt so clean and clear, the birds so loud, the flowers especially bright. The quiet roads have made things so peaceful. I wonder if maybe a forced slowing of the ridiculous pace of western life (apart from for local shops, NHS workers etc… who definitely haven’t slowed down…) and simplifying of our existence might make us reconsider our way of life a little.

Now for a little less deep and meaningful reflection…!

Dealing with the general public brings many laughs and the following are some of the highlights of the last month;

● Kendall’s butchers fantastically useless delivery directions: “You know, Mr So in So, lives next door to him who married her who has 6 cats that came from Mrs So in So up dale who married him who died last year who came from down’t dale…., they live in that house with a bit of string round the gate about 3 doors down from Mr So in So who has a cat flap in his window, you know who I mean, him who married her from Lofthouse…..!!!” JUST GIVE ME A HOUSE NUMBER PLEASE!

● A delivery rejection; “Take those potatoes away please. We really can’t eat those. They’ve got skins on….!”

● Another Kendall’s top delivery description – “Stand in the park and look to your right…!” (Which Park…? Which way do I face…? What am I even looking for…!)

● The man with no legs who sits in his mobility scooter on the corner opposite the Spar and cheers and yells “PEDAL FASTER” every time I see him…!

● Deciphering Tilly’s order lists at the Spar- 1Q? (1 cucumber obviously!)

● A classic innocent Childs’ greeting to a lady walking down the road; “Good morning. You’re that lady who goes to Fat Camp…!”

● A close encounter with chickens crossing the road; it takes quite a lot of brake power to stop that beer and wine loaded bike trailer…(the pubs may have been closed but the general public have certainly still been enjoying themselves judging by the amount of alcohol I’ve transported- obviously an ‘essential item’ but don’t blame them for wanting some fun whilst imprisoned)

● Doorbells: most people’s don’t work I have discovered! But there are a few beauties; one that plays a whole song and the best one, a big crystal ball that you pull towards you that rings a massive proper bell inside the house! My enjoyment of ringing this bell hasn’t gone unnoticed! A less vigorous pull has been used on my recent visits.

● Riding back to Bewerley with yet another load for the food bank (people continue to be so generous) containing 20 glass bottles of J2O, 20 bottles of juice and a full shopping basket of jars, tins, biscuits…. when the trailer wheel decided to fall off! Amazingly, all intact (and I wasn’t going slowly!)

● A highly amusing telephone conversation;

The customer: “I didn’t order cooking apples, I ordered Bramleys”

Spar: “That’s what you got”

The disgruntled customer: “But I did NOT order cooking apples, I ordered Bramleys”

Ever patient Spar: “That’s what we gave you…”

The still disgruntled Customer: “They are NOT Bramleys. Don’t you know your apples…”

Victorious Spar: “I think you’ll find they are. Is it Braeburns you’re after…!”

The now silent Customer: “Oh yes…”

● Another Kendalls classic; “You know, you’ve been there before, little old lady with grey hair…!” (do you know how many people fit that description!)

● A mass dog escape on to the Ripon Road when a man opened his electric gates to let me in; nicely timed with the Spar delivery lorry coming down the hill on the main road at same time. Luckily all are still living!

● ‘Nice Barbara’ telling me that one of the exciting aspects of getting old is that you never know what your body will do next. This was explained as her hand did an involuntary jerk whilst she was writing me a cheque and drew a great big line across it which she laughed heartily about and blamed on ‘the wobbles’!  Such an amazingly positive 90yr old.

● An ‘essential journey’: “I’ve caught the bus all the way here because my local shop has no cabbages…!”

● The now identified customer leaving numerous answer phone messages on the Spar answer phone; each one getting more and more irate as to why no one was ringing her back to take her order. It would have helped if she’d given her own phone number rather than continually repeating the Spar shops own phone number!

● And a personal first; riding up Greenhow with a trailer full of fish!

Bringing out the best

And as well as the fun, I’ve seen so many acts of genuine human kindness, generosity and triumph over adversity; here are just a few:

Liz from the Spar managing to find the time, amidst a heaving shop with endless jobs to do, to go and sit outside on a bench and have a drink with a grieving friend who hadn’t ventured out since losing her husband last month;

A man who ‘borrowed’ a toilet roll from the food bank box in Spar (as there was none of those precious commodities in the shop at the time) and returned the next day with a big pack of 12 rolls for the food bank box, having just dropped his wife off at the hospital for breast cancer surgery;

Sam Cook’s (previous Bewerley Park Head) progress; for those that don’t know Sam lost his wife Lynn last year, at the same time as dealing with prostate cancer himself and then had a triple heart bypass in November. He is also closer to the age of 80 than 70! However, every time I deliver his shopping he tells me of a newly reconquered hill on his bike. Greenhow won’t be long! That man is the epitome of determination and resilience. And my delivery fun would not be possible without the generous loan of his fantastic trailer;

The endless gifts of cake, cards, chocolates, money etc from the general public. Don’t underestimate the power of little things like that! I’ve seen the effect it can have when shops have just dealt with a tough customer and then someone walks in with a big homemade cake and it can instantly restore their faith in what they’re doing.

(The same thing happened to me last week; a last minute order came into the butchers that just happened to be right at the top of Church Bank which felt like one too many hills after a days worth of hills that included Greenhow. I said I’d take it and the woman actually came out to meet me as I was riding up to say how grateful she was and then thrust £5 at me which she refused to take back. Little things that you don’t expect but can give you the energy and spirit to keep going.)

Patrick of Springfield Close; one of the most generous, positive and caring people you’ll ever meet. You’d never know he has kidney dialysis 4 times a week.

I really have met some amazing people in the last month. Their generosity, hard work, resilience and appreciation is amazing. I’ve had cakes made for me, had money shoved through windows, books about Shetland leant to me, pies, fish and all my fruit and veg from Spar given in thanks, been offered dinner by several people when this is all over and a phone call from a grateful son in America saying thanks for looking after his parents. And all this for just riding my bike in the sunshine…

I look forward to the day I am allowed to give all these people a giant HUG!

And it wouldn’t be right to end this without mentioning my fellow BPDC (Bewerley Park Delivery Crew) members There is Ian ‘chief flapjack-maker‘ Coates (who’s averaging 250 miles a week driving food and prescriptions about 6 days a week) and Trainees Rowan and Bryony who’ve been doing a fine job delivering prescriptions. Well done dudes and thanks for your company!!