From award-winning B&B to Asda delivery driver - the road to making ends meet
PUBLISHED: 11:58 15 April 2020
James Bass/Gary Smith
Just a month ago Gary Smith was looking forward to the new season in Great Yarmouth.
With a bulging bookings diary full of deposits paid, he had no reason to suspect the coming months would deliver anything other than good things at his award winning B&B which regularly tops the Trip Advisor rankings.
Overnight his income evaporated, 50pc of customers wanted their deposits back, and the bank and insurance were digging in their heels - although he has qualified for a three-month government grant.
Now he is clocking on for delivery driver shifts at Asda, and couldn’t be more thankful.
Writing on his blog Mr Smith described what it was like driving along empty roads, the complex logistics of getting fresh and frozen produce to the isolated and vulnerable, and the extra hazard of walkers, joggers and dog walkers who think they own the roads.
A former warehouseman before taking on the Kilbrannan Guest House in Trafalgar Road with wife Julie 12 years ago he was offered a driving job on a rolling contract, until things start to get back to normal.
He describes the job as “a glimmer of light” enabling him to earn money to pay bills.
So instead of changing beds and cooking breakfasts he is allocated a shift (any seven or eight hours between 7am to 11pm) by a department manager.
Drivers arrive on the loading bays and pick up the paperwork which shows their pre-determined route with all the customers names, addresses and special instructions such as self isolation requirements, which door to use, landmarks to look out for and so on.
The loads are order-picked into bags within totes (a plastic basket that holds three bags) and assembled together with a sticker on the front which indicates the contents of that tote.
The load’s tote labels are then scanned off to confirm everything is there (other than items not in stock), then it’s ready for the driver to load onto the 3.5 tonne van which is usually full to the top.
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He said: “From our base in Great Yarmouth, the deliveries cover not just Great Yarmouth and surrounding areas, but also further afield such as Cromer, Sheringham, King’s Lynn, Aylsham, and Holt along with the many small and tiny countryside villages which you would think were only accessible by tractor.
“Some roads can be very tight with vehicles parked on both sides and to drive a 3.5 tonne van requires some patience, especially when another driver is driving towards us and we realise we have to reverse the van between the parked vehicles again once the customer has received their shopping.
“There is currently less traffic driving about as a rule and the main roads are easier to drive on but once we get on the back country lanes, which is very often, a whole new world is opened up as the cyclists, joggers and dog walkers are all out in force, usually in the middle of the lane which slow everything down.
“Some seem to begrudge moving aside to allow us through until they are ready.
“Addresses can be a problem as some of them have long drives where we can’t see any numbers and some addresses don’t have numbers, they have names instead which can be very difficult to spot from the road, especially in the dark.
“We often have to climb out of the van, torch in hand looking for the address before we can unload their groceries.”
Mr Smith said he had a new respect for previously overlooked supermarket workers, now essential workers alongside NHS staff and a lifeline for people in rural communities.
Without their commitment the situation would be far worse, he said, adding that they were deserving of the nation’s thanks.
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