Martin Lloyd : Immigration Service Cyclists to the Rescue

Every month, when my busy life permits it, I go for a cycle ride with some friends all of whom were either Immigration Officers or are still serving in that capacity. Today we intended to lunch at The Artichoke, a pub in the pretty village of Chartham, but we had not booked a table and it was absolutely choc-a-bloc so we carried on up the hill and met this: A Lithuanian articulated lorry on its way to the Arjo-Wiggins paper mill at the bottom of the hill. Except that we all knew that he would not be able to get through because the street was too narrow.

The camaraderie within our little group of cyclists is one aspect which I find quite heart warming. So whilst three of us stayed to help the truck driver, the other four beetled off to the next pub and ate their lunches and drank their beer whilst we tried to solve the problem. How do you convince a Lithuanian truck driver that he should turn around and go back?

Dead easy. We had all been immigration officers at a time when you were supposed to be proficient in foreign languages. “Tony,” said I, “You speak Lithuanian don’t you?” He nodded. “Well tell him to turn his truck around.” The driver was completely unphased by the fact that he was being addressed in his own language in the middle of a small Kentish village. Next on the scene was a local man who had an HGV licence.

Using his driving knowledge, Tony’s language skill and our cyclist fluorescent jackets we managed to stop the traffic, back the truck 200 yards up the road, turn it and send it on the correct route. The whole operation took us forty five minutes. The point of this little yarn is not to evince our beneficence, but rather to observe that, now that the Home Office does not encourage its border control staff to learn foreign languages, this kind of serendipitous encounter, already of an extreme rarity, will become extinct.

And the truck will stay stuck.

Probably with you behind it.

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Martin Lloyd : Immigration Service Cyclists to the Rescue

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