After all the slagging I give the BBC it's about time I gave them some praise. BBC2's summer of British films is throwing up some real classics and last night's "Hell Drivers" was a real treat for me.
It was on a touch late, but as I had just returned from my quiz night the timing worked out OK. Made in 1957, Hell Drivers was a British B movie of little importance at the time, but somehow managed to pack in a host of British stars.
The lead was played by Stanley Baker (the living spit of my dad) supported by Patrick Mcgoohan, Sean Connery, Sid James, Gordon Jackson and William Hartnell - with Herbert Lom playing the Italian, Gino. It takes a hum drum job, a ballast truck driver, and turns it into an exciting romp as well as providing a great insight into working life as it was - more or less. I'm not sure there were that many truck drivers who, like Patrick McGoohan's character "Red" would chain smoke AND swig from a bottle of beer while he hacked along country lanes at breakneck speed, but it still conjured up an interesting slice of life from late fifties Britain.
I doubt there are many people under the age of forty who remember the joys of "clocking on" as we used to and even fewer who remember the real joy of getting a weekly wage packet - a little brown envelope stuffed with cash. Although I don't miss clocking on and off, I still miss being paid weekly in cash. I don't know if it was the same for married couples with a mortgage and a tight budget (though my parents managed pretty well), but as a young man being paid weekly in cash meant that no matter how quickly you spent your wages you always knew you'd be getting more come Friday.
My own weekly wage was the princely sum of £16 although, after tax, NI and a fiver a week "keep" paid to mum I ended up with less in my pocket than I would have got on the dole (about £9 a week back then, I think). Even so, I still managed to save enough cash to put a deposit on a brand new motorcycle to replace my ageing (and knackered) Fizzy and have enough left over to spend most nights each week in the pub with my mates.
Incidentally, my attendance at the pub for the quiz last night was the first since the smoking ban. Normally there are around 13 to 15 teams taking part - last night there were 5 and the week before, which I missed, just 4! The pub was utterly dead. Talking to the landlord before the quiz started he told me that he has lost a lot of regulars - builders who would pop in for a couple of pints and a bite to eat on their way home - and there has been no upturn in trade from non-smokers rushing to enjoy the smoke-free atmosphere. He was pretty depressed. Takings are down by more than third and the first casualty will be the Sky TV package.
Every cloud has a silver lining!