Monday, 11 April 2011
Saturday, 9 April 2011
Molton Cross Services on the A1(M) are the remotest in the country. Thousands of cars and hundreds of lorries pass every day, with a good many stopping off for coffee or toilet, but the phrase "middle of nowhere" could have been coined to describe Molton Cross. The nearest major settlement to 'the Westies', as they called themselves, was Worksop, some 20 miles away. Doncaster was closer, only 15 miles from the East side, but inaccessible to the Westies, unless they wanted to take a 30 mile round trip via Junction 34.
There wasn't even a place called Molton Cross. Perhaps a farm had stood here some time ago, from which the name was taken. Nobody recalled, and Norman Vesper, the designer wasn't telling. He died in 1981.
Vesper's Art Deco Design had won several awards at the time - a time when one could win awards for designing service stations, municipal buildings and public conveniences - but was now sadly decayed and tatty looking. Molton Cross was definitely a service station for the old-fashioned, or unaware. The bright lights of Barchley (21 miles south) or Doncaster Pew (27 north), with fast-food outlets, slot machines and Cosa Nostra coffee, drew in far more punters. At Molton it was mainly truck drivers, cardigan wearers and families that simply had to stop because Tommy had just puked and Gilly wouldn't stop screaming.
Doug heaved the bag of Lo-Cost frozen chips onto the counter and carefully poured a good portion of the contents into the fryer basket. Things began to pick up from around midday, but he reckoned the ten till eight shift was the best one to be on. Breakfast was always a nightmare, and the sort of person who stopped off at Molton Cross after nine at night was a bit ... weird. Lunch and dinner could be busy, especially on Bank Holidays, but where otherwise easy enough.
You had to have a car for this job. All the Westies drove to work, seeing as there was barely a house or caravan within walking distance of the place (the MotoLodge didn't count - no one spent more than one night there. One night was enough for a lifetime) and they are lived West of the M1. Westies had always lived West, it was part of the folklore of the place. No one knew why, but they'd never employed anyone from the other side. Most were from around Worksop, but there were a few from even as far away as the outskirts of Rotherham. But not a single employee came (or admitted to coming) from Retford, Doncaster or Bawtry. That was just the way things were.
Doug often spent his coffee breaks sipping from his flask (that was the first thing you learnt - you might sell the stuff, but don't get into the habit of using. As true for Molton coffee as for Horse) gazing Eastward. His thoughts, in idle times (and there were plenty of those, particularly on winter weekdays), were often drawn Eastward. He'd never been there. Never would do. It would be an odd thing for a bloke who worked in a Motorway Service Station to take a trip to look at another Motorway Service Station, and Doug wasn't odd. He had a slightly unhealthy passion for Airfix models, but otherwise, well, as sound as a pound. That was Doug.
But where they like him? Sue thought this was a silly question to think up. "It's just a Service Station, Doug. Just like this one.". She'd tease him. "There's probably a little chap called Doug, looking after the chips, over there". He hated that. "Little chap".
Francis was a deep thinker. Or what passed for a deep thinker on the staff. He'd been at Molton (so he said) since it opened (which didn't seem possible, but no one challenged him on the point). "You can't trust 'em". "Who?". "Easties".
Doug wasn't sure what to think. He'd been to Germany once, and seen these castles, facing each other. The tour guide had told had been built by two warring brothers. Doug had shivered when he'd heard that. It sounded eirily familiar.
Nigel, the hated Supervisor, interupted his thinking. "Break's over, Doug. It's Friday, and you know what that means...". "Oh great", thought Doug, "stale cod".
On the other side of the motorway, in the kitchen, Douglas stood brooding, sharpening a vegetable knife. Waiting.