It was 1997 and we had just moved our hot tub Showroom to its present location in Robjohns Road , Chelmsford.
I was working the sales desk one afternoon in late Summer when the phone rang, I picked it up as you do and started a conversation which ended up with us selling a big hot tub to an address in Yorkshire for a quick delivery.
I ran the guy’s credit card details and all went through just fine, we had the spa in stock and I agreed to deliver it in 8 days’ time.
Several things that should have bothered me and would certainly bother me now just went uncommented on during our phone call, firstly the delivery was he said “down side of mill lad” and then he went on to say “I’ll ‘af half a dozen of my lads there to ‘elp lad”. To me it sounded like a nice easy drive up the A1 and back a bit of a doddle really!
Eight days flew past and with the spa on the trailer correctly attached to my Grand Jeep Cherokee I drove up the A1 to the address he had given me. I arrived through narrow winding lanes through breath-taking scenery to an impressive Victorian looking mill amid trees with the distant sounds of water crashing over rocks which made a most beautiful setting.
Once out of the car I climbed the steps up to what I took as the front door and used the lions paw to knock. Presently the door opened and a very enthusiastic man in tweed took me inside and sat me down at his antique scrubbed pine kitchen table, drinking tea until his lads turned up. After we had all had a chat and more tea and there appeared to be no hurry to get the spa off the trailer I suggested they show me where the spa was going to be installed.
With lots of back slapping and cheery comments we all walked back through the front door down the steps, past my car and trailer towards the sound of the water crashing over rocks and stopped at the top of 45 degree slope which was made of loose earth and small rocks with some immature trees thrown in here and there.
I asked what I was meant to be looking at and which point the new owner smiled and pointed down to a flat wharf like area about 60ft below on the banks of the River “there lad that’s where I want it - down side of mill”. I think I must have looked a little ill as the group all stated deliberating how best to get it down there and carrying it down one man on each corner seemed to be getting more votes than the crazy stuff like jump in a toboggan down hee hee hee!!!
At this I pointed out the spa was almost 600kg and not that robust. So we all stood looking at the problem until the new owner said with some authority “OK lads this is what we’re going to do”.
The plan was quite simple and under the circumstances as good as any that I could have suggested, first we would get the spa off the trailer and stood up in a metal dolly, the spa was going to be secured into the dolly with a racket strap and then pushed to the edge of the slope. I was then asked to unhitch my trailer and reverse my car up to within a few meters of the slope edge and the idea was that a long length of rope would be attached to the dolly and then twice around my tow ball and with the new owner and his lads managing the spas descent by holding it up as it slowly made its way down to the wharf at the bottom I was to slowly release the rope which was taking all the weight.
Well it sounded like a plan - so in to action we went getting the spa on to the dolly was easy and positioning at the edge of the slope was all straight forward, unhitch the car from the trailer and reverse up to the spa and dolly, attach the rope to the dolly and then twice round my tow bar and there we were ready for the ascent.
The last thing the Owner and his lads said to me as they went over the top was “just shout lad if there’s a problem” and then over they went.
Initially with the lads keeping the spa steady and me feeding the rope out a bit at a time everything went swimmingly, however from my position kneeling by my cars tow bar I could not see the spa or the lads and with the sounds of the river in the background nether could I hear them or them hear me! The first I realised that we might be in trouble was when I noticed the end of the rope was not that far away, no one had thought to measure the rope and by my estimate there was only 6 meters left.
The spa was a good way down the slope I would guess, but I had no way of knowing because I could not see and I had no way of warning them that the rope was fast disappearing. I would like to have wound the rope around a few more times to stop the spa in its tracks but the rope was nylon and slipping through my hands and there was now not enough rope for me to be able to do that.
As the last few inches tore past my grip and burnt my palms the 600kg spa went rogue. I lept up and ran to the slope edge as my ears picked up distant screams, but it was too late to save them the 600 kg spa had left them all scattered over the slope, bodies both lying flat and prone were scattered in it’s wake, the sounds of groaning met my ears as I slide and scampered down to the group.
No one was looking at me, but all eyes were looking in the direction that the spa had gone towards the river edge and to a man there was now silence because, 15ft below, the spa had settled more or less exactly where it was meant to be.