Jimper’s Memories of Hastings Safe

In my capacity of owning a scrap yard and being willing to do odd jobs no-one else was willing to do in a rush, I got the reputation of the one who was willing to take on the occasionally problematic task, such as the time I was approached by a gentleman in Hastings. He was in a real fluster. It appeared that he had sold his house on the sea front but forgotten the safe that stood in the back of his garage. The new owners of his old property had completed the sale and were to take possession at mid day. Anything then left on the site was theirs. He was in a real state and not willing to leave his safe behind. Alas the new people coming in were not prepared to overlook the matter and told him that if it was still there at noon, he had lost it. His problem was that the safe when empty weighed in the region of five hundred pounds. I and no one else he knew could shift it immediately. I was his last hope. “Help, please!”

I arrived at ten thirty to find him pacing the pavement clutching his hands behind his back in a real flap. He ran up to me as I arrived in my old land rover.

“Mr Sutton. Am I pleased to see you? Where are the men to help?”

I looked at him.

“I’m on my own. Now let’s look at this safe shall we. Surely if you put it in there we can move it. It’s not bolted down is it?”

“No, no. It is free, only stands on the floor.”

“Good. Let’s look then.”Safe

He opened the up and over door to reveal a garage containing a five-foot high safe. Four feet wide, it stood on the concrete floor, with no hope of getting a crow bar or jack underneath. Pushing from the side at the top, one could not move it. At that moment an Indian man appeared and addressed the fellow with me.

“Mr. …. That has got to be gone in the next hour or it is mine. We told you a fortnight ago.”

“I know, only I have been busy and forgot.”

“We don’t care. My solicitor wrote to you; that is enough. Now move it or go.”

He looked at me and I did not like the way he shrugged his shoulders and turned to leave in his Mercedes car. The owner of the safe said,

“Right; let’s move it.”

I looked at him.

“I cannot move this now,” I said. “I need help. Do you know how much one of these weighs?”

“Bloody heavy, I know that, but we have to move it somehow and now! Please, you said on the phone that you could do it,” and he looked at his wristwatch. “We have only got an hour.”

The safe was locked as I tried to open the door, for having moved one before; I usually took the steel drawers out to make it lighter.

“Where are the keys?” I asked.

“My wife has them in her handbag and she is in Norfolk.”

I stood further back.

“You expect me to move this in the next hour. Where do you want it anyway?”

“Only up the ridge to my new house, a matter of two miles. But at the moment anywhere so long as it is off the property here.”

I looked out in the road,” outside on the pavement would do then.” I said.

“Yes, anywhere from here.”

“Right. Leave it to me,”

I went to the land rover and backed it into the empty garage up to the safe. The owner stared in disbelief as I took a chain from the Rover and chained the safe to the tow bar.

“Right; out of the way,” I said and with him looking on from the road, I tugged the safe across the floor onto the pavement. As the safe slid onto the pathway from the smooth garage floor, it caught a paving slab and toppled over to land in a mighty clanging sound on its side. Now with the chain jammed under the safe there was room to get a purchase with a jack; we stood admiring my handy work. No longer was the safe on the new owner’s property, it now lay on the highway.

“Right,” I said as the owner closed the garage door. “That damn thing is heavy. No one is going to steal that, I will return this evening with help and then we will deliver it for you.”

“Now look here. You cannot leave it here.”

“Why not?” I said. “It’s safe?” He did not see the sick joke. “That thing has a lot of weight in it.”

“I know,” he said. It is full.”

“Full?” I said. “What of?”

“Never you mind,” he said. “That is my business.”

“Well before we try to move it again, you will have to empty it.”

“I can’t,” he said. “My wife has the keys.”

“Well get her to bring them here then.”

He was not happy but had no option. I left him sitting on the safe, to return that night with help.

It was not ’till eight that I pulled up with two strong chaps in the land rover with the trailer in tow. The gentleman was sitting on the safe that now had a grey blanket draped over it. Yes, he now had the keys so I suggested that he opened it to remove the contents. He was reluctant to do so but as I told him the chances of moving the blanket covered object with what ever was inside was slim, he saw that he had very little option, unless he slept with it on the pavement, for he was not going to leave it where it was unguarded. My mates and I were keen to know the secret. They had suggested that it must be bars of gold by the weight. It was not gold but sacks of one-pound coins. He never told any of us three how much but we reckoned that if each sack held five hundred pounds, there was in excess of one hundred thousand pounds. This had to be taken to the new house along with the safe. We did not finish until well past midnight. The price I had quoted to move the safe was seventy-five pounds. Now at midnight I told him that as I had to get two men to help and then unload the money and transfer it back into the safe in its new position, that was up to the new house high on a bank that we had to carry all the bags of money up, the price was going to be more. I told him this as I placed the last bag of heavy coins into the vault. He slammed the door shut and in as many words, “seventy five pounds, the agreed price. Your cheque.” And he handed me a slip of paper. No tip or anything. The fact that he owned a few amusement arcades along the south coast and the money was, we guessed, extra to what he had told the taxman about, meant nothing to him. With all that cash he insisted we had to have a cheque; he never paid tradesmen cash. We left feeling robbed.

First Published in “Cinque Ports” November 2015

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