Drivers jovial as fuel finally flows from the pumps

At The Forecourt
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The Independent Online

The heavens opened and the petrol, as well as torrential rain, began to flow again yesterday. It was a thoroughly British affair outside most open petrol stations. Stoic drivers queued without complaint, their eyes fixed firmly on the prize ahead.

The heavens opened and the petrol, as well as torrential rain, began to flow again yesterday. It was a thoroughly British affair outside most open petrol stations. Stoic drivers queued without complaint, their eyes fixed firmly on the prize ahead.

By the time they reached the forecourt at the Murco station in Streatham, south London, the mood was jovial. "Everybody has been saying thank you," exclaimed the manager, Ali Gani. "One woman even kissed me."

Outside, a traffic warden assisting the flow of cars burst into a rendition of Morecambe and Wise's "Bring me Sunshine". "Well, you've got to smile," he explained happily, rain bouncing off his hat.

It had been a different story the night before when a tanker tried to deliver petrol to a Jet garage only a few hundred yards away. The driver was forced to leave with his load after being mobbed by up to 50 motorists who refused to leave the forecourt.

But the panic had subsided yesterday and the motorists seemed content to sit in a queue that snaked along three roads around the Murco station. "Most are just grateful to get some petrol." said Peter Nottingham, the company's area manager, who was directing vehicles.

Only momentarily did the spirit of co-operation seem to disappear. Frustration swept through the drivers as a petrol-less white van, being pushed by three men, went straight to the front of the queue.

"What's this country coming to?" asked Webster Hooper, gesticulating out of the driver's window.

Near by, an orderly line of people on foot, each equipped with gleaming new petrol cans, waited to fill up at one designated pump.

One enterprising minicab driver joined the end of the queue for the third time.

"I didn't want to line up with the cars so I parked my cab round the corner," explained Gabriel Wyke as he put another £5 of fuel in the container and rushed off to pour it into his tank.

Behind him, Alexander Buttery, a self-employed plasterer with a large Scorpion tattooed on his neck, was waiting patiently, can in hand.

"I have lost three days' work but I support the protesters. They should have gone on longer, not given in," he said, reflecting the mood of most people yesterday.

Matters were considerably quieter down the road on Brixton Hill, where the Elf garage had been set aside for priority cases.

Two drenched police officers were politely listening to some obviously adventurous claims before redirecting disappointed drivers to garages open to the public. "I have a little child," one woman said plaintively but in vain.

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