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Published: November 7th 2009
..but Mell loves pictures of the snow!
25th February '09:
Have you ever stood at the side of a motorway, or on a bridge? Did you notice how painfully slowly trucks seem to be travelling? Supposedly in the name of safety, they are all fitted with speed limiters which fixes the speed at 90km/h. No matter how hard one presses the accelerator, the truck is governed at this speed. Safety? It’s enough to bore you to death.
Irish and Spanish lorries appear to be exempt from this law, thundering past at more like 110km/h. The point is that, even after two full days of solid driving, we’re still four hundred kilometres from the next AC/DC gig - in Paris. So, we’re up half the night again. A high-octane, rollercoaster of an audio book is keeping me awake; Namibian sings to himself with the window open.
Then, disaster! The last of six CDs is missing. Just as the audio adventure approaches its zenith, all I get is a recorded monotone: 'that is the end of CD 5.' And there’s no bloody CD 6! It’s worse than that Friday cliffhanger in a soap opera - let's assume I watch television for a second - when you
have to wait the whole weekend for the next episode. To combat the sleepy sensation, I start singing too.
Ah, Paris, you sigh dreamily. Well, I would sigh dreamily, too, if arriving at Gare du Nord for a filthy weekend. This morning, however, romantic notions are thin on the ground. In fact, my thoughts match the definition of antithesis; this traffic turns any sane man's thoughts to slaughtering Frenchmen by the dozen. The great paradox here is that the French - in my humble opinion as an international man of mystery - have the best roads in Europe. But then there is Paris.
If I leave the French port of Calais, I can estimate almost to the minute what time I will arrive in the Cote d’Azur the following day. It will take me fourteen-and-a-half hours, give or take ten minutes. Paris is a different kettle of fish. The inner ring road, or “peripherique”, without a single traffic light or crossroads, ought to move fluidly, no? Ha! At 5.30am we discover that the Parisians have closed this major artery without offering a diversion. A sign reading: ‘Ferme’, and a barrier down at the entrance slip, is all
one gets in delightful Paris. Namibian and I are left to thread our way down a parallel avenue past boulangeries receiving the day’s croissants.
On the plus side, though, it feels as if spring is upon us. There are no gambolling lambs, but it’s pleasant to stroll the banks of the Seine in the sunshine, airing our pale toes in sandals. Our colleague, “Gentleman” Steve, taking one look at the gig showers, rashly advises undressing entirely and bathing in the river. We don't. Dawdling along the Seine as fully-clothed pedestrians, Namibian and I gawp at the house boats instead. 'Look, there’s a swimming pool inside that boat,' I point out. 'Cor, yeah, that’s a swimming pool that is,' he replies. He does that…
We’re parked on the pavement - very rock n roll, that is. The repercussion is men urinating against the truck half the night, both before and after the show. Little Dick, parked behind me, cordons off the trucks in a fruitless attempt to protect our rapidly yellowing tyres. I’ve always been in this industry for the glamour.
Today there is a short delay; trucks have to be serviced. Because we’re away
from the UK for so many weeks, a couple of overalled men from Britain have arrived in a van, armed with tools. They kick a few tyres, note the odd mileage - 'yes, that looks all right' - then I'm free to sneak off to the Louvre. Oh, and spring didn’t last long, by the way.
Now, why is it that I can effortlessly walk twenty miles, yet standing in front of a picture for twenty seconds has me suffering from “museum legs”? I blame school expeditions. Anyway, impressed by Guerin’s use of light and shadow - and breasts - I start to read the accompanying blurb. Literally the moment I’ve read the painter and year, I’m exhausted. Sculptures are even worse; they never give you sofas to look at them from. So, eschewing the Egyptian Antiquities, I rest in the Rubens Room. Ah, shoes off and a sit down. Lovely. But, beware. If it’s anything like the National Gallery in London, you have to keep at least one eye open; slouch too far and close both eyes: security will pounce, badgering you as though a vagabond.
The piece de resistance, for some, is Leonardo di Caprio’s “Mona
Not a sofa in sight..
Lisa”. That was deliberate - I'm just checking you’re paying attention. Painted c.1503-7, and standing only 77cm high, it’s dwarfed by other Italian Renaissance canvases. It’s flanked by four security guards, an extra guard rail, and a glass front - possibly bullet proof. What are my chances of stealing it? Next to none, I imagine.
Maybe what renders the smile so enigmatic is the incongruous background of a lunar, volcanic landscape, more like Iceland than Italy. All this pausing and arty-farty musing, though, has turned my legs to lead once more. And the Louvre, opened in 1793, is just far too big a museum to tackle in one day. I'm off.
Ah, well it was bad enough deciding where to start, but getting out again? Forget it. I take lifts, stairs, doubling back in a vain attempt to reach fresh air, only to be thwarted by another room full of paintings. Delirious and parched, as though I’d crossed the Sahara for forty days, I finally emerge in a brilliant electronic cloakroom. Outside, a lunatic walks past, pushing a hospital drip on wheels. 'I love Paris in the springtime…'
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