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Published: November 15th 2009
7th March '09:
Tachographs are a dashed nuisance. Namibian and I awoke yesterday after five hours in bed - separate beds, that is - faced with a dilemma. Either we go immediately, to reach our destination within a regulation “spread-over” period of fifteen hours; or we wait another four hours, to complete a nine-hour daily rest. These hard-and-fast rules just do not suit this industry; both options - in the name of safety regulations - leave us knackered. We choose the latter, dining on bacteria and a bread roll to eke out the time.
But I totally forgot it was Friday. While eighteen AC/DC trucks trundled through the Ruhr Valley (the busiest part of Germany) before lunch, Namibian and I had snoozed. The knock-on effect was afternoon traffic. A lot of it. In fact, we arrived at Dusseldorf's ISS Dome twelve hours after Little Dick.
Rain, glorious rain. You know how people say: 'Ooh, what a lovely day. Shall we go for a drive?' Poppycock. Glorious sunshine, in my opinion, deserves a walk or cycle. So if it’s lashing down with rain, I’d rather be driving - it's a good use of weather. Ah, but you can’t see
in heavy spray, you say? No problem in a truck: you’re high above it, and can maintain top speed, selfishly overtaking cars and leaving them blinded by surface water.
Except that you can’t in Germany, or Belgium for that matter. Endless stretches of autobahn are marked with that irksome sign of a red truck next to a black car, inside a prohibitive red circle. No matter how many horsepower is under the bonnet - or even worse, if the trailer is empty - overtaking is “verboten” (forbidden). The ban is lifted occasionally but, if you happen to be engrossed in a Stephen Fry audio book or boiling a kettle, the sign is easily missed.
Hopefully, you haven't really noticed a small point: I've achieved nothing in Dusseldorf.
A thirty-five minute drive last night - Namibian leading with the “spaznav” turned off - brings us to Oberhausen, a place low on the list of tourist destinations. In fact, I’d be surprised if it features at all. Like those new towns of Stevenage and Hatfield, for example, Oberhausen is dull - reasonably clean and inoffensive, but dull. And it’s raining again.
Thirty - yes thirty,
not twenty - rock n roll trucks are parked at the Konig-Pilsener Arena. We are a day early at the venue, and I wander over to see my pal, Turner, one of the drivers on the Pink tour. With his bottom lip out, he looks like a smacked bottom this morning. In a fit of rage overnight, he’s made a spectacular hash of a relationship, by text message. Poor old thing. Like me, he doesn’t really jump at the prospect of living in a lorry. We reminisce and I coo a bit in the right places when sympathy is required. You don’t get a photo, I'm afraid - it's still early, and he hasn't yet applied Clarins moisturiser. Off he goes back to bed, while fans queue outside under blue plastic rain sheets, nine hours before Pink goes on stage. Nutters.
A tram ride into town, aside from harmon-muted trumpet jazz at the station, confirms my suspicion: there is nothing of interest in Oberhausen. From an elevated viewpoint, a sea of drabness is laid out: an industry museum (in German) and grotty architecture. Turner texts me, interrupting the euphoria. The relationship is back on - Phew!
is a tourist office in Oberhausen...but it’s closed. So, if for any absurd reason you get stuck here then I thoroughly recommend the leisure centre on Stockmannstrasse. For a modest fee, one can pad around naked from Turkish bath to plunge pool, from the outside terrace to one of those Wild West buckets with a pull-rope that drown you in cold water. There’s an area to relax by the fire - by this point, perhaps put a towel on - where you can order coffee (not tea, this is Germany) or sit next door by the pool. It’s unisex, which literally raises a problem. When a voluptuous girl in her twenties sits next to me in the sauna, utterly bare, I have to furiously imagine Margaret Thatcher…
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