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Published: October 28th 2009
19th February '09:
What a great concert - I slept like a log. No, seriously, I dozed off just as the show went up. Later, dimly aware of cannons firing, signalling the end of the gig, my alarm went off. Hearing intact, the truck bed was possibly the best seat at the venue.
The Black Ice World Tour is a pertinent title given the road conditions last night. The treacherous skating rink, posing as an international route between Scandinavian capitals, was not only slippery but heart-stoppingly twisty. And dark. After half an hour, at 1.30am, driving on what might as well be a sheet of glass, we passed a signpost marked, ‘Stockholm 522kms.’ Oh joy. This job would be perfect if it wasn’t for all the driving…and loud music.
The road surface was a sea of black and white, neither colour providing any safety; they’re both ice. Namibian, using his “spaznav” navigational aid, radios me. 'There’s a roundabout in thirty kilometres.' Well, whoop-dee-doo, I’m enthralled. He's only trying to help, but it removes the skill out of driving, don't you think? Somewhere underneath the treachery is a rumble strip but it’s invisible.
Proceeding gingerly at the outset,
I decided, on balance, that we might just as well go flat out, breath held and eyes occasionally closed if conditions looked really bad. All we needed was an elk to saunter across the road, causing the trailer to overtake the cab - "jackknife" we call it. One didn’t, but one of my favourite accident quotes is when ringing the office to call in a broken wing-mirror. They say something like: 'just buy another one.' Then you have to explain that there’s been a misunderstanding - the truck is resting on the mirror.
Poor old Namibian. They’ve changed his truck pack of lights. 'Now there’s a load of crap in the back,' he tells me over the radio as he wheelspins up an icy hill. Jolly frightening stuff to a chap who’s used to African sand dunes…
Drat! A cooked breakfast is up and running but I can’t get to it. With twenty trucks to move, there’s a very well-organised system but it requires a bit of patience. I’m in limbo, waiting to park sensibly for the weekend, hungry. 'Well, eat your own cereal,' I hear you cry. Ah,I'd thought of that. But, on reaching down
for the pint of milk kept on the step inside the door, I find it’s frozen solid. So is the tantalising carton of refreshing apple juice.
Namibian, grinning in tracksuit bottoms, is indicating the depth of snow on his back doors by pushing in his forefinger to the hilt. Little Dick, marshalling his thoughts, has had five cups of tea by now. And he's finally tidied his cab...after three days of talking about it.
To distinguish ourselves from the general public, we have what is called a laminate - self-explanatory because it is laminated. The size of a playing card and worth the equivalent of gold dust, the laminate enables us to walk past security into the AC/DC gig...or at least into Catering before the show, and then out again before things get loud. Word from the upper echelons today is that we can have an extra laminate for a wife, or girlfriend, but not both.
It’s generally polite in a foreign country to ask if somebody speaks English before bombarding them with stupid questions, but here it’s almost an insult. Scandinavians look at you condescendingly, narrowing the eyes, and saying: 'of course I do.' I blush;
golly, she’s beautiful. Well, of course I ask a woman for directions. Suitably chastised, I find the bookshop I'm looking for. And an internet café, where - Hooray! - the keyboard is in English again. You wouldn’t believe how annoying it is when the rest of the blasted Europeans produce keyboards with full stop, y, w, a, z, @ etc. all in the wrong place. I can touch-type, don’t you know.
Now, how fortuitous that I have an ex-girlfriend, Anna, offering shelter and marvellous conversation in central Stockholm. But how unlucky that she’s taken the inadvisable option of getting married. Earl Grey tea is in stock here, which fortifies her husband Karl and me in the task of erecting a new sofa that is enormous - so big that it fills the whole evening. It arrived in umpteen cardboard boxes with instructions that, as men, we ignore, resulting in a lot of unscrewing nuts that we’d just screwed. I fall asleep in a room where golf clubs wear socks…
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