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Published: December 30th 2009
30th March '09:
AC/DC's gig was cancelled in Zurich last night. I realise the inconvenience to the fans, but from our end it spelled absolute catastrophe: no catering. Namibian, at the loss of both a cooked breakfast and yet more weight, chomped furiously at the bit. You see, he hadn’t planned to go anywhere (obviously), happily surviving without any Swiss shitters if fed and watered. Eighteen other drivers were likewise stranded in a foreign land with no foreign money and nothing to eat. On balance, we’re worse off than the fans? Possibly as consolation, we’re issued crew cardigans with hoods. I, of course, had local cash and disappeared promptly on a tram.
You want to know about Claudia I suppose? She is nice, late twenties, with an excellent command of English. She possibly has a shade less vocabulary than Crazy Sandra but without all the endearing mistakes. Swiss Julian joined us - chiefly to ogle my date - and tells me that tram drivers in Zurich don’t think much of Englishmen warding them off with umbrellas used as light-sabres. Point taken. We went food shopping instead, delirious with hunger from a lack of catering. As it turns out, Euros
are readily accepted in Zurich, but it feels a little like bartering in Morocco. Whatever amount is quoted for fruit, or a sandwich, I say: ‘call it 5 Euro?’ They do, and hand the Swiss change to Jules.
I never quite know whether you want arcane trucking details but, if you don’t comment, I’ll include them! Annoyingly, we couldn’t leave until 22.00 last night because it was Sunday; in many European countries, trucks are banned from travelling for twenty-four hours at weekends - between 22.00 on Saturday night to the same time on Sunday night. The show cancellation happened so quickly that there wasn’t enough time to organise exemption permits - in order to override the restrictions, cash can be coughed up, but it takes a little time. In Switzerland they also ban trucks at night during the week, which is simply daft - they clog up the roads during the day instead.
For those who don’t spend their lives bumbling across Europe, perhaps I should mention that the motorway signs change arbitrarily from blue to green and back again as one passes between countries. It’s obvious which road is toll road with the benefit of experience, but
I do remember arriving at the Swiss border in a car, tender and naïve at the age of nineteen. It was at the top of an Alp in a Skoda Rapide - an oxymoron if ever there was one - with a pretty violinist in the passenger seat. ‘Vignette,’ the surly guard demanded. I promised to remain on small roads, thereby skirting the road tax, and he waved me through. Strictly adhering to green roads, as one would in England, and indeed France, I rolled up at Swiss Julian’s house, green with envy at how good the roads are in Switzerland. I was lucky that time, having stuck steadfastly and ignorantly to Switzerland’s motorways without a fine.
Lorries though, as you may remember, are taxed by the kilometre. Bear in mind that there is no signpost to Barcelona as you pull out of Zurich; perhaps you can understand how six of us found ourselves turning round at the airport ‘departures’ slip road. Whoops, I’m not sure how that happened. I might start looking at a map before we set off in future..
Border, Barcelona and banquets
31st March: (“Border, Barcelona and
I ought to clear up a little misunderstanding, I think: there is unfortunately very little sex on tour. The legend of women throwing themselves at rock stars may or may not be true, but we truckers see little of it. Our schedule, as I hope you’ve gathered, dictates sobriety and appalling hours - hardly conducive to assignations with the opposite sex. And none of us are getting any younger, or distinguished. When we do go out on a night off, it’s often in a group where we sit in a huddle and leer, dribbling ever so slightly.
I’d like to think that the rest of the crew (lighting, sound, video crew etc.) fare a bit better with the odd hotel room at their disposal. But they also spend nights working and then travelling on a moving bus, on which it is bad form to invite drunken harlots. (Girls wanting to party on the bus disrupts other crew members’ sleep.)
So, we come full circle back to the topic of prostitutes. And La Jonquera, the Spanish frontier town on the border with southern France, is a splendid place to pick up the thread. Namibian asks to stop
here, late at night, ostensibly for cheap cigarettes. Actually, I’ll leave the thread where it is, but include a picture of me modelling our crew underpants instead, with a strategically placed cannon. Little Dick joins us at the BP pumps and is told: ‘no tobacco. Not after 11pm. Spain different country’. We may as well have remained on the motorway.
Now, it has been noted that this job must interfere with my social life a bit. The argument holds water I think because, after a dickens of a drive, today involves both lunch and dinner appointments with friends. By anyone’s standards, it is a day of culinary excess for me while poor Namibian, now a mere skeleton, arrives in Catering just after they’ve cleared away the breakfast things. Oh dear. He’s been up for hours, doing the right thing by remaining with his vehicle until it is unloaded, and been penalised in the meals department for doing so. I sympathise, and talk of walking off double eggs and bacon before an extravagant lunch in town.
Ollie, my lunch appointment, is Swiss Julian’s brother, and he has quite understandably fallen for a Spanish bird. They now live happily in
Barcelona where he is an architect-cum-web designer, currently working as the latter while construction withers in this global economic crisis. He is persevering with a lone dreadlock that looks decidedly rebellious, which distracts me a bit as we chat. So we make him an artificial hat using a restaurant lamp. After umpteen courses, an espresso and a pint of schnapps, the puff back up the hill - on the bike in the rain - is a killer. I’m going to need a lie-down before the next gastronomic onslaught. I did briefly think of Namibian’s plight as I shovelled down the final course - hee hee..
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