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Published: January 7th 2010
5th April ‘09:
Oh, what a bore. You know that cancelled show in Zurich? Well, it’s back on. So, instead of frolicking in the sunshine in Bilbao for a non-driving Sunday, permits have been organised and we’re now in a mad rush. In fact, the amount of time allotted to reach Switzerland again means that the dreaded “double-driver” must be used.
The biggest worry on these journeys is whether one’s assigned man can actually drive. That sounds condescending - and fatuous - but you’d be surprised at how often a double-driver turns up with no experience of European work, or indeed left-hand drive trucks. (Ninety per cent of our trucks have the steering wheel on the “wrong” side.) Fortunately then, my chap is an experienced chap called Paul, and I can relax when he is driving. When I say ‘relax’, I mean ‘get straight into bed and fall asleep’.
It turns out that Paul is also a paramedic and, more importantly, a computer whizz. I mention casually that my laptop is sluggish - never mind the cracked screen - and buy him a coffee in the hope that he’ll have a little look at it. ‘You last used zoom
browser EX in September ’07. Delete it?’ he questions. Crikey, I wouldn’t know a zoom browser if it smacked me on the bottom. He continues through unused software as we pass lofty viaducts, spanning stunning gorges through verdant central France. Paul tuts, and frowns, in that manner associated with builders before they say, ‘we’re going to have to take the roof off love,’ although Paul doesn’t take his tea with six sugars.
Apparently there are serious issues with my computer. Well, I know that - I take issue with the blasted thing on a daily basis. Sooner or later, he’s bound to discover that porn has clogged things up, though. ‘How often do you defragment?’ he asks. Erm, I’m not a paedophile, thank you very much. ‘Let’s have a look in your registry,’ he continues, innocently. Oh dear, here we go. ‘Ah, now who’s Nikita Love?’ Uh oh. This, I suppose, is what they call ‘being rumbled’. I ask if he’d mind leaving that particular downloaded video on the hard drive.
In the meantime, we’re passing Clermont Ferrand, and a whole lot of brown signs denoting points of interest. Sadly, there is barely time to stop for the
loo, let alone a detour to a cave. And where would we park an eighteen-wheeler anyway? Paul, incidentally, has a spaznav - Namibian finds this frightfully amusing because I swore I’d never have one in my truck. Well, my doubts about technology prove to be well-founded: the navigation device, I’m pleased to report - despite analysing 212,000 roads - is fogged to the core. This new motorway that we’re chuntering along is regarded as ‘unnamed road’, and I’m advised to veer through the crash barrier and head across a field. I tell Paul that, if I start following spaznav, he’ll have to open a few gates. But, having laboured doggedly through Ms.Love’s performance, he’s fallen asleep to AC/DC. ‘You shook me all night long….’
6th April: ("The last show")
We have a cowboy on this tour. No, not somebody who operates shoddily at the boundaries of legality, but a real cowboy who can perform rope tricks and ride bulls. His name is Pete, but his nickname -used by everybody - is unsurprisingly “Cowboy”. When not driving rock ‘n’ roll trucks, or entering rodeos, he sunbathes. And I mean sunbathes. I enjoy an hour or two in the afternoons
myself, but Cowboy has the capacity and patience to lie in the sunshine for the whole day, turning on the hour. Alice sits nearby, vying for the deepest tan. I think that Cowboy, now late sixties, could just have the edge, but it’s very early in the mating season; perhaps we’ll compare on the next leg of the tour in the summer. What a job this is..
Although it is sunny, I ask another driver, Davey, whether I might need another layer to take with me for the day. ‘Intrepid reporters take backpacks and extra film, not cardigans,’ he advises, then asks: ‘have you got a scoop?’ I don’t, but I’m off to see my pal Julian again. He’s ‘between meetings’, apparently, which I take to mean idle, and he has time for Chardonnay spritzers on the banks of the Limmat.
This is the first properly warm day of the year in Zurich - so he has to dig out some short trousers from the cellar, and put some air in the bicycle tyres. ‘Ooh, look at his little legs,’ teases his supportive spouse, Justine, as she absent -mindedly adds flowers to one of her fabric designs. ‘Watch
him on the roads - he can get a bit wobbly,’ she adds, a trifle unfairly. Well, we don’t actually get that far. In an attempt to inflate unused bicycle tyres, he rips a hole in an innertube. My attempt on the other bike also results in less air than when we started. So, out of two vaguely useable machines, we now have none. We walk to the river instead, armed with a bottle of wine.
Having discussed the meaning of life, and that in Windows Vista it is difficult to delete one’s unsavoury browsing history, we meet Justine further along the waterside. A hostess as always, she sets down a flask of Cuban coffee, and a picnic blanket, giving me an eyeful of her bust. In the background, chaps in teams of two, punt skiffs against the current. Punting here, unlike in England, isn’t just for toffs - you know who I mean, right? Yes, those Cambridge chappies who have their bottoms used as toast racks by their rowing masters, and are so posh that they get out of the bath for a pee.
No sirree - in Switzerland, most of the rivers are very shallow, rendering
the art of punting invaluable. Julian knows all about it from his National Service, and explains that these chaps are not in fact messing about, but, literally translated, ‘poking up the river with a two-pronged punt.’ Justine forces dark chocolate upon me and asks how Namibian physically fits into his truck..
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