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Published: January 17th 2010
19th April ‘09:
In all the excitement, I forgot to mention that Namibian - or Don Juan, to his friends - has had a ladyfriend with him for the last few days. No, she has not been picked up as a disposable pleasure along the way; this is Janet, and they live together. Namibian, rather generously, has been allowing her to sleep in the truck with him. Outrageous I know, and he accuses me of being a ‘tight arcs’. Even I used to shell out for a hotel when Boiler flew out for a few days on tour - admittedly a cheap one, but nonetheless the rooms were always more than six foot square.
If, as Swiss Justine once asked, you’re wondering how Namibian fits in the cabin on his own, we are now faced with a double whammy. Presumably Janet drapes herself over his stomach, colliding with the top bunk as he inhales. Exhaling is no less calamitous: a paroxysm of coughing as he exhales might very well propel her onto the steering wheel, bouncing from there to the gearstick, ricocheting off the handbrake and landing unceremoniously onto the foot pedals. This is pure conjecture, but it explains
the hounded look of a sleepless night when they emerge in the mornings. Or, as I say, he may be Don Juan. It’s a good job we’re such good pals. At least we were. Namibian? Hello?
After a magnificent sailing aboard Ulysses again, we bumble through a sunlit North Wales, oohing at the beauty of the coast here. As a diurnal animal, entirely unsuited to rock ‘n’ roll trucking, this is as good as it gets for me. It’s still working for a living, I realise, but one can’t have everything. Something is bound to go wrong…and it does. Pulling out of Chester Services, I completely forget to fasten the milk-bottle top. You can see what’s coming can’t you? Yes, an abrupt stop at a junction soaks the cab: crosswords are ruined, travel guides despoiled. The interior carpet is now abandoned in a Manchester car park bin.
20th April: (“The last time I mention apostrophes!”)
Bury, near Manchester, has a famous market. Famous for what, though, I wonder? Well, not much, except hot Vimto drinks and superfluous apostrophes. I hate to harp on; comparable to world poverty and war-ravaged states, the erroneous apostrophe is hardly a humdinger
of an issue. Yet, Britain’s educational downward spiral is a shame. Nipping the misused apostrophe in the bud is evidently no longer an option - I think we shall have to cede defeat, and accept, heart-breaking as it is, that it’s correct use is a lost cause.
Even in the wilds of Lancashire today, I saw a sign warning that a road was “unsuitable for HGV’s”. Now, if the Ministry of Transport are at it, its employees no doubt waist-high in university degrees, what chance does th e layman have? So, I think we can also safely say that a degree is no longer a proof of literacy. Well, I would say that, wouldn’t I - I haven’t got one. Anyway, let’s crack on with today’s events.
I am in Bury to visit my Great Aunt Gwen, Grandpa John’s ‘substantially’ younger sister. I rang yesterday, describing where I shall be parked with the truck, and blatantly angling to be collected by car. ‘I’m parked at Sport City, next to…’ I started, but she silenced me peremptorily. ‘Get the tram to Bury,’ she snapped, adding, ‘it’ll be lovely to see you darling.’ She put down the telephone. Oh, I’ll
make my own way there then. Great aunts, certainly wickeder than ordinary aunts, are not to be trifled with.
The weather is lovely today, far too nice to be on trams, and so I cycle instead. Puffing and panting after eleven miles of gradual elevation, I call the Rochdale residence from Bury. ‘I’m busy,’ she says. ‘It’s about three miles from there. See you soon.’ In Gwen’s defence, through a misunderstanding, I arrive seven hours earlier than we’d agreed - apparently.
Gwen is marvellous, with an infectious laugh, and an underlying mischievousness. She does not, as I had naturally presumed, play bingo most nights and totter between bedrooms quaffing crème de menthe. She runs a private nursery for thirty children, and is being uncooperative regarding a photo for the blog. Now, while John would have offered a comfy chair and a glass of San Giovese, Gwen is feeding three babies, and even a cup of tea takes a bit of prompting. Things seem a bit thick, and I feel up against it. A female staff member eventually brings me a steaming mug, and a saucy glance secures a biscuit, too. But actually drinking anything is hampered by a
four-year-old hanging off my left ear. Then a gaggle of three-year-old girls excitedly jostle, badger and harass me, making a short nap simply impossible.
At 2pm, Gwen takes me to the pub - ah, bliss. A pint of Lancashire bitter and a walk along dry stone walls in the sunshine is perfectly lovely. Knowing nothing of the rock ‘n’ roll industry - and my duties therein - she tells me we shall be driving to her daughter Judith’s house for supper. Erm, there was talk of manoeuvring trucks back in Manchester at 7pm. I ring our Number One driver, Sean, who organises all the truck parking and movements, explaining that dining with a great aunt has arisen. ‘Oh well, I’ll cancel everything then,’ he says cordially, with the merest hint of caustic sarcasm. As I say, great aunts are not to be trifled with..
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