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Published: September 29th 2009
Breaking news: Disaster! Namibian, increasingly the protagonist in this blog, has burnt out the socket that powers our kettle. We’re keeping our spirits up while trying to keep it from Tina; she’d only worry if she knew the tour was potentially jeopardised by such a pressing matter. Fortunately, as an old campaigner, and in the event of Namibian’s ebbing health ebbing further, I have a gas stove and spare kettle in the side locker. So, with a staunch resolve, the essential items are brought out. Hot drink accessories are transferred between trucks - you didn't think that I was going to adopt the role of tea-maker did you? - and everybody can breathe a sigh of relief. The next concert is still on. Though, if I had to go to Vienna, I wouldn’t start from Hannover.
Hannover doesn't have the same appeal as Venice or Berlin or Barcelona, does it? The city has its sights, I'm sure, but today we have time constraints for sightseeing. Often with rock n roll tours, there is just one day in each city. Mornings spell unloading and leisurely breakfasts reading newspapers; afternoons often involve little naps. Remember, trucks in this industry generally travel at
night. I'm sure you've all seen eighteen-wheelers drifting between lanes at night, head lolling? Sleeping whilst driving is a little risky!
After a little nap - heavens, these hours are hideously unsociable - Namibian brings me the perfect flask of tea, with removed teabag, and a selection of biscuits in a napkin. Things are looking up. As I stretch, fighting off lethargy and hypothermia, he pads about with kitchen roll, cleaning my mirrors. Ever seen “The Odd Couple”? Look at the kettle photo - pure Walter Matthau. He’s just hidden his unfashionable underpants, drying by the night heater, from the camera.
What's a night heater, you ask? Although trucking is a little like camping (as I've mentioned), we have the added advantage of keeping comfortably snug at night without eiderdown sleeping bags. A small diesel pump ticks away throughout the night, draining the batteries but keeping the driver warm. The temperature is controllable on a thermostat but, if set too high, it can still get a little steamy inside the cab. So, with windows lowered four inches, and curtains drawn, the intrepid trucker can snooze naked throughout a snowstorm.
I suppose I should at least mention
road tax throughout Europe. Oh god, do you have to? Well, I'll skate swiftly over the issue because it is an incontrovertibly dull subject to readers other than truck enthusiasts. To cut a long story short, almost every country in Europe - off the top of my head, this excludes the UK and Lithuania - charges trucks to use its roads. Some countries use tolls; some use a daily vignette system. Austria, which we are now entering, has a “Go-Box” which affixes rather ferociously to the windscreen. It beeps once each time the truck passes under a toll gantry. Two beeps or more means there is a problem with the payment. 'Halt immediately', in other words, or you will be fined a fortune.
Needless to say, our boxes have a problem. So, we pull in before being frogmarched down to a police station. Wow, what a splendid selection of top-shelf reading material adorning the magazine rack, I muse. And when I say “top-shelf”, I actually mean bottom shelf, thrust upon the innocent customer popping in to buy fuel or a newspaper, a little like those internet pop-up boxes. Take “Buttlust”, for example: a pricey Canadian publication, billed as the
'magazine for fanny fanatics.' This translates poorly for the British male reader, possibly expecting quality snaps of female genitalia, an enigma in itself. Yes, blame the North Americans for once again butchering the English slang and causing bewilderment. I open the glossy pages for a brisk ogle, though - for journalistic ends, and arguably for enlightenment - while Namibian sorts out the tax.
'I can’t stand the rain, ‘gainst my windows..' Nor can I Tina, but it’s more of a damp mist than actual rain, the sort of weather one associates with eastern European border crossings, and England. This lack of sunshine, and its life-giving Vitamin D, is cracking the skin round my eyes. Or is it simply ageing? Or something more sinister? Whatever. But “Mystic” (mentioned in the last blog), at 41, guesses he might be younger than me, a mere whippersnapper of 33. Perhaps he’s just being nasty because his earplug-wearing antics are now recorded in cyberspace. Or maybe it’s because I behave like an old git, storming out of bars in Sri Lanka, for instance, amid lasers and dry ice, because I could no longer see the columns of The Telegraph. Regardless, Mystic
tina turner 255
It's nice to actually see through the windscreen occasionally
was 'verbally attacked' later that day for wearing earplugs in the crew dining room, tacitly implying that the caterers’ choice of music was naff. He’s a bit under the weather at the moment, unbalanced after losing a nasal hair.
No, the green “L” on my truck is not an abbreviation of “learner”, thank you very much. Briefly, the Austrians require heavy trucks to have what's called a “hush kit” fitted around the engine for travelling at night. I know, if I could travel during the day I would. Anyway, the L indicates that this kit has been fitted. Occasionally, one has to show the accompanying paperwork before being allowed to proceed. I'll try and keep trucking stuff to a bare minimum in future, but I think it helps you to empathise with what a dreadful job I do? My only way to know if factual information has your eyes drooping is if you comment. And while I'm asking questions, any thoughts on constantly using the present tense?
There are two types of road tax here in Austria: pre-pay and post-pay. 'What, you’ve got to pay by post?' asks a poker-faced Namibian. Isn’t he adorable? He assures me, incidentally,
that his health is fantastic, as he unwraps a 300g bar of milk chocolate.
The Stadthalle in Vienna is Tina's next concert venue. But it can’t accommodate twenty trucks - so most of us are parked, sulking, next to a nearby railway siding for the next two and a half days. It’s mainly the glamour I do this job for..
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