The Longest Day


I’ve been reading that the newspaper industry is dying a death because of the Internet, but I disagree. You can’t wrap a fish supper in a blog. Trust me, it’s a mess. Besides there’s nothing better than an old fashioned newspaper with your coffee in the morning. I bought a paper in my local BP garage the other day when I went in to fill up and to get coffee. It’s decent coffee, not as good as my famous java, but still delicious. We did the usual back and forth, ‘Morning’, ‘the usual?’ etc, when there was this almighty noise from the coffee machine. It started leaking delicious black coffee from underneath and spilling onto the floor. “No problem,” said my buddy behind the counter, as he reached underneath to unplug the machine. But the cable came away in his hand and the leak continued uninterrupted. By this point I’m impatient for my coffee because it’s early and I have to drive, and my friend is reaching underneath the machine with napkins trying pathetically to stem the flow but to no avail. “This is a bit of a disaster dude, I need caffeine”, I said impatiently. “It’s not actually our responsibility,” he replied. “We sub contract the coffee machine from someone else.” I was unimpressed. “My man, your excuses are your own. The sign outside says BP and BP are the ones who are taking my cash for the coffee.” He looks at me, shrugs, and nips off through the back to seek a higher authority in this case the woman who makes the sausage rolls. By this stage the coffee is covering the floor up to my ankles. So they come up with the idea of putting a giant dome over the coffee machine, which doesn’t work. “These crisps down here on the bottom shelf are pretty fucked”, I told him. “They’ll be fine”, my buddy said, “we’ll dry them out under the hand dryer through the back”. By this stage they are pouring golf balls and old tyres onto the coffee machine but to no avail, it was just making a mess, and the coffee was pouring out in a dark, yet refreshing, gusher. “Ok, there’s definitely no way you’ll be selling these Ginsters pasties now, or any of these sandwiches”. “It’ll be fine. We have this experimental chemical that can separate coffee from pastry with no disastrous side effects. It’s completely harmless, some believe”, he replied. By this stage they’ve put a giant hat over the thing but I’m up to my waist in coffee, so it was then I decided to find a less dangerous alternative and went and had a cup of tea at the transport café round the corner.

Anyway we went to France to play at Alex and Marie-Ann Marten’s wedding. I’m not going to lie to you, it was many different kinds of tiring. Four days segueing together into one ninety-six hour day, over twenty two hundred miles, almost completely non-stop. AIG van hire, our usual outlet for splitter hire, had gone out of business a few weeks before we were to go, so we had recruited our friend Tony Eastlake to drive. Tony is one of life’s true super heroes. He should have a cape and wear his pants outside his trousers. He agreed to hire us his van and drive us to France with only two weeks notice. Few men would be able to handle the Ska Bastards of Despair in that proximity for that long let alone the epic drive, even with Papa Joe and I sharing the driving. Even a man of Tony’s calibre found it a challenge, yet he came through for us big time. Cheers again Tony.

We set off Friday morning around 11am and drove all day down to Dover, with a quick stop into Newcastle to borrow a bass amp. Colin managed to sleep almost the whole way there; he’s like a cat, he could sleep on a two-inch ledge in the rain, or under a car, which is something I am extremely envious of. I have trouble sleeping even at home, because of the night terrors. We reached Dover around 11pm and got our Ferry around Midnight. Some of the boys met Taylor Hawkins, drummer from the Foo Fighters. He came up to Sam and said, “Hey man, aren’t you Sam from Bombskare?” to which Sam replied, “Keep your voice down, I don’t want everyone to know I’m here”, and then proceeded to autograph Taylor’s impressive teeth. We got to Calais at 3am French time. We had a bit of a panic just south of Calais as we nearly ran out of fuel but thankfully rolled into a service station in the nick of time, a BP service station. From this point on there was no sat-nav, as we hadn’t paid the £80 to update the Tom-Tom so we had to navigate the old fashioned way, the stars; and a map. We drove through Normandy, past the famous battlefields of last century, Arras, Loos, the Somme, Verdun, and finally reaching Paris around six. We came past Paris and headed for Orleans but it was here that the traffic slowed to a crawl. On British maps, France looks about the same length as the UK but it’s not. It’s vast. We passed Tours, then Chatellerault, then Poitiers, and then Angouleme.

We drove all day arriving at our destination, a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere near Montmoreau Saint Cybard, northeast of Bordeaux at around 5pm. We were given our own cottage to stay in, a few hundred yards from the main house, very wise. We set up in the barn, had a lovely meal with the guests, and after fireworks and drinks we got started at around 11pm, that’s thirty six hours after we left, without almost no sleep. I’ve never been so tired but once we started it was plain sailing. We played for two and a half hours, right into the wee hours and afterwards spent the night dancing till God knows when. Afterwards I slept the sleep of angels. Not so much, some of the rest of the band, the devils.

Sunday was spent playing water volleyball, playing football, relaxing by the pool, eating home made ice cream and listen to Colin do his impersonation of Donald Sutherland from the film ‘Kelly’s Heroes’. Very civilised, but unfortunately we had to head off at around 11pm Sunday night as we had to get Murray back to Paris for around 6am Monday morning so he get his flight to Tenerife. We drove through the night and arrived with no mishaps, getting Murray to where he needed to be. As a courtesy to Murray, when we arrived at Orly Departure Terminal we slowed the van down into second gear and threw him out at only fifteen miles per hour along with most of his luggage. It’s the least we could do. Then we were back off to Calais. We arrived about three hours early for our departure but fortunately managed to get an earlier ferry. We played cards on the boat, we call it Switch, but Tony calls it Blackjack. We call Blackjack, Pontoon, or Twenty Ones. It’s all very confusing. In any case I kept getting dealt the exact same hand so someone was clearly cheating. Some of the guys went for a wander round the boat to see if they could run into any members of Queens of the Stone Age.

From Dover to Edinburgh took about ten hours. Those were the longest hours. Although we did find the time to stop in at Ashington so Andy could pick up a massive piece of mahogany that we stowed in the roof of the van. That’s right mahogany, got a problem with that? We arrived back at around 1am on Tuesday morning completely fucked. It was an amazing journey but exhausting. Thanks again to Alex and Marie Ann Marten, and all their families for making eight Jocks and one Geordie feel so welcome. Thanks again to ahr Tony, he’s a fooking scholar and gentleman. Never before have eight Scotsmen gone to France and came back with Geordie accents.

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