Thursday, September 24, 2015

Summer Holiday #3: Spain

I couldn't sleep a wink. There was a sign above the window overlooking a dodgy rear carpark that I managed to translate into 'Open this, and all bets are off', so I lay there in the darkness broiling in my own juices. The only upside to the entire experience was that if I was finding it uncomfortable, Pete was in the inner pits of hell.

After my three sweaty hours of demi-sleep, I visited him the next morning. It turned out that Pete's room on the other side of the corridor was far cooler, and he looked at me as if I had five heads when I asked him how bad his night was. He even looked refreshed and raring to go as he insulted me with casual ease and minutes later, we were back on the road. After a couple of hours, the landscape outside had morphed from flat, temperate Northern Europe to the warm, hilly terracottas of the South and that day, we made it as far down as Millau (twinned with Bridlington) where we spent the night, lucking out with a proper hotel this time that overlooked the small red-roofed town. We even had a balcony where I sat with a bottle of cheap cherry wine that in any other environment would've been turpentine, but what with the warmth, and the view, and the fact that we'd tossed a coin to see who'd sleep where and Pete got the floor, it tasted like Kelly Brook's sugary lips.

A massive bridge dominates the town, and the following day we (ie, the other two) decided we had to drive near it and look up, mainly because they could then say they stood under the tallest bridge in the world (British-designed). After a few more hour's drive, we'd crossed the unassuming border into Spain (No fanfare; just a motorway that passes two white pillars we had to assume meant something), and headed into an infrastructure of slightly shittier roads and buildings and more worn-looking tollbooths that made everything feel ever so slightly poorer.

The temperature had risen to  "fuck!" I've been to the tropics before, and in the summer too like an idiot, but this felt really bad, perhaps because in my attempts to shit out this awful novel, I'd sat on my arse for several years and eaten my way up to my fattest. And now it was taking its toll. Before moving in to our apartment, Dom had to first find the agent, sign in and get the keys (this took over an hour), then head to our sumptuous accommodation which I was thrilled to note featured a huge, wall-mounted air-conditioning unit - that refused to turn on. I probed and slapped it for a good half hour (getting drenched with sweat in the process) before losing my rag; a pure, uncomfortably moist, helplessness-based anger that had me incapable of doing anything until I had the air-conditioning I could see right in front of me.

Pete was kind enough to lend me his shit phone so I could call the agent. For some reason, he was incredibly chilled. He'd not travelled for decades and hadn't set foot in either France or Spain, and his lazy curiosity had kept him cool. By contrast, even my knees were wet and I was furious - though I still had the presence of mind to change Pete's phone language to Spanish when he wasn't looking.

I had no luck getting hold of the agent so Dom made a detour back to the office to get the air-con sorted out in person while Pete and I went out to watch Nottingham Forest get trounced by Brighton. If he was pissed off - which I assume he was - he hid it well. Pete's had years perfecting a poker face when it comes to shitty Nottingham Forest results.
Dom was in a good mood when he found us; he'd secured an air-conditioning unit which would be delivered the next day so that night, we moved on to the beach and bars of Salou....

which was nothing to write home about. We wandered along the promenade by the shore which was distinctly teenage as local kids strutted past, making us all feel ancient. Everyone else, meanwhile, seemed to be their parents. The whole damn town wasn't just outside of our age group, they weren't even in our linguistic group as ever passer-by seemed either Spanish or French.
We chose Salou to cut down the journey time as Benidorm, our original choice, was too far away. Only now did we begin to wonder if it would've catered to our needs a little better.

A few years earlier, Dom had lived in Seville and he explained how you have to immerse yourself in a language and a culture if you had any chance of banging a local. Attractive Mediterranean women in Catholic countries for some reason don't tend to have drunken one-night stands with fat, pissed  Englishman, and for the first time ever I realised that those godforsaken British/ Irish bars I normally avoid are actually the best chance I'd have to get laid.

And I had no chance. While Dom was game for a laugh, I felt like a sack of fat shit. I wasn't on my A game,* and if there's a male equivalent of a hymen (a guymen?), Pete's had grown back with a vengeance as had mine, a metaphorical ghastly flesh casket imprisoning my underwhelming sweaty goods from the world. We sat down at a crowded bar and ordered a vast homosexual cocktail. And I mean that. If this drink had a sexuality with its florid colours and fucking sparklers coming out of it, it would be totally flamingly queer. And we drank the shit out of it as mute Spanish teenagers stared at us curiously before we headed on to the only Irish bar in town.

As I was incapable of talking to young women nearby, I gravitated towards the only lady hominids who had to talk to me; the barmaids - in this case an attractive young lady from St Petersburg who was just about able to smile in my direction and once again, I knew I was not going to have sex with anyone.

*I've never had a fucking A-game

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Summer Holiday #2: France

I'd slept fairly well, considering I'd used Pete's sofa cushions as an improvised mattress and spent it on the floor while Pete snored next to me like a fucking sawmill.

Dom was fully rested too. Pete had given up his own bed for his friend to use, but then seeing as Dom was driving us all down in his car to Salou approximately 1,000 miles away, it was important that he felt refreshed. The drive down to Newhaven was largely academic; I was still half asleep as it takes me about eight hours to adjust to waking up, and I couldn't quite hear Pete's non-stop monologue at Dom as I was sat in the back. It wasn't until the ferry crawled off at 20 earth mph's and the three of us sat in the ferry canteen that I got subjected to Pete's stream of consciousness, and I zoned out as I usually do.

I did bring along a copy of my book though (available through Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions), so I could quite literally wave it in his face. Pete took it from me with a grimace, and flicked through the pages as if it were an animated flip book before handing it right back.
'Don't you want to read a bit of it?' I asked.
'I don't read international bestsellers,' Pete said, 'so why should I read some Joe Shmo nobody?'
'Because you're fucking in it.'
Pete shrugged. 'Not interested,' he added, so I changed his phone language to French when he wasn't looking.

It was 4pm when we crawled off the ferry and headed into the continent. Decency and fair play were now off the menu, as were, it transpired, working towns. We drove for a couple of hours making sure we avoided the traffic of Paris, and found a small place just off the motorway so we could fill the car up and get something to eat but the whole place seemed deserted. It was eerie; there was just the occasional pedestrian walking past closed shops despite it being early evening, and we were starting to give up hope until we saw the first of many out-of-town hypermarkets that the French hate for being Anglo-Saxon American-inspired hell-holes whilst at the same time, reliable, well-stocked, and open.

Pete bought himself a cheap tennis racket as he and Dom were going to play in Spain.
'Actually, I wouldn't mind having a go,' I said as I watched Pete test the strings by bouncing a racket off his open palm.
'You?' he baulked, pausing mid-bounce for effect.
'Uh, sure,' I replied. 'I haven't played for a few years and I'd quite lik-'
'Let's be absolutely clear here; you have no part in this,' Pete said as he waved his hand over the imaginary tennis universe in front of him. ' This is between me and Dom.'
'I get that, but I just want to, y'know... bat a few balls about.'
Pete chuckled to himself and his oversized shoulders shook. 'Once again; there will be no batting, no swinging, no...'
'Whatever,' I said, and walked off as he continued to reel off present participles. I'd forgone a plane for that flight-allergic fucker.

It was pleasantly warm outside as we ate our packaged supermarket sandwiches in the car park while French versions of People of Walmart wandered past sneering Gallicly. With food in my hand and 12 days of freedom all ahead, I was actually happy until a stripey winged insect took a shine to me and tried to make a home in my hair. Pete enjoyed this rather too much as I was forced to abandon my sandwich in favour of running. I hadn't seen him laugh that hard since 1995.

The weather got a little warmer as we drove south into the evening, and to pass the time we were forced to play I-Spy which got ridiculously, childishly competitive, particularly considering our collective age was 141 and there was only three of us. I was sat in the front now with a huge map on my lap (Pete doesn't "do maps"), and I'd chosen La Ferté-Saint-Aubin as a good place to sleep in. But that town was dead too apart from one lively pizzeria we'd decided to visit once we found a room for the night. Unfortunately, we had to drive on for another twenty minutes until we found a hotel but it was too expensive, so we U-turned back through La Ferté and out the other side where we booked ourselves into a dirt-cheap Formula 1 hotel, self-service former shipping containers (literally) we'd passed an hour earlier.
Once we'd got a cheap room each, we set off for something to eat.
Though everywhere was closed.
Or closing.
We were too late.

'There's a McDonalds in Olivet' a waiter told us in one restaurant before shooing us out, and our first night in France ended with the sad munching of a dry, stale Big Mac that took an uncharacteristically long time to arrive. And it would've been nice if we could just get back to our hotel afterwards, but even though we could see it in the distance, Dom's GPS seemed to think we could drive on the left and it sent us miles away among a tangled collection of French B-roads.

It took an hour for us to get the half a mile back, where we passed out in tiny sweatboxes that had once shipped car parts and toasters to Marseilles.

Coming up: In a series of consistently-laboured posts (or perhaps just one more), I stretch out several more days of non-happenings. You have been warned.