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.
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.