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