Chapter One “Too fast, and I was too fucking furious!”
So here I sit in our Parisian bedroom on a mild Friday evening, contemplating the week that’s been. This time last week, we had undertaken the largest and most trying part of our journey (or so i thought) and had just checked into a very pleasant and clean hotel in the center of Portsmouth.
The near 300 mile trip in our hired vehicle had been interspersed with some lengthy jams on the outside lane of many of the U.K’s busiest motorways, these jams which held us up where all caused by accidents involving worse drivers than I, thus I took it upon myself to loudly and passionately criticize these errant individuals, stopping just short of pulling up next to the ambulances parked on the hard shoulder, getting out of my vehicle, walking round to the back doors, opening them and informing them of my feelings that…”I HOPE YOU FUCKING DIE IN PAIN YOU INCONSIDERATE FUCK STAINS!”
Happily however I refrained from this action and made do instead with giving the steering wheel third degree Chinese burns, and listening to Radio 3’s afternoon concert (Don’t ask, to say that i felt like jabbing myself in the ears with a red hot poker was an understatement…but it appeared that our cat liked it) Anyway, the car journey safely negotiated phase one of our journey was at an end…
Upon checking in at our hotel, the receptionist informed us that we could “Leave our credit card open” enabling us to sample the shockingly overpriced fare on offer from their in room menu, this we kindly refused, whilst silently hoping that the receptionist’s children were born with some form of abnormality (come on we’ve all wished that on someone in our time haven’t we…haven’t we?) and we opted instead for the cheaper culinary experience of the local Spar shop whose menu included pre packaged sandwiches, crisps, pie’s and lager (the healthy option obviously),the picnic assembled upon our bed we tucked into our feast, and it was about this time to my horror we discovered the T.V. program ‘Being Liverpool’ on channel five.
Oooooooh lord what has happened to that once proud club, I’m sure the displacement caused by the rotation of Bill Shankly in his grave was enough to cause minor earth tremors in some distant corner of Indonesia, it was neither informative nor entertaining, as previous ‘fly on the wall’ football documentaries have been, in short a program about a team that used to eat from the top table of European football, and their decent from the top table, into the freegan bin scavenging which they now find themselves mired in, all shown on the same channel as ‘home and away’ this left me feeling somewhat grubby.
Having showered, brushed my teeth and taken a shit all at the same time, in what was possibly the smallest bathroom I had ever encountered, a space so small even the borrowers would call it ‘A bit pokey’; I returned to the comfort of our hired bed and reclined for a little more channel surfing before the Heineken sleeping tablets took hold and bore me off to the land of drunken nod.
The morning began abruptly at 6 am as our cat had taken it upon himself to play the role of Charles Bronson in our bedroom production of ‘The Great Escape’… having gotten bored with the freedom we had allowed him after his incarceration in the catcatraz during his stint in the car, he somehow managed to squeeze himself under the tiniest of gaps underneath the sink unit, upon finding that he couldn’t extricate himself, he proceeded to entertain himself by singing his favorite simply red songs at the top of his voice, something that we found extremely amusing after 2 weeks of furniture moving and several nights sleeping on sofa’s at my mothers house, (HA) who needs sleep in a warm comfy bed anyway… And so I found myself bleary eyed at the hotel reception trying to explain our situation to a very confused and very French night porter, who handed over the hotels tool kit, simply to get the irate bearded scare crow he found himself confronted with away from his desk.
After a short spell of cat rescuing D.I.Y we packed up our belongings and proceeded to check out from the hotel, after dropping off the hire car we where left with just over 11 hours to kill in Portsmouth, this we did by means of tantric tourism, that is to say we sat for at least 8 hours surrounded by our luggage wishing we where on the ferry and bound for France, had we of known the nightmare that awaited us we would of gladly waited longer….
Chapter Two: The Boat that didn’t rock.
Once one of Portsmouth’s famous Rubenesque taxi fraternity had collected us from our hiding place and loaded our 1.2m suitcases into their 1m boot space, slamming the boot lid down with that satisfying crunch sound that should of been a dull clunk, we where dropped off at Portsmouth International Port (bit of a gob full i know, which funnily enough was also offered on the menu of some of the less salubrious establishments in the area, usually by scrawny dead eyed women with cold sores but i’m digressing…) Sarah and I entered to discover we where the only customers in the entire building, so as the clock lurched provocatively towards 9 pm we approached the check in desk of the L+D Lines Ferry company. We where greeted by what can be best described as a fat, headset wearing retarded phone jockey who checked our passports and issued our boarding cards with as much panache and charisma as a weeping genital sore. Upon informing him of our feline compatriot we where informed that, rather than him being caged separately from ourselves and cared for by a member of staff, we could keep him with us for the duration of the 9 hour crossing! Presumably the intended member of staff charged with the care of animals during the crossing had either (A) swallowed his or her own head in an attempt to get some much needed time off, or (B) decided, mid crossing, that a life spent caring for other ungrateful peoples pets wasn’t a life worth living and they had tossed themselves overboard and presumably landed on David Walliams as he attempted the first ‘cross channel dressed like a tranny’ swim, rendering both sadly lost at sea.
So boarding cards in hand, we sat, and waited…and waited…..and waited some more, after a couple of hours I asked Sarah if she’d like anything to eat and drink, she said she wouldn’t mind a coffee so I obligingly wandered around in search of refreshment, what I found seemed promising; not only was it a coffee machine, but, it had the word ‘COSTA’ emblazoned across the front, what I hadn’t taken into account was that ‘COSTA’ was the French word for ‘Lukewarm Donkey urine’, what followed was an awkward 10 minutes of sips winces and polite glances at one another. After my rage had subsided, and the urge to shove excrement into the coin return slot had abated we returned to waiting (remember the scene at the end of ‘The Shining’ when Jack Nicholson is sat slowly freezing to death in the maze well by the time boarding time arrived both myself and to a lesser extent Sarah shared that forlorn and hopeless look, had we of thought to look inside catatraz i’m sure we would of seen the words ‘red rum’ scrawled all over the walls in cat shit.) but boarding we were, as is usual I waltzed through the security check, whilst Sarah was submitted to intense cross examination, a cavity search and the obligatory beating with rubber bats whilst wrapped in a blanket, We did laugh as they wheeled out the Electric shock machine, and began attaching the electrodes to Sarah s nipples, beatings taken and bruises delivered, we headed for the ferry, upon our arrival we where ushered, along with the other dozen or so foot passengers onto our ship…The Love boat it wasn’t.
After climbing umpteen flights of stairs we arrived in a reception area that would of left the guards at Auschwitz thinking that this was a bit cold and austere, we wandered through corridors filled with confused looking people and ended up in a room full of brown leather reclining chairs to discover that although there where only 15 foot passengers, the twenty five thousand car passengers more than made up for the short fall, the scene resembled an sub Saharan African refugee camp that had just been told that (A) the Stella was running out, and (B) Gerri Halliwell was going to pay a visit, it was utter pandemonium, it was like the Poseidon adventure if it had been set in a toilet on a farm.
Finally after finding some seats and depositing the cat on the seat between us we sat and awaited the end of the world, the reason i say that is this, have you ever gotten on a bus or coach n thought “How the fuck is this thing road legal?” well the boat we where on sounded as though it wanted to head in two directions at the same time, what made things infinitely worse was we where then at the mercy of having to tell people every five minutes “Yes we have a cat” and then have to listen as random people we have never met before told us all about their pets…Resisting the urge to stab people in the eye, we turned our attention to the cat, who had now begun singing Mick Hucknall’s ‘If you don’t know me by now’ (if i do say so, he was slightly off key) this began as an amusement for people but by midnight had become a little trying, I took it upon myself to take a tour of our vessel with the puss in tow, firstly we sat on deck and took in the night air, it was peaceful and calm on deck something both I and the cat really enjoyed, we then wandered through the ship until we returned to the reception area where we where pounced upon by a member of the ships security team, a dark haired diminutive woman who informed me that having a cat on board was against the ships ‘hygiene’ policy, I could of argued that surely the people sleeping on the floor along the corridors and under the stairwells would be a greater risk or that the pervading stench of stale urine emanating from every corner may be a slightly greater risk, but I couldn’t summon the motivation, she informed me the cat should be caged away from the ships population (I did think of asking if I could join him but I thought better of it) so our puss was imprisoned for a second time, and we finally had some peace and quite, as I was led away I swear I could hear the cat break into a rendition of San Quentin by Johnny Cash but sadly the security door slammed shut just as he got to the “I hate every inch of you” bit.
On our walk back to reality the security women informed me in broken English that she preferred cats to people, this made me wonder if she had recently transferred over from another department of the L+D Ferry company, but as my brain was attempting to climb out of my ears I simply nodded and smiled as I knew exactly what she meant, upon returning to my seat and seeing the clock strike 4 am I slumped blissfully into a deep sleep (despite a woman sitting not 3 or 4 seats away snoring like a malfunctioning jack hammer) for all of two hours…
For the second time that weekend 6 am came abruptly, interrupting my dream of repairing Daniel Day Lewis’s bright red Mini? sat in the half light listening to the ship trying to rip itself in half, my first thought was of disembarkation this came about some three hours later in the hazy morning sea mists of Le Havre harbour, a modernist looking water front that was deserted of people and populated entirely by sea birds, Had it finally happened…. had hitchcock’s dream finally been realised, had mankind been usurped by our raptor relatives? Sadly no, it was just really early on a sunday morning…. the kind of time Lionel Richie sung about. Upon collection of the cat we headed for the exit as fast as is humanly possible. After passing through customs and security control, we (that is me and the cat) sat and watched Sarah being ritualistically beaten with stale baguettes before we collected our baggage and made for the taxi rank like bedraggled sleep deprived zombies that have been locked up over night in a ship that stank like a sweaty pissy bucket! we sighed and concluded that phase two of our journey was at long last at an end.
Chapter three: Waiting for the Ghost Train.
Having arrived at Le Havre station at around 8:30am on Sunday morning we began our final stint of tantric tourism sat in the waiting room waiting for the train to Paris, this final leg of our journey was going so well until ‘the guy’ arrived, you know ‘the guy’ everyone at some stage in their lives has met ‘the guy’ he’s the guy who sits listening to his media player on top volume through what must be the shittest head phones imaginable, the kind of head phones that have so much bleed through that he may as well of been singing his playlist out loud, and BOY what a playlist. The first three songs will give you a flavour of what type of person he was, the first song was by African musical sensation Akon (nuff said) the second song was by the American midget dancer Usher, and the last of the three songs was by plaster emblazoned dip shit Nelly (yes it was getting hot in there, but sadly the only reason i was going to take off all my clothes was to form a noose to lynch the fucking bell end) just as I was about to snap and go totally bat shit mental killing everyone within a fifty feet radius the fourth song came within my ear shot which changed everything….The Rose is a song written by Bette Midler and is quite possibly the cheesiest song ever written (SERIOUSLY) and this was the song that appeared next upon his headphones, both myself and Sarah began to sway and had I of still been a smoker there is little doubt that my lighter would of made an appearance as I held it aloft and swayed it from side to side, thankfully moments later he received a call and had the common courtesy to leave the room to answer and never returned, after that little interlude little else of any interest occurred other than me dozing off with my face against the glass in the window something which amused Sarah sooo much she decided to take photos of me as a keep sake, we reached Paris at 1 pm on Sunday having set off at 2 pm on Friday eat your heart out Michael bastard Palin, we dodged the pick pockets (well all but one who took one look at me informing him that if he so much as touched any of my possessions i would gleefully rip his fucking arms off and beat him to death with the wet end) and jumped into a taxi bound for the 17th arrondissement and our new home, falling through the front door at a little before 2 pm I collapsed onto the double bed in our room and didn’t stir for 24 hours our torturous journey of three shades of grey was complete, all that was left was to live my new life in the French capital to grasp this opportunity with both hands and savour every single moment of my existence in this wonderful mesmerizing joyous yet terrifying city.