Tuesday, 21 April 2009
So: a new dawn! A brighter future! Sirius rising! The Age of Aquarius! The tumescence of tomorrow! The—
A brand spanking new home.
I write from a charming corner of a charming apartment in a charming town on a charming (tiny) Island in the middle of what is – by any standard – a charming sea. I’ve just spent several days variously driving, panicking, sleeping, shouting at French people, attempting to avoid Technicolour Yawnings (the ferry), and unpacking a car full of let’s-take-it-cos-you-never-know-we-might-need-it into a home which is…
…well, I’m almost ashamed to admit this, but…
I can find nothing about it to hate.
I know, I know. Plagues of locusts, rains of fire, the seventh Angel sounding its horn, Simon not hating something. Hold the front page, arf arf.
But, really, it’s great. Bigger, brighter, cleaner, more modern and basically Just So Fucking Much Better than the festering smogpit on the 4th floor above Kilburn High Road which, for the past year, we’ve optimistically been calling Home Sweet Home. This place has a garden. It has a dishwasher. It has a fucking utility room, and a spare bedroom, and windows that actually open, and an underground carpark, and direct Balearic sunlight, and, and…
And everything. I’d feel sort of smug about the whole thing, and that in turn would make me feel sort of ashamed, if not for one simple thing: we’ve earned this. Oh yes.
See, the journey was a cavalcade of hi-tension moments, godawful continental drivers, greasy food, shit beer, and one protracted stretch of utter hair-whitening hideousness which I shall now describe in overblown I’m-Never-Happier-Than-When-Rambling prose. We’ve been travelling the backroads of France and Spain for four days – each segment packed with its own highs and lows, gorgeosities and pure coalblack haaaaaaatings – but there’s one event that stands out above all others.
Our little adventure (to recap: driving from London to Menorca, via Orleans, Toulouse and Barcelona, in a 12-yr old car of dubious reliability, with a pair of bikes strapped to the back and a Navigator who has difficulty differentiating left and right) reached its climax on the third day, in a moment of sphincter-gaping terror which I suspect Will Shit Me Up – like the psychic equivalent of a bad curry – for many nights to come. Throughout the whole journey we’d opted to take scenic routes and backroads on the triple grounds that they’d have more Kodak Moments than the usual Urethras Of Congestion (great band name, there), that we wouldn’t be quite so embarrassed at travelling 50% slower than everyone on the motorway (thanks to the valiant but futile strugglings of our jalopy), and above all would avoid all the fucking tolls these semi-civilised European types insist on charging at the merest whiff of tarmac. In this particular instance the “scenic route” – in avoidance of the regular road through the Pyrenees between Bourg-Madame and Barcelona – was a four hour marathon along narrow, blighted mountain roads with more twists than a deviant slinky, via unseasonal snowfields and occasional blasts of apocalyptic rain. Since I was driving a British car (right hand drive) on a European road (right lane drive), I spent the entire time uncomfortably aware of the vertical gulf a foot or so beside me, with nothing between my cheap-as-fuck motor and death’s misty arsecrack but a few startled mountain goats and (probably) a bunch of Basque bumpkins itching to sodomise a pair of mangled gringos with their garlic-scented Buggering Sticks. Or something.
Pretty scary, right?
Yeah, well then my fucking brakes failed.
Approaching a blind bend, staring at nothing beyond the corner but an empty expanse of drizzle and mist, as ours ears popped from the altitude and the radio blared to the sounds of Inbred Locals discussing this year’s Dew Harvest (or whatever), the brakes lost all pressure. What should’ve been a smooth deceleration to take the corner became a panicky yoink of the wheel, followed by a protracted period of sweating (copious), swearing (admirably restrained), trying to find somewhere safe to stop (impossible) and generally Not Having Fun. Given that we hadn’t seen another driver for about quarter of an hour, had travelled too far along this meandering stretch of the devil's backbone to contemplate turning back, and were too fucking knackered to even contemplate delaying our arrival in Barcelona, we… well. We carried on.
Do not try this at home.
It turns out the problem is/was probably something to do with the vacuum-hose which connects the brakes to the servos (means nothing to me either), and what felt like a complete loss of Ability to Stop was in fact a sudden and dramatic reduction in the same. Thankfully, over time, the pressure returned bit-by-bit. It failed a second time a bit later (in a town – no worries), but it was that first moment of confusion and realisation that really shook us. Or, rather, me, because in a slightly stupid attempt to Not Freak Out My Copilot I didn’t actually mention what was happening until three or four corners after the Ohshitohshitohshit moment. She, characteristically, took it all in her Most Awesome stride, and managed to keep me calm long enough to get the fuck down away from the mountains/rain/twisty bits/sodomitic basque types.
It’s now two days later. Two days of cancelled ferry journeys, unexpected upgrades, panicky sprints through traffic in Barcelona (she’s got the hand of right/left now), and finally arrival on Menorca. Every time I shut my eyes and think about it I’m still feeling that curious little lurch in the pit of my guts – a freaky blend of raw primeval terror, bubbling hate, and a dirty, sleazy taint of pure thrill… but now all I’ve got to do is look out the window at swaying palms and terracotta tiles (still steaming from the Spring shower overnight), and: yeah. It was worth it.
The manifesto for the next six months is: Write Lots, Be Healthy, Don’t Worry.
(There will be room for hate).