The AC/DC tour reached Paris yesterday. After a statutory twenty-four hour break, the trucks begin rolling into the capacious Stade de France, taking care to avoid the pitch area. The ususal protective matting lines the edges of the stadium whilst the thinner Teraplast covers the grass. If we’re seen driving across the latter, punishment is at least a severe slap on the wrist.
I drive in last, utterly demolishing the place – whoops. With reckless abandon, black matting rucks up around the trailer wheels as a maiden’s skirt might in the prelude to undressing. ‘The earth just moved for me,’ says Scott rather aptly. ‘Quite literally, as it happens. The flooring just shifted several feet.’ The damage is temporary, though – a deluge of frowning Frenchmen have arrived to push the plastic rectangles back together. If only they had thought to wet the plastic with a hosepipe, all would have been wine and roses. ‘Don’t worry,’ says Michelin Matt with characteristic insouciance, ‘they’re only garlic-quaffing, pond-robbing surrenderers.’
Oh marvellous, everybody’s arrived now for a good gawp. ‘That’s major, that is,’ says Number One, our lead driver. Little Dick, cognisant that he can’t move into position until the flooring has been repaired, boils his kettle, emerging a little later with a mug pilfered from Download Festival. Alice, floating around in flip-flops and wearing a despoiled security pass, offers a note from his mum excusing him from assisting in any work.
And Gentleman Steve puts in his tuppence worth. ‘You’ve done it now,’ he says in patrician tones. ‘Ruined it for everybody. We’ll never be able to bring trucks in here again.’ I must say, the sprig of sycamore poking out of the back doors tops off the affair rather splendidly. That, and my mud-caked tyres caused by French Customs – they vastly under-estimated the room needed to manoeuvre an articulated lorry.
Now I’ve noticed a theme with Gentleman Steve. He’ll open a conversation with something relatively harmless, before abruptly changing tack in the direction of educational adult videos. ‘You should write porn novelletas,’ he advises. ‘Do you mean novellas?’ I ask. ‘Oh, I don’t know,’ is the reply, ‘but porn is where the money is. Art pamphlets, my mate calls them.’ Well, if anybody has contacts in that corner of publishing, my email address is on this site somewhere. I could probably manage a spicy chapter or two.
During this short delay in truck movements, Number One dishes out some crew merchandise, or “swag” as we call it. Ooh, we’ve each been issued with a body warmer, a football shirt and a USB memory stick in the shape of a guitar. But no laptop to go with it, I notice. Number One also reminds us that we may be up against it when re-entering the stadium later as pedestrians. Despite being up to our eyebrows in French security passes, admission (after drinking heavily in the less salubrious quarters of St. Denis) is far from guaranteed. ‘Gate T is supposed to be twenty-four hours,’ he informs us, ‘but if there’s nobody there ring the bell. Then wait five hours for security.’ The snigger isn’t strictly necessary.
Most of us however, are not dashing off to bistros with idyllic notions of slurping Cote du Rhone. A barbecue has been laid on by the staging drivers in the adjacent car park, comprising meat, bread and beer: a balanced diet if ever I saw one. ‘All this five a day bollocks must have come in since 2000,’ cries a querulous “Nellie” (Neil). ‘When the Enrique Iglesias tour went to Majorca years ago, we were still allowed egg and chips every night.’
Times have changed. We’re now more conscious of what we eat and, if women’s magazines are to be believed, we are what we eat. (Michelin Matt is tucking into a piece of piggy as we speak.) So what constitutes five a day? Well, there seems to be rather a difference of opinion amongst the drivers. One sentiment is that to comply you need two fruit juices in the same glass and three raisins in the Muesli. Add a slice of tomato and cucumber at luncheon and you might just have cracked it.
Others aver that doughnuts are the key to longevity. ‘Pink stuff is good,’ says Nellie. ‘Anything pink is a fruit.’ This is before we even dabble with healthy snacks such as lemon drizzle cake and blueberry muffins. ‘For example, I had strawberry jam in my croissant this morning,’ he continues. ‘It’s obvious, Barnaby. The clue is in the title.’ He shrugs and raises an upturned palm. ‘Strawberry.’
If you’ve spotted spurious logic above, feel free to visit my cousin’s website on nutrition. But a word of caution, she more or less survives on cabbage and foul-tasting Chinese concoctions. And she doesn’t have nearly as much fun as I do..