‘I’m still looking for a bit of rope,’ said Princess, interrupting my chapter. He picked his nose for a moment, stood at my truck door and waited for a response. Frankly, I wasn’t really in the mood for bothersome interlopers – Jules Verne’s Journey To The Centre Of The Earth was just hotting up. ‘Yes, what for?’ I asked at last, dutifully, though with a stolid indifference.
‘Hang myself,’ he explained. Well, let me assist you, old pal, I thought mutely. ‘Don’t you ever read?’ I questioned aloud, more in admonishment than polite curiosity. ‘Nope,’ he said, ‘don’t like it.’ It’s true – not a single book in his lorry. And there we were with nine days to reach Zurich from Copenhagen – yes, still on the Prince Tour. It’s a journey manageable in two days…which meant a great deal of loafing in German truckstops amusing oneself.
Now, an ascetic way of life per se is nothing to frown upon, but eschewing books and music altogether? Is Princess some modern day eunuch monk, his ancestry stretching back to Katharoi monastery? Or a castrati magician of Arthurian legend? More to the point, what he hell does he do when driving long distances? ‘Nothing,’ he said candidly. ‘Look out the window, I suppose.’ What, on night drives?! There’s sod all to see.
‘Come on, let’s go for a walk to see the trains,’ he implored, obviously bored out of his skull. ‘My mate Malcolm drives a Class 66, you know. Does the overnight from London to Birmingham. Ooh, imagine that: being in the cab and letting the train take the strain.’ Shall we pretend he didn’t just say that?
This was to be the third walk of the day together and, as I say, Mr. Verne, father of the science fiction genre, had me firmly in his grip. ‘Dicky tummy, I’m afraid,’ I said dismissively, picking up my book once more. ‘Think that ice cream after lunch might’ve pushed me over the edge.’ He looked up with tender solicitude…and began prattling total and utter codswallop, reminding me somewhat of A.A. Milne’s Winnie The Pooh.
‘Won’t be anything you ate today,’ he quipped. ‘Things take at least twenty-four hours to get into your system.’ That can’t be right, can it? By that reasoning, I could have four scoops of dog poo for dessert and be fine to run a marathon the following morning. ‘OK, Clever Clogs,’ I retorted, ‘talking of poo, which day’s luncheon was this morning’s disgorged turd from?’ See, I had him on the hop now..
‘Oh, that’ll be from two months ago,’ he said unswervingly, as Pooh Bear might have done. ‘Look how long your intestines are; they go on for miles. Takes ages for poo to get down them.’ I shook my head in stupefaction, wondering how some people make it to adulthood, then unlimbered my frame resignedly and agreed to stroll into Achern. It is a little German town not a million miles from the Swiss border.
‘If it makes you feel better,’ he began again, as wasps inspected our ankles by the stream, ‘I ordered toast for lunch and they brought me a massive great pizza. So what am I supposed to do about dinner now?’ He scratched his penis indiscreetly – it’s probably just a side effect of having one’s testicles removed – and continued soliloquising. ‘I could have a light meal at 8.30, I suppose. But I’m still fat and ugly, even after all this walking I do. Course, it all started when I passed my driving test. Did I ever tell you the story about…’
Suffering Jeepers, he’s exhausting, isn’t he? A smashing chum and all that, but I do wish he’d pick up a book occasionally..
(NB. For anybody as daft as my esteemed colleague, most foodstuffs pass through the digestive system within seventy-two hours. Two months! Honestly..)