AC/DC – Borders, Barcelona and Banquets..

I ought to clear up a little misunderstanding, I think. There is, unfortunately, very little sex on tour.

The legend of women throwing themselves at rock stars may or may not be true, but we truckers see little of it. Our schedule, as I hope you’ve gathered, dictates sobriety and appalling hours – hardly conducive to assignations with the opposite sex.

And none of us are getting any younger, or distinguished. When we do go out on a night off, it’s often in a group where we sit in a huddle and leer, dribbling ever so slightly.

I’d like to think that the rest of the crew (lighting, sound, video crew etc.) fare a bit better with the odd hotel room at their disposal. But they also spend nights working and then travelling on a moving bus, on which it is bad form to invite drunken harlots. (Girls wanting to party on the bus disrupts other crew members’ sleep.)

So, we come full circle back to the topic of prostitutes. And La Jonquera, the Spanish frontier town on the border with southern France, is a splendid place to pick up the thread. Namibian asks to stop here, late at night, ostensibly for cheap cigarettes.

Actually, I’ll leave the thread where it is. Little Dick joins us at the BP pumps and is told, ‘No tobacco. Not after 11pm. Spain different country’. We may as well have remained on the motorway, then.

Now, it has been noted by certain factions that this job must interfere with my social life a bit. The argument holds water, I think, but then, without the job, I wouldn’t get to see all these chums round Europe.

After a dickens of a drive, today’s socialising involves both lunch and dinner appointments with friends. By anyone’s standards, it is a day of culinary excess for me while poor Namibian – now a mere skeleton – arrives in Catering just after they’ve cleared away the breakfast things.

Oh dear. He’s been up for hours, doing the right thing by remaining with his vehicle until it is unloaded, and he’s been penalised in the meals department for doing so. I sympathise, and talk of walking off double eggs and bacon before an extravagant lunch in town.

Ollie, my lunch appointment, is Swiss Julian’s brother, and he has quite understandably fallen for a Spanish bird. They now live happily in Barcelona where he is an architect-cum-web designer, currently working as the latter while construction withers in this global economic crisis.

He is persevering with a lone dreadlock that looks decidedly rebellious, which distracts me a bit as we chat. So we make him an artificial hat using a restaurant lamp.

After umpteen courses, an espresso and a pint of schnapps, the puff back up the hill – on the bike in the rain – is a killer. I think I’m going to need a lie-down before the next gastronomic onslaught. But I did briefly think of Namibian’s plight as I shovelled down the final course..

AC/DC – Zurich to Barcelona..

AC/DC’s gig was cancelled in Zurich last night. I realise the inconvenience to the fans, but from our end it spelled absolute catastrophe: no catering.

Namibian, at the loss of both a cooked breakfast and yet more weight, chomped furiously at the bit. You see, he hadn’t planned to go anywhere (obviously), happily surviving without any Swiss shitters if fed and watered.

Eighteen other truckers were likewise stranded in a foreign land, with no foreign money and nothing to eat. On balance, we’re worse off than the fans? Possibly as consolation, we’re issued crew cardigans with hoods.

Oh, you want to know about Claudia I suppose? She is nice, late twenties, with an excellent command of English. She possibly has a shade less vocabulary than Crazy Sandra but without all the endearing mistakes.

Swiss Julian joined us – chiefly to ogle my date, I think – and tells me that tram drivers in Zurich don’t think much of Englishmen warding them off with umbrellas used as light-sabers. Point taken.

We went food shopping instead, delirious with hunger from a lack of catering. As it turns out, euros are readily accepted in Zurich, but it feels a little like bartering in Morocco. Whatever amount is quoted for fruit, or a sandwich, I say, ‘call it 5 Euro?’ They do, and hand the Swiss change to Julian.

Now, are you interested in arcane trucking details? Did you know that many European countries ban trucks from travelling between 22.00 on Saturday night and 22.00 on Sunday night? Coo, what a nuisance.

Annoyingly, the show cancellation happened so quickly that there wasn’t enough time to organise exemption permits; in order to override the restrictions, cash can be coughed up, but it takes a little time.

And in Switzerland they ban trucks at night during the week as well, which is simply daft – we have to clog up the roads during the day instead.

For those who don’t spend their lives bumbling across Europe, perhaps I should mention that the motorway signs change arbitrarily from blue to green and back again as one passes between countries.

It is obvious which road is toll road with the benefit of experience, but I do remember arriving at the Swiss border in a car, tender and naïve at the age of nineteen. It was at the top of an Alp in a Skoda Rapid – an oxymoron if ever there was one.

Vignette,’ the surly guard demanded. I promised to remain on small roads, thereby skirting the road tax, and he waved me through.

Strictly avoiding blue roads, as one would in England, and indeed France, I rolled up at Swiss Julian’s house, green with envy at how good the roads are in Switzerland. I was lucky that time, having stuck steadfastly, and ignorantly, to Switzerland’s motorways without a fine.

Lorries though, as you may remember, are taxed by the kilometre. Bear in mind that there is no signpost to Barcelona as you pull out of Zurich; perhaps you can understand how six of us found ourselves turning round at the airport ‘departures’ slip road.

Whoops, I’m not sure how that happened. I might start looking at a map before we set off in future..

Forward or Back?

Julian, a pal from school days, lives in Zurich.

I hastily abandon the truck this morning, and board a tram to go and see him. The tram is travelling in the wrong direction.

With every intention to purchase a travelcard once in town, but with no Swiss money immediately to hand, I have to sit ticketless, quivering in fear of inspectors.

The trip, however, is essential, because his partner Justine has a staggering collection of audio books for me to borrow.

Handing back the last dozen I had on loan, we sit on their bed, leafing through every conceivable genre. ‘Now, we want a balance,’ she says, ‘between didactic and racy, and well-written.’

Julian, I am happy to say, is squinting rather less than at our last meeting. I comment on it, congratulating him on an unscrewed-up face. ‘He’s got a little thingy now,’ says Justine, helpfully. Well, I know that… But she is, in fact, alluding to a small plastic prism that sticks on his spectacle lens, aiding short-sightedness.

Julian swears that he recently opened another bottle of Tempranillo, but he is unable to find it. Ah, he hasn’t got his little thingy on, that’s why. While he hunts for the alcohol, squinting furiously again, I telephone his brother in Spain.

We’re planning to ‘do’ lunch in Barcelona, AC/DC’s next tour date. Julian asks me if I’d mind taking my sock out of his wine glass.

I hope I’m not giving the impression that this touring life is anything but hard work? It is ‘work hard, play hard’ in this industry; you can make a tour work for you but it’s no good if you can’t survive on catnaps. For those that need eight hours in bed at night – I like it but don’t need it – DO NOT APPLY.

Now, talking of playing hard, we were enjoying a nightcap in a dimly lit bar last night. And Justine, like most of us, was bemoaning the changing of the clocks. Why is it that we cannot decide whether they move forward or back?

Twice a year, this is a huge talking point in village post offices throughout England. ‘Ooh, Maureen,’ one old duck will say to another, ‘do we lose an hour or gain one, this time?’

Even when the point is settled, people (including me) still don’t know in which direction to wind their wristwatches. For the next fortnight, Justine will be asking, ‘yes, but what time is it really?’

Just to leave you on a spicy cliffhanger, I’m meeting a mystery girl tonight: Claudia, one of Crazy Sandra’s friends. Tut, now you’re going to want to know how I get on. If I don’t mention her, you’ll assume she’s ghastly, and if I do? Ooh, tricky. Assume I’ll just have a quiet drink and we’ll leave it at that..

AC/DC – Munich to Zurich..

A bit more on Neuschwanstein Castle? OK then – I’ll do all the travelling. You just put your feet up.

Maxine tells us to have our barcodes ready as we mill about in the courtyard among a hundred other tourists. Ludwig II’s death rather halted construction of this castle -and therefore much of the building’s interior remains unfinished. The tour itself, then, is staggeringly brief and prohibits photography.

Now, I don’t mind prohibiting flash photography, but no photographs at all? To me, that rather smacks of stinging the destitute traveller in the souvenir shop – one is forced to spend one’s hard-earned cash on postcards. Or you can simply photograph the postcards, which I might, or might not, have done.

Or, if you find ‘verboten’ (forbidden) is like a red rag to a bull, there is the odd opportunity to take sneaky pictures once the tour guide has exited each room. I mention it simply as an observation.

Maxine gestures towards the sign that reads: ‘Danger. No Trespassing’, indicating the route to the lookout and Mary’s bridge, which offers a fantastic view of the castle’s scaffolding. The danger notices, apparently, are only to avail the authorities of any responsibility, should you slip on the snowy, ungritted path. They leave the signs up all winter.

Ironically, the actual path is clear and safe; the really dangerous part – potentially resulting in castration – is climbing over the notices warning of danger. Oh, I’m sick to death of health and safety; I’m seriously considering living in the tropics where you can hang out of train doors till your heart’s content.

Anyway, genitalia still more or less intact, Maxine shepherds us back to Munich, where we all go our separate ways: some to Denver, some to Venice, an Indian to Marseilles, and I’m off to Switzerland, with it’s renowned hatred of trucks. What a busy world we live in, eh?

So, today we leave the EU once more. The Swiss border involves paperwork, and a declaration of mileage. When we exit Switzerland again, we will show them how many kilometres we’ve travelled, and will be taxed accordingly.

Trucking companies are not best pleased, therefore, if drivers get lost and clock up unnecessary distance.

The man with the rubber stamp chats happily to Little Dick about the length of Angus Young’s guitar solos nowadays, and processes forms speedily. ‘You must get there,’ he says. ‘I am coming to the AC/DC concert.’

His colleagues, however, are less keen to ease our passage. Little Dick’s kilometre reading is checked, and Namibian is admonished for declaring an incorrect gross permissible trailer weight. It was a badly worded question on a computer screen, though, to be honest.

Oh, and amid the uproar, I forget to change up any Swiss shitters – or francs, as some like to call them. Honestly, you’d think after eleven years, I’d have got the hang of this job..

A fairytale castle..

Last night was a perfect opportunity to drink heavily and chase women.

We’d unloaded at noon – a day early to comply with tachograph rules – which left a free evening and a lie-in today. However, instead of visiting Boob’s table-dance bar (complete with video cabins) near the station, I poured a nice glass of red, plumped the pillows and settled down to a romantic comedy. I know – sorry.

Only after inserting the disc did I remember that my laptop screen is cracked; watching a film, as though looking into a broken mirror, leaves rather a lot to be desired. Pah!

At the station this morning, a diesel locomotive is warming up for the two-hour trip to Neuschwanstein Castle, a splendid edifice nestling in the foothills of the Alps, near Fussen. Billed as Germany’s No.1 tourist attraction, this ethereal folly is featured in the film, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, and was the inspiration for Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty”.

Next to my train is an odd statue. I’ve heard of gay pride, but a gay pride of lions? Hardly a fitting image to portray the macho, beer-swilling Bavarians.

Having missed out on last night’s pursuits with the boys, I join a tour in the hope of meeting some crumpet. Maxine, the tour guide, smiles as I approach, remembering me from last year.

‘Ooh, hello again,’ she says, ‘you’re from Sweden aren’t you?’ Umm. Also joining the tour are three Indians, two Mexicans, two “Septic Tanks” (Americans), and two Brazilians.

As we pull out of the station, she tells a tale of drama, intrigue and romance. It was the visionary Ludwig II (1845-86) that left such a wonderful legacy of castles in this region. He had some killer ideas envisaging flying machines, but, like most men, had commitment issues and led the life of a recluse.

Physicians pronounced him mad without physically examining him, instead relying on witnesses’ accounts of insanity. Not really cricket is it? His demise was a suspicious drowning in knee-high water despite measuring six feet tall – an unsolved mystery. And not much romance, after all. Maxine adds that he might have been a poof.

As snow thickens outside the carriage window, she tells of the castle’s swan motif, Bavarian beer purity laws, and Ludwig’s composer pal,Wagner – all of which is fascinating.

It then occurs to me that I’m choosing the history of kings and composers over loose women at night. It’s rather a rum thing, and it worries me. The next step is surely wearing tracksuit bottoms and pausing outside shop windows to look at comfortable shoes. Am I turning into Namibian? Help!..

AC/DC – Frankfurt to Munich..

I hate to dwell on a single episode. But the peeing incident is being blown out of proportion.

Entering Catering last night, I received knowing looks; it’s as though I’m the Peckham Pouncer, renowned for waving my willy at policewomen, and exposing myself at every opportunity.

And “Carrot”, a fellow event trucker, opens a telephone conversation this morning with, ‘If you had a bigger dick, she might have let you off.’ Hrrumph.

Yet, Providence shines. The speeding fine, though nothing short of extortion, has thankfully been regarded as a tour cost. Lumped in, too, and fortunately written up in Italian, is the willy fine (as I’m now calling it).

The tour accountant pays unflinchingly. A stack of used bills from the Production office is handed over as I polish off a salmon fillet. All is now roses. A sunny outlook, despite snow outside, is once again resumed. Or it would be, if we didn’t have to travel overnight to Munich, which I shall gloss over.

On arrival in the Bavarian capital, Little Dick and I adopt technique from the Ray Charles School of Driving. Parking at Olympiahalle, Munich, we take endless shunts yet still remain at rakishly jaunty angles. And we’re in a glorious patch of mud that lends itself so nicely to the cab’s interior. Lovely if you happen to be a hippopotamus but not so marvellous as a human adult.

‘Did you enjoy your day off?’ crew frequently ask after travel days. Hellooo? AC/DC’s equipment does not magically transport itself to the next city through the hours of darkness with no guidance technician – oh all right, truck driver – at the helm.

However, 400km was certainly better than 1000, and gives me an opportunity to pop into town, after a distinct lack of lunch, to arrange tomorrow’s adventure and a new bicycle.

Crazy Sandra has texted me the address of every bicycle shop in Munich, I think. So I’m off to pick up a bargain.

I do loathe this throw away culture that we live in; even if I could buy British racing wheels in Germany, it would still be cheaper just to purchase a whole new mount – second-hand, of course. Unfortunately, then, it’s a question of “out with the old and in with the new”.

Arriving at “Doctor Bike”, I swallow hard, baulking at the price tags. Two-wheelers start at around €500 – far more than I paid for my car, and that was with a full year’s MOT. Fortunately, there are a few bone-shakers round the back.

But, with current parity between the pound and the European “shitter”, €75 is still a hefty sum for what is fundamentally a girl’s bike.

It has only three gears, and has that annoying modification of pedalling backwards to apply the rear brake – a coaster brake, I believe it’s called.

On the plus side, though, the left hand is then free for making telephone calls or carrying an umbrella. It was the bell that sold me. Ding dong..

AC/DC Tour – From bad to worse..

A good-natured joust takes place at 1am. Namibian has gone and made tea instead of coffee. ‘You said you wanted tea in the mornings,’ he squeals defensively.

Well, technically he has me there, but, as I say, it is 1am, which I think even a devout Muslim would regard as night-time.

‘We’ll have trouble getting out of here,’ he adds, before I’ve even opened my curtains. As it turns out, he’s panicking needlessly again – we sail effortlessly out of our parking slots.

I’ve learnt to live with Namibian, you know. In Brussels once, he was on about ‘pulling the gig’, fretting about getting trucks to the loading door, his leg bouncing up and down nineteen to the dozen.

I got out of my truck, prepared to grapple with any hardships. I pushed a lone wheelie bin out of the reversing path, thereby solving the difficulty. Goodness, he’s a one. And what do you mean, I should be grateful he makes me a hot flask of anything? Oh yes, I’m supposed to be keeping in his good books re: his imminent blog entry.

7 am sees the crew producing tape measures. They line the arena floor with pink tape – sometimes it’s orange – and mark it ‘half ton/one ton’ in yellow chalk as fractions. Ah, that’s where all those motors from my truck go.

Hard-hatted crew bang bits of black truss together while, 100 ft overhead, T-shirted men in boots and tool-filled belts hoist the motor chains with pulley ropes. The next step is lifting all that hanging equipment – lights, video screens, stacks of PA – that you see above a stage.

An army of local crew in orange hi-vis vests swarm like ants, pushing set carts and boxes. Everything is on wheels, and is done quickly. This is an American tour and so there are two types of truck: empty and full.

Small British tours, where only a few boxes are wheeled down the truck ramp at a time, can be a nuisance. “Tipping” (unloading) can take ages, and severely interferes with my sightseeing and trombone practice.

Sightseeing, however, is rather off the cards today; not only is it snowing, but we’re in Frankfurt – a banking town with few sights. A gentle cycle is also off the agenda as not one, but both bicycle wheels, have now had it. In the pandemonium of the last load-out, I lazily strapped a box, it moved, and the back wheel is now crushed beyond repair.

Outside the Festhalle – currently celebrating its 100th year – and dwarfed by skyscrapers, I stick out a melancholic bottom lip. It is indeed a splendid building, and historical too (Hitler spoke here), but I’m in an unshakeably bad mood over the bicycle predicament. And, as I say, it is snowing.

However, I read somewhere once that tidying the house can prove therapeutic. So, borrowing a duster from Namibian, I begin the truck’s annual spring clean.

Stepping merrily over to the passenger side of the cab, I tread heavily on the laptop – it’s camouflaged under a jacket, in my defence – shattering both the screen and my short-lived joie de vivre.

It really is just one thing after another on this tour..

AC/DC Tour – Budapest to Frankfurt..

A flash in the mirrors illuminates a raccoon’s intestines on the trailer mudguards.

In fairness, I don’t quite know what went under the wheels. But I can’t face removing animal guts, and I’m hoping a lengthy journey will dislodge them – hopefully somewhere in Austria.

Aha, the flash turns out to be Namibian electrocuting himself on the tramlines – his trailer glances off the overhead power cables, attributable simply to a difference in trailer heights, not driving ability.

I need to butter him up a bit actually, because foolishly – in the spirit of combat etiquette – I’ve granted him a blog entry. The rules allow that he may choose pictures to embarrass me, and that the text will remain uncensored.

If, however, it contains phrases like, ‘Barnaby is brilliant’, I may have made slight changes in light of readability. Namibian’s entry, destined for history’s annals, will come shortly.

Electrocution is only a passing worry, actually, with eighteen rubber tyres underneath us. My pal, Turner, however – he’s driving on the Pink tour – texts me a few hours later as he rolls under the same tramlines and partly dismantles them.

Like the first person to try and unscrew a jar lid, Namibian had only loosened them. Turner, like me, has also had a recent hefty fine – this time from the “Go-box Gestapo”, an apt moniker for the Austrian road tax enforcers.

Jeepers, sleep-deprivation is a formidable opponent. Warding off the spectre of heavy eyelids, I spend a good deal of the journey to Frankfurt removing remnants of key lime pie from a stray inverter cable in the cab.

My living area is in rather a poor state, actually. It’s simply a fact of life that some people are tidy (anally retentive) and others have tourist leaflets, tea-stained scraps of A4 and trombone mouthpieces surrounding them.

With stinging eyes, on another 1000-odd kilometre push, I wonder about producing a mollycoddling note from my mother asking if I could be in bed by 11.30pm, and not to be out in the cold for too long during truck-loading at night. No, I thought not. It’s hardly the sort of thing that platoons tolerate.

I’ll tell you what, though, there are few things worse than waking, after far too brief a doze, to a Namibian saying there are still 711 kilometres to go. It’s a savage blow, but one I take on the chin. And at least the police are leaving us alone tonight.

I still seem to be the talk of the town regarding the policewoman/penis incident last week. Cookie said flippantly, ‘phwoar, was she wearing boots?’ and Turner, ever the cad, texts: ‘you should have done her over the bonnet!!!’ He likes exclamation marks.

Mulling the matter further, I think that being strung up by one’s testicles could be deemed worse than driving when tired.

We knock off a few more miles and pull in at Neumarkt truckstop for a meal and a proper sleep. ‘I don’t want anything too heavy,’ says Namibian, tucking into a Tudor-banquet-sized plate of food. ‘Maybe just a burger and chips.’

AC/DC Tour – Budapest without a satnav..

Yet again we’re up before the milk.

An unmentionable hour sees three trucks hovering on a roundabout in Budapest’s suburbs. Namibian, Little Dick and I pore studiously over a map in the inky blackness.

The perennial problem with this vast metropolis, you see, is that, as you approach, road signs indicating truck transit routes resemble hieroglyphics. We pause, ever so slightly unsure how to proceed.

Namibian’s satnav packed up before even reaching Slovenia, so he’s stumped. That was to be his only contribution to the proceedings. Whereas I think it’s far better to use old-fashioned cunning – well, maps – and so I’m almost enjoying myself.

Shoot me down in flames if you like, but the good thing about maps is that you can see where you are in the general scheme of things. Satnavs, conversely, lead people unwittingly to their destination, oblivious to how the land lies.

Now then, with a map… Erm, we’re not in the right place, but at least we know we’re not.

Satnav or no satnav, we falter at the last hurdle. Just 300 yards from Papp Lazlo Sports Arena, we’re faced with our old friend: the low bridge.

And, despite being able to see the venue, there still isn’t a single signpost to it. Conflicting signs do however point out that there are weight limits in every direction – but what’s a 26-ton discrepancy between friends?

If anything, we ought to have been pulled over by now for a different offence entirely – Namibian’s colour blindness, where traffic lights are concerned, has been readily apparent.

After unloading, fierce crosswinds buffet the cab, rendering sleep impossible and prompting a walk. Oh, why is it that every time I come to this city I don’t have enough time for sightseeing?

I certainly advise spending more than three hours exploring Budapest, but then I’d also advise arriving by air, not 1033 km by road from Milan. Last time I was here it was a question of the airport, a hotel and a 72-hour monstrous roller-coaster of a drive to Moscow, but that’s another story.

Next door to the gig is a metro station – not just any old metro station, but a station of a bygone era. Did you know that, in 1896, Europe’s first electric underground system opened in Budapest? No, I wouldn’t have guessed Hungary either.

Well, at any rate, it looks like the rolling stock is original. It appears safe enough, though – in fact it’s certainly safer than trying to cross a road here. Pedestrian crossings are simply window dressing, bearing no practical purpose whatsoever. This is worth remembering if you’re actually expecting cars to stop.

It is places such as Budapest – I suppose that Paris, Hanoi, and Lagos, Nigeria would be equally fine examples – that one begins to ponder statistics for road fatalities. That said, there is order concealed within the bedlam; one simply needs to spend long enough acclimatising.

I floated around Cairo a number of years ago – for three months or so, chiefly to avoid a United Kingdom winter – and I learned the system. There, not only are pedestrian crossings meaningless, but so, too, are the traffic lights. This, quite naturally, fogs the average visitor.

The only way to get from one side of a road to the other in Cairo, I discovered – after dicing with dismemberment – is to follow an Arab. Blindly. There is a finely-tuned system in place where cars will avoid you if you maintain a steady amble, but all sorts of problems arise if you try and predict a motorist’s intention – death being one of them.

Budapest must have a similar arrangement, but I still prefer the British system where cars actually come to a halt at a black and white crossing.

That’s enough about traffic. Let’s look at another annoyance: graffiti. Graffiti are prolific in Budapest; in fact, one could say that they are rather a pest in Buda.. (You all know that Budapest comprises two cities – Buda and Pest – on opposing sides of the Danube, yes?). If you didn’t, my little play on words falls rather flat.

And notice that I say ‘graffiti are’ and not ‘graffiti is’? Well, I’m being a trifle pedantic but, as few people seem to realise that “graffiti” is the plural of “graffito”, I’m mentioning it. Call me pernickety, by all means.

Anyway, the Chain Bridge, the old subway, and numerous architectural gems are rather marred by them.

Ooh, I forgot to tell you: Grandpa presented me with a moleskin notebook back in Italy – just the thing for an intrepid reporter. He seemed to think scribblings like: ‘Grandpa, aged 83. So old that he doesn’t buy green bananas any more’ ought to be preserved for posterity, rather than scrawled on tea-stained scraps of A4. What a splendid chap, my grandfather is.

Laying the trusty moleskin to one side momentarily, I drink in the view of Budapest and dig in my pocket for some local currency. Oh dear. With just a smattering of Hungarian “shitters” (approximately 300 to one euro), I have only enough for entrance to the citadel.

OR a cup of hot wine. Well, the man (photographed in Arctic apparel) already had the ladle ready..

I think I gave her the willies..

Just in case you were worrying, a train did eventually arrive in Milan – with me on it.

Sunburned AC/DC truckers, with cheerful dispositions, proved what good weather I had missed fooling about attempting to scale glaciers.

Today, too, is sunny, yet is spent driving and dealing with a menopausal harridan of a policewoman. She could of course be a lesbian but I think it more likely that she has just spent a lonely Saturday evening watching reality TV.

Regardless, she’s got out of bed on the wrong side this morning, and is out to diligently nab foreign drivers. It all starts when she interrupts my pee at the side of the truck.

No, no, you’ve got the wrong idea. This is all very considerate and discreet in the hedge – far preferable to the nearside wheel. Tarmac smells in hot weather, grass doesn’t. Also, it avoids the inevitable ricochet into one’s sandals.

So, to cut a long story short, I’m taking a leak, turned away from any other member of public, in the shadow of a juggernaut. Her opening line then, neck craned, naturally puzzles me: ‘I don’t want to see your penis.’

This, I decide in a flash, is not the time to say, ‘Are you sure?’ She decides that Namibian’s penis is not worth worrying about, and Little Dick, well… Aren’t words, and arguably penises, fun to play with?

She is in rather a tight-fitting uniform, with a gun and large sunglasses – a stereotypical Italian cop.

Now, I’ve always taken the option of meek, polite ignorance where officers of the law are concerned, but today those tactics fail; she is a larcenous, if modish, hound. She looks through my tachographs and invents an extortionate figure – ostensibly for speeding.

Then, just for kicks, she adds a large fine for parking illegally. I point out my no-win situation in this regard: I have to stop for a legally required break, yet there are no parking bays available. As with peeing, I’m very considerate and have parked safely and courteously.

‘I know,’ replies the money-grabbing hag, ‘but I’ve just started my shift.’ With the amount of money she’s just got out of me, I imagine she’ll relax by the pool for the rest of it. Honestly, this is daylight robbery.

Conversely, if I’m having a bad day, you don’t see me taking things out on Namibian…although I must mention that, in Hungary this afternoon, he asked if Turdish people live around here. I give a resigned shrug while Namibian makes me another consoling flask of tea.

The rest of the day, despite pleasant driving conditions shadowing Slovenia’s Julian Alps, is spent stewing, miffed to the core.

Had I decided to argue the “on-the-spot” fine, it would have steadily increased – faults with documentation would have been found, or invented, in this hopelessly harmonised Eurozone.

The alternatives to this unfair, nay draconian, practice are either to be frogmarched – oh OK, simply driven in the squad car – to the local police station, or to be clamped. Or to be incarcerated and fed bread through bars while the vehicle is impounded.

It isn’t so much surviving on rations that worries me; it’s the fact that this is actually a rock and roll tour. Drivers languishing in jail for whacking saucy bints over the head with their penises has always been regarded as bad form.

So, on this occasion, like so many others – officers know that we’re generally in a rush to reach the next venue – I kowtow. But, when we finally reach Hungary after almost ten hours’ driving, “cock soup” on the menu is taking the piss..