American Steering..

‘I say, your engine’s nice and tight,’ says Surfy Steve. ‘And the steering is sensitive too…but that might just be the used tissue on the drive axle. Did you leave that there on purpose as a talking point?’


I glance over at this pie-faced young perisher in the driving seat and groan inwardly. This is looking like an awfully long journey; earplugs can drown out only so much.


‘Shall I write a guest blog?’ he continues intractably, oblivious to my monosyllabic responses. ‘It would be brilliant. I could write about this journey…Oh hang on, we’ve got an incoming prick. Some Johnny Foreigner overtaking, don’t you know. Good Lord, it’s a burly woman driving – she looks like she could wrestle a thousand apes.’


I bury my ears further into the duvet and feign a light snore; there’s a limit to the dross a sane man can take. But to shut him up, I do agree to publishing his highly self-acclaimed masterpiece. Bear in mind he’s using this medium principally as a means to meet girls, though. So, should you be the sort of delicious creature that loves a well-schooled, rugged, charismatic adventurer, then email me. Whoops, I mean him. His address is As P.G. Wodehouse would have said, I’d love to give two fond hearts a leg-up..


“It is a glorious day. Spring has sprung, and I’m on the road again, heading south to Madrid from Paris with the venerable Barnaby Davies. I, Steve Maclure (surfer extraordinaire) am here in Barnaby’s truck –  also known as Hotel DAF – to help (or hinder, depending on your view) navigate ourselves and Taylor Swift’s equipment to Spain. Then we’re off northward to Blighty – to the dizzy heights of Birmingham for the first of her UK shows (yes, Taylor is a she).


At this point in the guest blog, I must point out that Barnaby has to suffer my company for six days; the suffering is in the form of listening as I happen to talk quite a lot. In fact, almost non-stop. Hence some of my nicknames past and present: Chatty Steve, Jibba Jabba, Talk A Lot, Jackanory etc. So I’d like to take this opportunity to thank him for his patience and hope that his blood-stained ears heal up quickly.


So, where were we? Ah yes, on the road to Madrid. It’s been a smooth and event-free trip into Iberia. {Well, why fucking mention it, then? – The Editor} My only complaint is that Barnaby’s truck suffers from ‘American Steering’. You know, how you see the movie stars constantly steering left to right just to go in a straight line? This thankfully is giving me something to do on the tedious plains of Spain – namely, steer non-stop to keep us off the rumble strip to avoid waking the sleeping Barnaby who doesn’t like to drive outside daylight hours. Subsequently…”


Me again. Well look, it drones on like this for a bit longer and doesn’t go anywhere at all. And even the above I’ve had to tidy up grammatically. Sorry Surfy, I know you’ve already heavily edited, but better luck next time, my old silver tureen. Tell you what, though, I’ll promote your new, all-speed-no-limits “vehicle movement and management” website instead – it’s worth visiting, folks! See you in Belarus on Shakira…

A Balkan Beauty (Part Two)..

Half of the attraction is the chase – at least, from the man’s point of view.

The uncertainty of whether a woman will melt into his embrace is an adrenalin-pumping rollercoaster. Isn’t this a little unfair, though? A woman simply needs to turn up naked with a beer…and the deal is sealed. Well, that’s oversimplifying, of course – I prefer wine, myself. Seriously, though, Ivana’s appeal is growing as she coquettishly reminds me that the Croatia of today was born as recently as 1991.

‘It’s the same bullshit about joining the EU,’ she says, removing another troublesome pebble from beneath her bum. ‘Slovenia is blackmailing us, wanting some coastline back. In return, they’ll stop blocking us from joining. But there is not a single map showing Slovenia ever had more coast than it has now.’ Between furious scribbles in my moleskin notebook, I look fondly at the way her hair curls round her ear.

Serbian/Bosnian Troubles

Her eyes are bright pools as she passionately concludes her monologue on the region’s recent turmoil. ‘There was no war in Serbia; it was only on Croatian/Bosnian soil. The Serbs are the invaders.’

If not forgiving, Ivana at least seems tolerant of the Serbs. Not so with the older generation. While she happily came to the AC/DC show in Belgrade earlier this year – coincidently a tour I was working on – her dad remains staunchly adamant. ‘My father would rather shoot himself than go to Serbia,’ she says poignantly.

I hope we’ve established that Ivana is not one of my blonde bimbos? That’s right, she’s a brunette…and she’s now slipped into that ravishing red dress mentioned in Part One. Over a late-night beer, calculating how easily that dress would slip off, I ask whether I should update my Couchsurfing profile.

Internet Profile

There is a section in which the member is invited to tell other users something interesting, and another section where the member would like to know something in return. One needn’t necessarily grapple with a great, unsolved enigma of the universe…but I did. ‘Why do men wake up with an erection?’ is what I wrote.

Wondering if this might be unsuitable as an opener to people who don’t know me, I seek Ivana’s opinion. As a European woman – and therefore infinitely more erudite in these matters – perhaps she will tactfully suggest: ‘why can’t we tickle ourselves?’, or something. She takes a long swig of beer while pondering this weighty dilemma, all the while maintaining eye contact. ‘Keep the erection thing,’ she coos. Matters, at least beneath the table, are looking up.

‘Let’s stop for a beer,’ she suggests, as we reach a vantage point over the Cathedral. For a slim young troutling, Ivana drinks an extraordinary amount of beer. Perhaps she’ll blossom when she reaches thirty in a year or two, but for now she sups carefree from the neck of a Staro Cesko bottle.

English Grammar

‘There are less cars up here – it is a beautiful view,’ she coos from her wicker chair. She is close to me now. A waxing moon broadly illuminates the amalgamation of two settlements – Kaptol and Gradec – that became known as Zagreb from 1094. Illuminated, too, is a visceral magnetism between man and woman.

‘You mean fewer cars, not less,’ I tease. ‘Car is a countable noun.’ She nudges me in the ribs playfully, but she is nonetheless grateful. Ivana speaks half a dozen languages, all to an elevated level of competence. Sadly, any aspirations I had towards linguistics proved quixotic years ago. I’m ashamed of it, since you ask. After travelling almost incessantly for fifteen years, I’m rather a damp squib when it comes to foreign languages.

My schoolboy French – and an occasional Castilian lisp when ordering a beer in Spain – pales woefully in comparison to Ivana’s dexterity. But if you’re going to do one thing only, then do it well. As serendipity would have it, my English is still a little better than hers.

Zagreb’s Treasure

We chat for hours and she tells me authoritatively of the famous Zagreb mummy here, inside the Archaeological Museum. ‘It is a body that was found in Ptolemaic Egypt wrapped in a book! This wrapping paper,’ she says, ‘is the world’s longest Etruscan text.’ And did I know that Zagreb is home to the world’s shortest funicular railway, with just 66 metres of track? I order another beer.

‘I’ll never get bored of your British accent,’ Ivana purrs, provocatively. She plays with her hair, crossing her legs demurely. This is unmistakeable flirting. We ask a Japanese tourist to take a photograph, forcing our proximity further. Her cheek touches mine as she pouts at the camera, and my hand lightly brushes her hips. The picture is blurred, the red dress and her smile distorted. But the memory is still clear.

We walk hand in hand down ancient steps at one o’clock in the morning, without trace of awkwardness. And it sets me wondering whether we behave differently when travelling overseas. At home, there are social consequences; we tend to make shy overtures, not daring to unveil our attraction too readily. But on a sultry August evening in the Balkans, anything could happen..

(Top & bottom pictures are courtesy of

A Balkan Beauty (Part One)..

(A little something I wrote in 2009)

zagreb churchI’ve always liked travel. Come to think of it, I’ve always liked women, too.

I happen to be in Zagreb, Croatia…and the ravishing Ivana is my city guide. The situation could hardly be improved: the city is beguiling, and Ivana’s sleeveless red frock swirls tastefully, tantalisingly around her thighs, appreciably above the knee. Her bob is rakishly tousled, and her lustrous eyes sparkle with intelligence.

‘Cherry liqueur?’ she asks, uncorking a bottle of homemade moonshine. Now we’re talking..


I’d contacted Ivana through an online travellers’ network called As a red-blooded male, with a healthy interest in attractive women, her profile picture had caught my eye. Now the site is by no means designed for sexual encounters, yet if I am faced with a choice of meeting a guy or a girl, which am I going to go for? Duh! And while I’m about it, I may as well message women a little younger than me, and easy on the eye.

I’d explained to Ivana that I was touring as crew with a rock band – U2, if you must know – and that I had a couple of days in Zagreb very soon. Could she enlighten me on the situation in the Balkans? And might there be a snog? (I kept the last bit to myself.) ‘Bring me some beer when you come down from the gig in Poland,’ was her paraphrased reply. ‘And did you know that Croatia invited the necktie?’ Hmm, interesting girl..

U2 Trucks

Beauty and brains: the perfect combination. Well, not if you spoke to some of my truck-driving colleagues. Ok, yes, of course I’ve had deplorable nights – both at home and overseas – when the latter has fallen by the wayside on a one-night stand. Oh, very well, and the former. But in general, when lust hasn’t reared its beastly head, I really do thrive on intelligent conversation. If a girl spouts streams of platitudes, or has a ghastly, grating accent, then I’d rather go home alone.

Lake Bundek Swimming

Ivana, however, fits my criteria to a tee. She proves to be a mine of Balkan information as we skip gaily along a smog-choked dual carriageway towards Lake Bundek. ‘The Croatian Parliament’s official language was Latin until the mid-nineteenth century,’ she says, and pauses. A beach pebble is digging into her bottom now. ‘I don’t know how to put myself,’ she fusses, jostling a buttock and smiling.

U2 anticsBehind my suggestion of visiting the lake was an underlying motive. In August, the temperatures are pretty fierce in the Balkans, and just a little sticky. Perfect, in fact, to be in skimpy swimming costumes. Ivana, though, in a display of poor sportsmanship, decides she is remaining dressed, and does nothing more than paddle at the shore. Boo!

As we loll back at the lakeside, I playfully drop stones down her top, wondering idly how the evening may pan out if I play my cards right. You can see why I stick with these rock and roll tours..