Chocolate or Sex? Or Both?..

P1100112There is a science to luck. I mean, take those so impoverished that they have to share a helicopter with another family. Tragic, eh? They could be deemed unlucky in life. But odds can be coaxed and cajoled.

Guys, write this down. The following is a tried and tested method – devised by me in my heyday as a bachelor – for having fun with girls. And it can work in either conversation or text messaging. Ready?

OK, so you ask a few innocuous choice questions to get warmed up. For example, does she prefer red or white wine? Chicken or fish? Then, just when she’s thinking you’re a punctilious ass and is regretting that impulse buy of saucy underwear, you throw a curve ball. We can’t have the poor poppet forever bewailing her dissatisfaction in the boudoir, can we?

Make Your Move


P1100094No, we jolly well can’t. So, that’s when you look her in the eye and say ‘Chocolate or sex?’ Naturally, unless you’ve chosen a hooker on her lunch break, or your mottled temptress is in her eighties, her cheek will mantle with shame. She’ll demurely mumble ‘The second one’, or words to that effect.

Your pithy rejoinder? ‘Naughty girl! Well, there’s a Twix in the fridge just in case.’ Works every time. Well, it used to, but I daresay in modern day, binge-drinking England, your turtledove might very well turn the tables by sassily crushing her cigarette with a stiletto heel, and saying ‘Depends how big your cock is.’ Course, if she just says ‘chocolate’, you’re fucked as well.

Right, well how was that for an introduction to Turin’s chocolate industry? Yes, perhaps a little elaborate. But then so are the delicacies here. Even more so at Easter when the chocolatiers’ window displays are bulging with hand-crafted marvels.

Piemont’s Gianduia Cream


Girls, write this down. Forget Belgium and Switzerland; Turin’s Gianduiotto chocolate is yummy. To give you the bare history, during the Napoleonic wars, when England’s powerful fleet was hampering sea transport like the dickens, there was a scant supply of cocoa in these parts. Did the chocolate makers puff their cheeks, succumbing to despondent lachrymosity? No, they showed spunk and resourcefulness, adding toasted hazelnuts to make up the deficit. P1100099

Anyway, now we’ve got the sex out of the way, let me take you to Cafe Mulassano for a chocolatey, post-coital treat. It’s the sort of olde-worlde haven where one’s croissants arrive on silver platters to marble-topped tables. Marble being sturdyish, you’d think, then, that a mere brush with my thigh wouldn’t have dislodged a top from its exquisite wrought-iron stand. Whoopsydaisies. Pesky things, tables.

Stockinged feet..


Comfortable in those heels, by the way? Kick ‘em off if you like – I’ll distract the waiter. And then I’ll order you a bicerino. God, not another Italian coffee, you groan? Ah, but this one is special. The French writer Alexandre Dumas, on a visit to Turin in 1852, wrote ‘…in Torino, I shall never fail to remember bicerin, an excellent beverage consisting of coffee, milk and chocolate that is available from all bars and cafes at a relatively modest cost.’

Cafe Mulassano, before I forget, is also responsible for importing the first toaster from the US in 1925. The significance being? The toasted sandwich duly arrived in Turin. Hooray! Actually, that’s not very interesting, is it? Let’s head back to the room instead – the Bollinger should’ve chilled nicely by now. Oh, you are insatiable, Darling – I see the Twix is still unopened..P1100096

Real Men Drive Trucks To Iran..

P1090306It’s Not All Sunshine And Sand – a trucker’s wet dream.

‘Shall I plug your book, Paul?’ I asked him last summer on Madonna’s MDNA tour. ‘Who said that?’ he yelped, squinting myopically from ten feet away. Even with his glasses on, he’s as close to being blind as it’s legally permissible for a truck driver to be.

‘Oh, it’s you. Whatho,’ he finally mustered, realisation dawning after edging closer. ‘Jolly decent of you, old chap.’ Maintaining a respectful nineteen inches between us, given that I was naked in the shower block at the time, he continued. ‘Minus twelve, my eyes are. Only just qualify for my licence, but they’ve been like that for 25 years.’ One wonders how he can see the typewriter, never mind the road.

Now why, given that It’s Not All Sunshine and Sand has been on sale for a while, am I plugging it now? Because it’s out tomorrow in paperback version (published by Old Pond) at just £7.95 – less than half the price of the hardback.. No, it’s OK, you can relax – naturally I read the manuscript as a PDF rather than shell out any actual cash. But thank you for your momentary concern.

Astran – Leaders in long-haul overland transport


P1090023So what’s so special about some book on lorries and Middle East trucking, you ask? Well, it’s accessible for starters, drawing you in from the first line, when Paul Rowlands’ mum says ‘You’re doing what?’ One can’t help reading at least the second line, to see what it is he’s doing. Genius.

And it’s filled with commendable honestly – a tale of how a young, freckly boy rebelled against nine-to-five wage slavery and sought an adventure. Turning his back on a grammar school education and a “proper” job, he began driving “wheelbarrows” for a coal company. He writes of revelling in laddish, puckish pranks with the boys – resulting in the ingestion of a good deal of coal soot on his part – and how he yearned to travel in a long-distance, articulated truck.

Ah, the freedom of the open road – this is where the story gets ticklish. With undimmed vigour, Paul eventually joins the Big Wheel club, bootlegging beer across the Texas state line, a Transam out front distracting the police. Oops, I got carried away there – that was the Smokey and The Bandit film.

Bedford TK Lorries


trucking in the netherlandsSeriously, there are some singularly compelling stories in It’s Not All Sunshine And Sand: Paul’s sister towing his tractor unit out of a field when starting his first continental job; the real old days of machismo, when you weren’t taken seriously if you couldn’t remember the General Strike of 1926; and his wonderful description of “air conditioning”, meaning ill-fitting bodywork – the road was clearly visible through the gaps around the foot pedals forty years ago.

Slip into an almost forgotten world of ‘70s trucking, when ladies’ underwear and bicycle innertubes were still instrumental in fixing roadside repairs. Actually, I made that up too, but it sounds feasible. Definitely no heaters, though, no sound insulation, and nights were spent sleeping on a shelf behind the seat of a Volvo F86. Well, I’ll let Paul tell you the rest – his book should be in all good UK bookshops tomorrow.

And for trucking aficionados? Yep, don’t worry, there are hard-ons aplenty – a fiesta of nostalgic lorry tales. Crash gear boxes in British-built AECs, Atkinsons and ERFs? Tick. A brand new Guy Big J 4T with 205 bhp Cummins? Yeah, baby! Could things get any more exciting?…

All The Single Ladies…

P1100152The touring season has begun again in earnest; a pantheon of feted legends are soon to be gracing stages Europe-wide.

Springsteen goes out at the end of the month; Bon Jovi’s trucks head down to Sofia (Bulgaria) in a couple of weeks; and I’ve ended up tottering about for superstar Beyonce. Yes, obviously I had to look her up on Youtube to see who she is. For those that also live in caves, she’s an American girl with a dazzling smile, soaring in popularity in the last ten years since leaving Destiny’s Child and going solo.

Last week, at East Midlands airport, UK, over 200 tons of gear arrived from America on two jumbo jets, and was trans-shipped onto Transam’s trucks. Before going airside, however, truck cabs had to be emptied. And when I say “emptied”, I mean stripped of all personal effects: clothes, gas stoves, testicle stretchers etc. The full monty. It’s amazing what one accumulates.

Naturally, given the inordinate amount of red wine, trombone music and tourist brochures I carry, this was potentially problematic for me. Solution? The fellows in

YU for Yugoslavia. It no longer exists as a country
YU for Yugoslavia. It no longer exists as a country

the office very kindly instead sent me (and a colleague) to Sound Moves near London Heathrow – a specialist in freight forwarding solutions to the entertainment industry – to pick up the 22-ton overspill.



Heaven knows what a DB25 Analog Output Fan, a L5-15 Rack Box, or a Blazon-3 Intercom Beacon is, but we chucked these items in the back, tooted the lorry horns to signal our departure, and raced off to Beyonce rehearsals in Belgrade, Serbia.

Well, I say raced. All this nonsense of nine hours driving every day is such a bourgeois convention, much like using cutlery at mealtimes and getting out of the bath for a piss. What I say is if you’ve got a week to complete a journey, why not visit chums on the way – take Crazy Sandra in Germany, for example, who happened to have just bought a Harley Davidson Dyna Super Glide 1600.

Run The World (Girls)


P1100142‘The Harley’s custom made,’ she enthused, replete with excitement and looking as animated as a small child might do if handed both a lollipop and a ticket to a fairground ride. ‘It’s a bit lower, look, for a pig with short legs. I really am a pig, actually – sometimes, when my snoring’s too loud, I wake myself up. Ha ha. You need more tea?’

Anyway, we’ve arrived at Belgrade Arena now – all 25 or so trucks. So let’s dump these blasted Expanded Beam Fibre Optic Cables, Cat5 Snake 4-ways and suchlike, and set off on an adventure. Ooh, Sarajevo’s not far away if you look at the map…

The Italian Job..



‘Steep?’ said Lewis, with ingenuous bemusement. ‘It’s fucking vertical. No wonder you can’t get any purchase, Barnaby – those shoes are suited to a dance floor, not mountain climbing.’ I ignored the snub, and we continued dandering impishly along the old Fiat test track in Turin.

Now this is a genuine scoop. Google “tourism Torino” and you’ll be fobbed off with a castle or two, the gourmand tram or “the streets of chocolate”. In fact, even were you to stumble upon the erstwhile Fiat plant in Lingotto, you’d find yourself browsing clothes shops and drinking cappuccini in what was once the factory assembly line area. It’s now a shopping mall, convention centre and up-scale hotel.

Biggest car factory in Europe


P1100061Test track on the roof? Hurtled round by minis loaded with gold bullion in the film The Italian Job? Banked turns, six storeys in the air, designed to check the five levels of manufacturing beneath were up to scratch? You’d never know; not a single indication. Well, that’s where I come in. Go round the back of the cinema, follow the sign for the Pinoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli Museum, and Bob’s your proverbial uncle.

Exit the lift, wave at the lady on the museum desk, and tell her you’re popping outside for a circuit or two. ‘Circuito,’ one probably says in Italian; ostentatiously add a vowel to an English word and, hey presto, the result is a flawless foreign tongue. Yes, I should be a translator, I know. ‘Idiota,’ she thought and nodded, glad to get back to her book again.

Now, what’s strange is that Lewis and I had the entire track to ourselves, whooping with oblivious felicity, soaring like condors. Well, without the wings, obviously. Or the beaks, come to think of it. In fact, nothing like condors, but we were happy. It really is bewitchingly good up there and yet, despite dripping with automotive history, nobody seems to know about it. P1100071

Designed by engineer Giacomo Mattè-Trucco

There’s also a restaurant in the centre of the roof – La Pista del Lingotto – owned by the foxy, English-speaking Tiziana. It isn’t cheap but, wow, what a spot for lunch. The snow-mantled Alps to the northwest; sixteen million square feet of Lingotto plant beneath you; and a one-of-a-kind test track surrounding you. No condors, I’m afraid, but that’s only because Italy isn’t in the Americas.

Still, close your eyes and picture the Fiats, between 1923 and 1982, exiting the factory, thrashing it round the roof and disappearing down one of the spiral access ramps. Or think of the scene in The Italian Job when the red, white and blue Minis were flat out round the track, three abreast on the curve, with the police in hot pursuit. “We are the Self-Preservation Society…” P1100065

Of course, if you’ve no intention to visit Turin, or have no interest in cars, reading this has been an utter waste of your time. Sorry about that..