AC/DC Tour – Loading Up The Gear..

What a start to an AC/DC tour.  We’re parked on loading bays of a warehouse on Middelmolenlaan, a street in Antwerp utterly devoid of character.

The warehouse is empty; the containers of equipment  are not due to arrive until tomorrow. This is the type of place that proper lorry drivers go – not even a hint of rock and roll.

It’s drizzly and cold, the sort of weather that makes you tuck jumper into jeans without caring a jot about looking foolish.

Incidentally, is it worth describing places any more? I recently read an article on the future of travel writing that debated this topic. In Eric Newby’s day, for example, we couldn’t just Google Map the Hindu Kush; we needed  evocative phrases to bring the mountains alive in our minds.

Now, with the advent of the internet, is it more important to concentrate on the people instead? I’m just throwing it out there, mainly because I don’t bother describing places. You can get that from a guidebook.

Did I mention the cold? Travelling by bicycle, by the time I reach my first near-collision with a tram, any feeling in the extremities is a thing of the past. Rock n roll tours are not all glitz and razzamatazz, you know; today is an opportunity to catch up with laundry.

Old women sit in the laundrette, bookless, staring at their circling washing. A nearby chip shop might be a welcome respite from the gloom, I think naively, but the Indian owner seems indifferent to the winter, telling me, while I try and eat fast food with gloves on, that his father has “expired.” Oh, that’s cheered me up no end.

Alice  – who, as you will remember, is really called Mark – and Namibian, very sensibly, are watching war films in their trucks, the former sipping a beer with plans to write off the afternoon entirely.

Retrieving my map of Oslo – the Norwegian capital is the first gig on the tour – Alice suggests, through a roar of Second World War gunfire, not to worry where we’re going. ‘They’re about to blow up Germany in a minute anyway,’  he clarifies.

Yes, but just in case the country is still there in the morning, perhaps I’d better look at the route?

Despite the foul conditions, I’m unable to shun an interesting city in favour of sitting in a warm truck. Even with the attraction of Tetley teabags and an episode of Jeeves and Wooster under the duvet, I venture out again – a fashion martyr on two wheels.

It’s a fairly unspectacular cycle into Antwerp, through mini-Istanbul, merging seamlessly into Chinatown until, as you pass Sung Wah Supermarkt, the imposing Central Station hoves into view. Known as the Railway Cathedral, it looks like a basilica, but today is clothed decoratively in scaffolding.

De Muze Jazz Café is great. The pianist chats to me at the bar, peering over my shoulder at my gig list – to see if he’s playing here again next week. Meanwhile Gottfried, my cheery bar companion discovers my name is Barny.

‘Ha! Barny, like the Flinstones?’ he asks. An ageing, zealous fan of vocal jazz,  he buys me a beer and leaves before turning into a pumpkin.

Now, it’s ludicrous that all these health and safety regulations emanate from Belgium, yet the first bar I walk into here has me unable to breathe for thick cigarette smoke.