Well, it wasn’t that long ago that the M1 out of Dublin had speed limits in kilometres per hour and distance markers in miles. If that’s not daft, then I don’t know what is.
They’ve rectified that now, but as Namibian and I passed the border town of Newry last night, I noticed nothing tangible to mark a change of country. Either that, or I was doing a crossword and missed the sign.
Regardless, this is all a far cry from entering Northern Ireland even a decade ago. One of the bus drivers on this AC/DC tour fondly remembers the days when chaps with twigs in their helmets would ambush vehicles here, interrogating drivers while snipers’ red dots danced on their chests. Red lights in Belfast meant ‘give way’ in those days, an interpretation Namibian still strictly adheres to.
Now, in five months, I’ve completely overlooked crew buses – yet they’re a crucial part of the tour. Without them, how would the crew reach the venues? Unless distances are immense, or the journeys involve long ferry crossings, this is how the guys (and girls) who set up the stage equipment travel.
Tour buses are basically mobile hotels, comprising between eight and fourteen beds depending on the design. There’s a chill-out lounge, too, with a DVD collection and one of those blasted gaming consoles – that even men in their thirties seem obsessed with – and a kitchen/toilet. A home away from home, you could say.
The drivers of these vehicles are affectionately known, through no fault of their own, as “bus poofs”. They feebly retaliate occasionally, but “diesel dykes” for rock n roll truckers has never really stuck. Call it sibling rivalry, but truckers and bus poofs both think the grass is greener on the other side.
For example, I’d quite like cargo that loads and unloads itself, and no doubt the poofs yearn to be in a truck when they take a wrong turning and a dozen crewmembers volubly take the piss.
Busy Bus Drivers
Up in Scandinavia, earlier on this Black Ice AC/DC Tour, the bus poofs had holed up in Copenhagen for a few days. Whilst mile after mile was vanishing beneath truckers’ wheels, they’d maintained a gruelling, punctual regime, manning their stations vigilantly.
Yes, every day at 5pm, they’d be on duty, perving as lycra-clad girls emerged from the sports hall next to Parken stadium. It’s not strictly a tourist attraction, I agree, but at least it’s free; one spends enough Danish shitters when in Copenhagen, so anything gratis is good.
Coming back to the point for a change, the crew are dozing fitfully in their bunks as we disembark the Larne – Stranraer ferry. The bus poofs, pandering to the crew – who prefer the beds to the aisle, I assume – drive slowly on the corners. In fact, round the Ayrshire coast’s hairpin bends, they crawl at a pace that even snails would regard as sedate.
Agh! They’re going to delay us considerably. Oh, hang on, they’re very decently pulling over. The trucks roar past, taking bends flat out. Hello, what do we have here? Nambian in the lead, intimidating cyclists? Simply the order we came off the boat; obviously I overtake before Glasgow.
And who should be in Glasgow? Geordie Pete, that’s who. As he gives me a lift to Catering, I question the legality of pootling round Glasgow’s streets in a golf buggy. ‘Well, it’s not taxed or insured,’ admits Pete. He smiles impishly. ‘Maybe keep an eye out for police.’
And do what, Pete? Outrun them? ‘Just try not to draw attention, then,’ he adds, implausibly. At 10mph, veering violently, we stick out like a sore thumb. ‘Stick your arm out,’ he bellows. ‘We’re turning right here.’..