Northern Lights Now!

Sculpture Park, Reykjavik
Sculpture Park, Reykjavik

Have you booked your winter holiday yet? Has the idea of seeing the Aurora Borealis been germinating in the back of your mind? You’re just in time – this season is destined to be a tide of increased solar activity.

“But it’s cold,” I hear you cry. “I want to go to the Maldives.” Preparation, preparation, preparation: take an extra cardigan and some mittens. You can see the Maldives any time.  Well, I say that, but if icebergs keep thawing like the dickens, the islands may soon be underwater. What a conundrum, eh: the Northern Lights, or the Maldives? Or, before the ice disappears, Antarctica?

Polar Regions

Nearing Mt. Hekla summit, Iceland
Nearing Mt. Hekla summit, Iceland

Let’s explore your options: Antarctica is expensive. So, if you’re in that bedevilled class having to cope financially without even a butler after a succession of dizzying marriages, the choice essentially boils down to a toss-up between hypothermia or sunburn. Northern Lights or equatorial heat?

If you opt for heading to the circle around the Magnetic North Pole, bear this in mind: there is NO GUARANTEE that you’ll see the Northern lights. Talk of them is bandied about like confetti, but they are wilfully obtuse, appearing just when you’ve dug out the Scrabble and settled in, or often not at all. Therefore, take a trip with activities you’re interested in and regard any spectacular curtains of coloured light as a bonus.

Northern Lights Activities

Snaefellness Peninsula, Iceland
Snaefellness Peninsula, Iceland

Snowmobiling in Sweden; reindeer sledding in Norway; seal clubbing in Finland – since when did seals start clubbing? Or how about Iceland? There are cheap three-night Northern Lights packages at the moment, one of which includes a trip to Reykjavik’s geothermally heated Blue Lagoon. But did you specifically want an Arctic Circle certificate? Only the small island of Grimsey, 25 miles north of Iceland’s mainland, straddles the circle itself.

There are many adventures to be had, and all with the chance that the sun’s charged particles will collide with the earth’s, the gases producing captivating different colours. To put the butter on the spinach, senior NASA scientists are predicting that a solar peak this December will produce the best possible conditions for seeing the Northern Lights in the next decade. Food for thought..

Namibian’s on the Market…

P1000478Ladies, a window of opportunity has arisen. Do you remember this circumferentially challenged man? The man who sits down to pee because ‘it’s comfy’; a deeply resistible man; a man with the morals of an alley cat? Well, I have good news.

Four years ago you must have been distraught; when “Namibian” took his conjugal plunge and wiped out any trace you entertained of ensnaring him, it was a crushing blow. A selfish act on his part. Unthinking, I know. But you can now cease your snivelling like a bilious pigeon. He’s back on the market.

Eternal Love

Hockenheim Race Track
Hockenheim Race Track

Yes, his divorce will be done and dusted by November 21st, news that must have your heart dancing in your chest. There’s a beautiful symmetry to all this, you know – November 21st is the date he got married in 2009. (You can read about that here.)

Anyway, briefly jetting in between working on the Jay Z and Billy Joel tours, he lumbered through my front door last week. ‘Is your tummy full up with a baby?’ my son asked him, eyes widening at Namibian’s compact elegance. Namibian chuckled and embraced this opportunity to blow his own trumpet.

Healthy Eating

IMG_2730‘The doctors are really pleased with me,’ he bragged, producing a packet of cigarettes and ordering strong coffee. ‘Two and a half inches I’ve lost this year.’ No, not off his knob. Off his stomach. ‘I’m only 19 stone now,’ he beamed. Girls, if ever there was a time, this is it.

Yes, Namibian’s figure – his diet on the U2 Tour in 2010 remained as much a chimera as ever – is now positively willowy. He now glides effortlessly from sofas to toilets, and back to sofas.

Admittedly, he has the memory of a goldfish with Alzheimer’s, but what a fascinating life he’s led. Men, as you know, become more interesting as they age. And Namibian’s cultivated mind and broadness of outlook are certainly no exception. ‘I’m looking for a truck slut, really,’ he croaked.


IMG_2485Whoops, that kerbstone English must have been a slip of the tongue. Really what he means – one has to read between the lines to decipher his blitzkrieg speech – is that he’s looking for company. ‘Somebody who’s not scared to get on a plane or a train.’ What could be more appealing? And I daresay you’ll get a backstage pass to boot.. Namibian is available!

Ah, you’re waiting for his contact details, I suppose. Well, he’s in the process of creating a brand new Facebook page saying he’s interested in women. But you should still  be able to find him under Colin Fox. Will you be Wife Number Four?..

A Toastmasters Halloween

P1000494To celebrate Halloween, here’s a six-minute spooky speech I delivered last night at a Toastmasters meeting. (Yes, that’s really me, dressed as a ‘skellington’.) Imagine dramatic pauses and gestures, vocal variety and scary (ish) facial expressions. Tale Number Three will have you reaching for the smelling salts; it’s a true story…

“Mr Toastmaster, Fellow Toastmasters, PREPARE to be scared. You will hear three blood-curdling tales this evening, each more CHILLING than the last. We will crescendo through the spookiness spectrum, culminating in the truly TERRIFYING tale of the BELARUSSIAN BALLBREAKER.

By the time I finish, you will rather stab needles in your eyes than hear another syllable.

P1000495Tale 1. We’re going back in time – to a bygone age when Blockbuster still rented videos. Wooooo. It was 1993, I was a student, and EVIL was afoot. An unseen ethereal force was at work in my kitchen. Perhaps the Devil himself.

Darkness swelled like a hushed tsunami on that fateful late October evening, as I fed bread, cheese and LETTUCE into the freezer. These were to be my sandwiches for the rest of term.  Finishing the second loaf, I sat down to watch ARACHNOPHOBIA, a chiller killer spider movie.

The kitchen door creaked ajar. Aah! Who said that? My nerves were taut as piano wire. But I thought nothing of the sound at the time. Yet the next time I went to the freezer for sandwiches, the lettuce had been turned BLACK AS PITCH.

The cucumber sandwiches had also been ruined by the same mysterious hand. As far as I know, that freezer in South London is still haunted to this day.

Tale No. 2 – the tale of Sweeney Todd, the murderous barber of Fleet Street. But did you know that he once lived…in Hastings? Number 32 High Street, now an elegant bridal shop, has a dark and murky past. This was Harris the Butcher’s shop.

P1000492As a fourteen-year-old boy, in 1762, Sweeney Todd left the dirt and grime of London and came to Hastings in search of work. Mr Harris was delighted to have found such a…willing and eager apprentice.

Sweeney Todd was also delighted. In fact, doubly delighted, as Harris had a young and beautiful daughter, whom Sweeney planned to marry. After 6 months of employment, Sweeney plucked up the courage to propose to Miss Harris…but she turned him down.

He hadn’t expected this refusal and it changed his personality FOREVER. He felt a terrible desire to slit Miss Harris’s throat, so that she could not tell anyone about his proposal. One night, he crept into the upstairs room of the butcher’s shop and found Miss Harris doing some paperwork. She was all alone as her father had gone out for the evening.

He seized his chance and, with one stroke of the knife, she was dead. He dragged her body downstairs, cut it up, and, it is said, made it into pies and sausages to sell in the shop.

But Sweeney Todd is only the Radio 3 of horror, a mere grace note. You will now hear a tale so terrible, so haunting that a shiver runs up my spine just to think of it. It’s a tale seared into my brain as though stamped with a branding iron. It was the night I was lured – LURED, I say – into a Polish hotel room by the BELARUSSIAN BALLBREAKER. Dun dun dunnn!

P1000490This 20-something from Minsk had toyed with her hair, playing the coquette in the bar. But her eyes, earlier shining bewitchingly like aquamarine in a mine, had now taken on a sinister, basilisk quality. She was the Narnian ice queen, so CHILLING that she could turn man to stone.

She was clothed in nothing but black hold-ups, her fine, coltish limbs enveloping me; her thighs assumed a vice-like grip; her talons RIPPED into the flesh on my back.

It was then that she PURRED her blood-curdling demand, a demand so horrifying that I stifled a scream. She said, ‘You give me souvenir? I want your baby.’ Agh!…Mr Toastmaster.”

Toastmasters is a fantastic way to improve your speaking skills and confidence. If this sounds like something you’d like to know more about, seek out your nearest club. You can go along as a guest – a tryout, if you like – and you’ll be warmly welcomed with open arms. What have you got to lose?

Remembering Lou Reed

IMG_2748Lou Reed died yesterday. As I was lucky enough to work on the Berlin Tour – in the summers of both 2007 and 2008 – I’d like to relive some of the happy memories and pay my respects.

‘We were in a cafe, you could hear the guitars play. It was very nice. It was paradise.’ These are lyrics from Berlin, and they sum up this Lou Reed tour beautifully. This was how I spent my afternoons on that tour: enjoying the sunshine, forging friendships that I still cherish, and listening to the sound checks.

Lady Day

Lisbon's Bullring
Lisbon’s Bullring

The venues we played were unusual, venues that few rockstars venture to. For example,we did shows in Copenhagen’s Opera House, Lisbon’s Bullring and also various Roman amphitheatres around Italy and southern France.

We even ventured down to Cagliari in Sardinia on the 2007 leg. The amphitheatre there is incredible –  hewn in the second century AD, it’s built almost entirely into the sloping rock and would have been used for gladiatorial games and public executions. Thank you, Lou Reed. Great music; great venues; great company.

One particularly memorable show, however, was in Arezzo, Central Italy. My grandfather, then still alive, lived nearby, and he’d asked if I could deliver some water butts. (For some reason he said he couldn’t buy them in Italy.) I’d carried the blasted things in the trailer for several shows beforehand and now finally my grandfather had come to collect them.

Sad Song

IMG_2492‘You must be unloading at the stadium,’ he said. ‘Anywhere else in Arezzo will be impossible. It’s a bit tight in the centre as a pedestrian, let alone with a truck.’ Well, we like to see problems as challenges, don’t we? ‘Fuck that,’ said Namibian, driving the second truck. He didn’t at all like the sound of driving up to the Piazza Grande. And you’ll see why.

A motorcycle police escort led us up a pedestrianised area…to a slippery, flagstoned street. The incline must have been 20 per cent. To make matters even scarier, we had to be doing a certain speed at the top when turning left – in order to roll the trailers over some steps (which had a metal plate covering them).

But not so fast that the trailers would rock and tip over. Then it was just a two hundred yard reverse into the Piazza Grande. Piece of cake.

Men of Good Fortune

Namibian in Paris
Namibian in Paris

But when we came back at night to load up the equipment again, it was even more difficult. No weight in the trucks; not enough traction. Namibian went up first and hadn’t given it enough gas. ‘Fuck, wank, fuck,’ he cried in typical Etruscan manner, trying to reverse back down and have another attempt.

His steering, however, was a little…over-zealous, shall we say. Consequently, the trailer was getting a bit close to a fourteenth century balcony, and the front of the trailer was doing the same. Whoopsydaisies. He couldn’t go backwards, and he couldn’t get any purchase forwards. Tee hee.

The fire brigade had to be summoned. Wending their way to the top of the hill by an alternative route, they winched Namibian straight…and then he had to start all over again!

Great memories, Lou Reed. Adventures aplenty. RIP.

Bubble and Squeaks: Greeks

P1100457‘English?’ asked a jolly Greek border guard. ‘What are you doing here? It’s miles! Oh, heavy metal? How funny. Can we see the guitars?’

If you remember from a few weeks ago, a Balkan policeman had just woken me up and advised that I push off sharpish. Bandits were afoot there, apparently.

Had I lingered in Bulgaria, my prospects barely hung by a fraying thread. Diesel – and possibly my bottom – were potential nocturnal targets, so I’d fired up the truck and whirled off as though a ticking bomb were attached to my coattails.

P1100500That was Bulgaria. The general tenor of the place had felt unsafe; one doesn’t like all this talk of Mafia baddies. One seeks sweetness and light instead, as PG Wodehouse might have said. Well, what a marked contrast now.

Greek Holiday

These Greek fellows were positively fizzing: the warmest welcome I’ve ever received. ‘Go thither, Old Thing,’ they seemed to be saying.

‘Take unsuitable mountain passes till you’re blue in the face; tie yourself in knots in pedestrianised squares, by all means. Would you like some moussaka before you leave? How about souvlaki? I’m Stavros, by the way. Welcome to Greece.’

P1100502No trace of petulance over that chap Elgin doing a fast one with a few marbles. Despite being a serious international border, I felt I was in a Dad’s Army sketch. Would they call out, ‘Erm, I say,’ as a Bulgarian tank rolled through? How much nicer could they be?

Greek Bars

‘Oh, do borrow my annual pass to the Acropolis,’ I expected one of them to say. ‘And my brother owns a strip club in Athens. No charge. Drink as much as you like. Bambi and Candice will show you a marvellous time – they go gooey as an egg yolk for a British accent. Do enjoy yourself.’

What they actually said I can’t remember. But they waved me through and, enveloped in diesel exhaust, went back to humming a twee snatch of melody. I had a little over 600km to go.

P1100501The next morning a bus pulled up, shattering the tranquility one enjoys with a morning cuppa. Social butterfly that I am, however, I charitably chatted to an elerly Israeli  before he tripped off to change his colostomy bag in the loo.

Israeli Women

He noticed my Slayer Crew T-shirt and placed a pair of headphones on my head. A few bars of heavy rock blasted out and he nodded encouragingly. Then he canted over sagely and whispered his 70-plus years of knowledge: ‘Come to Israel,’ he said. ‘Such boobs like in Israel you never find.’

You learn something every day, it seems. This news is unsubstantiated hyperbole, of course, but ought I to do some research? If Bambi and Candice aren’t up to scratch, Israel is but a ferry ride away from Athens

What a Cock-Up!..

iva blog4Guys, what are you thinking? Surely you’re not stupid; 95% of the time she – or almost any other woman – just isn’t going to be into sexting the way you are.

Throw in a degree of conversational zigzag by all means. Keep her guessing and hot her up, but DON’T send a photograph of your todger. I really can’t stress this enough.

The intrigue will be finished. That delicate fulcrum on which fate balances will crumble around your sperm-filled sock. So why are so many of you doing it?


To get to the  bottom of this enigma, I rang a chum: one of those lowbrow fellows who drives lorries for a living. ‘Whatho,’ I said, pen and paper to hand. ‘Ever sexted a pic of your knob to a girl’s phone? Was the outcome desirable? And why have you done it?’

‘Of course I have,’ he replied. ‘And, considering I’ve got a girlfriend, I’ve done rather well. Ha ha. What I want is a picture of a girl’s fanny in return.’ Young, you see, and daft as a fencepost.

iva blog1There he is, quivering like a tuning fork, his manhood in a vice-like grip twice a day, and with no concept of the gaping dichotomy between men and women. But he did go on to make an interesting comment.

‘You have to remember that some of these guys are closet picture collectors,’ he continued. ‘Tell her to look closely. She should be able to tell whether it’s a young penis or an old penis.’ Ew! So not only are guys sexting pics, but they could be of somebody else’s tackle? Man’s inveterate fruitiness really is boundless.

Fun and Filthy Phone Play 

iva blog6Girls, before we move to the next interviewee, here’s a tip. The next time you receive an inappropriate photo, try this: Type ‘Wanna see mine?’ and sext a different one back.

Or, after a brief lull from sexting, choose three whoppers from your astonishing medley of willy pics and send them with the following message: ‘God, I’m really sorry. Remind me which one’s yours??’

Anyway, Guy No. 2, a man of integrity, a man engendering respect. ‘No, you can use my name,’ he said. ‘I don’t give a fuck.’ Right, well Paul Ramm has an unusual angle on sexting – he never sends unsolicited photos. ‘But don’t get me wrong, if an opportunity comes up, I’m there like a fucking rocket,’ he enthused.


iva blog5‘What you’ll find, Barnaby, is that it’s the married ones who want to have a look – to see if it’s worth getting caught out for. Me and my mate were doubled up on one once. Her words at the end of the night were, “If Carlsberg made cocks, you two would be it.’

Ah, maybe the dichotomy between men and women is getting narrower, then – in Norfolk. But for the rest of the world, I’m sticking to my guns. Guys, unless you’re aiming to poke an undiscerning Boiler in a lay-by, DON’T send dick pics. It isn’t what women want…

Sexting: Cock-a-Doodle-Doo…

P1000086Guys, I know self-improvement for a man ends at toilet training…but what’s with this sexting business? Why do you feel compelled to send pictures of yourself in various states of arousal to women you haven’t slept with? It’s a particularly inexplicable quirk.

There I was, having a meal with my friend Kate the other night when, Ding, her phone beeped. ‘Another cock pic?’ I asked. She took a slurp of red wine, glanced at her phone and nodded.

‘Yep. Hang on, I’d better tell him it’s big and hard,’ she replied before giving me her attention again. Well, it seemed the deeper I dug, the more I opened a whole can of phallic worms.

Talk Dirty To Me

‘He wants to do FaceTime now,’ she continued. Oh, what happened to good old-fashioned courting, eh? Making overtures and then spiriting a girl through a pantry door. That final dash of ceremony up against the shelves before the butler returned..

Well, technology has opened a new window – a window to a potpourri of willy pictures. Welcome to the lurid carnival of sexual texting. Or sexting, as it’s been dubbed. But inevitably this technology is going to change relationships, isn’t it? People are getting P1000081addicted to sexting. It’s easy to have sneaky phone sex whether you’re single or not.

It’s live; it’s exciting; and the unpredictability of the response is far more motivating than a porn mag. It’s negotiating on the fly, if you like, or rather with your flies open. Flick through any trashy magazine and you’ll see celebrities are being exposed as sexters left, right and centre.

Are You Horny?

‘Essentially,’ I probed, ‘He wants you to get your bangers out on screen, does he?’ She swallowed a mouthful of fajita. ‘Probably,’ she agreed. ‘He’ll sit there and have a wank, I suppose. Oh, and I’ve had videos as well.’ Eh? She didn’t mention that bit before dinner.

‘Yeah, one of him wanking, and another one from a guy called Rob, just gyrating with an erection.’ Who are these guys? What does she know about them? Well, they’re 28 and 30; they’ve messaged her online using www.pofcom; and then she’s given them her number. They’ve sounded nice.

P1070175But, sure as eggs are eggs, during a blizzard of imagined pussy (as Nick Cave once wrote), they send a photo of their manhood standing to attention. And generally from an advantageous angle.

These guys aren’t underconfident or insecure, though. They can hold a phone conversation; they have toned bodies and are proud of them; and I daresay they can waltz a woman out of a bar and into bed. So why are they showing such a misunderstanding of women in the sexting arena?

Quick to Come

The problem, I’d venture, is that when a guy has one hand wrapped round a super-powered hard-on from Krypton, he tends to lose foresight. He forgets that, although women certainly get off on fantasy, they don’t actually want knob pics delivered to their phones.

How does Kate feel when she receives an unsolicited cockshot by text? Disappointed? Let down? ‘Yes, I  just instantly think, “Oh, this is just a sex thing.” Maybe it makes me feel a bit naive sexually. You know, should I be turned on by that? Maybe it turns some women on, so why not me? Should I be getting used to this new technology?’

P1100332-001Well, is she alone? Later that evening, I had a ring round – to see how rife this practice is. And it is rife with a capital R. Every woman I spoke to had been sent a photo of a cock at some point. Next week, let’s speak to some guys about why they do this, but I’ll leave you with a quote from Adele:

‘Tell me about it, sure I have so many pics saved on my phone, in all different shapes, sizes and colours! haha  But I much prefer the real thing!  What a turn off getting sent a pic like that……men are feckin eejits!!’

Ladies, help me out with this one. Have you been sent lewd pics? And how did they make you feel? Comments below, please.

Pepped up by Pussy..

blog pics3Driving along the M25 the other day, I saw a huge billboard advertisement. ‘PUSSY,’ it read. ‘An energy drink that actually tastes good.’

Clever? Or clinching proof that society has degenerated even further? In fact, is it a bad thing, do you think, that few people would bat an eyelid nowadays when ordering a “screaming orgasm” to round off the evening in a bar?

Well, let’s check out your sensitivity. Hands up if you’re offended by the pussy ad? No, well what about the old joke that the smartest thing ever to come out of a woman’s mouth was Einstein’s cock?

Theory of Relativity


No, well how about… Einstein was jolly clever, if you’re frowning. Tell you what, I’ll move swiftly on, without stopping to pick daisies by the wayside.

This billboard got me thinking about the marked dichotomy between today’s ads and yesteryear’s. It seems incredible now, for example, to think that sanitised tape worms were once marketed at the podgy element of society. ‘EAT! EAT! EAT! & ALWAYS STAY THIN!’ ran the mission statement. ‘No Exercise! Easy to Swallow! No Ill Effects!’blog pics



Yes, I daresay it boosts one’s ego at Fatty Club when there’s a round of applause instead of a chorus of ‘Pig’, but come on. Isn’t it a bare-faced dereliction of duty not to mention the deadly parasite bit?

These pictured ads are laughable now, of course, and would join the banned list. But at the time, they were perfectly acceptable…which got me wondering what people will think in another fifty or even a hundred years when looking back at botox, Xboxes and eating pussy. Drinking pussy, rather. Sorry about that.

Anyway, amongst all this cut and thrust of commerce, I’m doing my own advertising. Should you wish to read a properly researched, well-organised and thought-out article by yours truly, the September issue of TRUCKING magazine will be out in all reputable newsagents today. In it will be my feature on Royal Saan, a company specialising in both cranes and events logistics.

P1100536And while you’re rushing out to WHSmith, what will you buy if thirsty and need uplifting? Yes, that’s right – water. It’s far too early in the day for PUSSY..

Bulgarian Diesel Mafia..

bulgaria 1Here’s a funny thing: you can’t drive trucks in Bulgaria in the afternoons. I know, you couldn’t make this stuff up, could you?

‘Children. Weekend,’ said a policeman, by way of explanation. ‘Right, but it’s OK to run them over on a Saturday morning, is it?’ I retorted. ‘Da,’ he said, probably thinking he’d misheard. ‘Go 22.00.’

Oh, brilliant. Without boring you to death with tachograph rules, this news was a stinker. If I was stopping till 10pm, I would have to stop overnight – until 3am. But there weren’t any facilities; this was a lay-by. And remember it was hotter than Satan’s ballbag? Well, he’d just undone his flies.

The policeman, realising a young lad couldn’t possibly wait six hours for his supper, let me drive another mile or two to a proper rest area. Well, about seven miles, actually. Give somebody an inch and they’ll take a yard.

Safe parking areas


‘No parking,’ said the service station manager – with unnecessary belligerence, I felt – when i tucked the truck in discreetly. (Can you park an eighteen-wheeler discreetly?) But there was an unlit dustbowl area opposite, filling up rapidly with trucks as two more policemen flagged down transgressors.

I approached the police and asked whether the dustbowl would be a safe place to park overnight. ‘Maybe yes,’ one of them replied, which was about as useful as a chocolate teapot. ‘But diesel Mafia here,’ he added. Hmm, that sounds like maybe no, then. A nearby Bulgarian driver, however, confided, ‘OK, no problem.’

Now, whom do you trust in life? Would I waken after midnight to he and his buddies sticking lighted matches between my toes? In fact, would that be a prelude – a mere grace note, if you like – to something more sinister such as sexual deviance? Thinking about it, he’d looked a little like a mare on heat.

I spasmed with anguish and took a short stroll to think things over.

Bulgarian Diesel Mafia


bulgaria 2Despite the Bulgarian driver’s specious assurances, the recent conference with Mr. Plod had left me with the distinct impression that things here were looking sticky. I mean, even the stoutest heart quails at the thought of being struck with blunt instruments, doesn’t it? Or sharp ones, come to that.

So, it was a toss-up: the possibility of a fateful assignation between a cosh and my head, or firing up the engine at 10pm, bending the rules and driving an hour to Greece. In the end the decision was made for me. At 9.55pm, the arm of the law – well, the knuckles, at least – tapped on the door and instructed me to drive on.

Shame really, I was rather looking forward to running over some children after breakfast..

Da Da Doodah..

P1100451Romania fizzles out after Craiova. Faced with a choice of routes to reach Bulgaria – drive over the new Calafat bridge or take an open-decked ferry from Bechet to Oryahov – I chose the latter. It sounded jollier; in half a shake of a duck’s tail, I veered south rather than southwest.

DKV card?’ I asked, showing one of the accepted forms of payment for trucking across Europe. ‘Da,’ replied the woman at the barrier. Splendid. Scarcely could the world have been be rosier if ginger beer had poured from the sky.

I dined like a prince on another four-egg omelette and used up my remaining Romanian lei on a sandwich to take away. Or tried to… ‘Hamburger?’ asked the waitress in the neighbouring restaurant. Well, no, I’m not Fat Paul or Namibian. Having just ordered an omelette with bread, does a burger sound a likely dessert? I started again.

How To Make A Sandwich


‘You have a bread roll?’ I asked, illustrating a broad knowledge of hamburger ingredients. ‘Da,’ she rejoined, all buck and joviality. ‘Right, well slice open the roll, fill it with cheese and salad and you’ll find that’s a sandwich.’  Another ‘da’ floated from her larynx. Five minutes later, a hot burger going soggy in a sandwich bag was summarily brought to my table. Honestly, it’s enough to try a man’s soul.

Then it was back to Barrier Girl. ‘Only cash,’ she reneged as I produced the same card I’d showed half an hour earlier. Her demeanour, if not fully wintry, was certainly verging on late autumnal now. Still, €15 (in actual euros) wasn’t going to break the bank. And it seemed a fair price for a rusting hunk of iron – posing as an international ferry – that ought to have been scuttled years ago. She let me through.



‘Ah, George,’ said the chap at the next barrier. This is more like it, I thought. He was smiling and, for some inexplicable reason, using my middle name. But then he flicked his thumb across the photo page of my passport in an importuning manner; clearly he’d learned wickedness at his mother’s knee, had cheated in his O-Levels and was now indicating some form of baksheesh would oil matters considerably.


I attempted to look confused, then mimicked his gesture but turned it into a thumbs up. ‘Yes, Romania very good,’ I lied, ignoring this rapscallion’s attempt at extortion, and thinking how very far from good my experience had been thus far. It foxed him; realising I was no longer to be corn before Romanian’s sickles, he pointed at the “ferry taxes” window instead.


Bechet Ferry


‘€70 cash?’ I reeled, having driven another whopping ten yards. ‘Well, what the da da doodah was the €15 for, then?’ Ginger beer was in short supply again by this point and petty distinctions between ferry tax and port tax was getting up my nose.

Don’t get me wrong, Romania certainly has some smashing spots but, on this particular morning, the blasted place couldn’t fizzle out fast enough for my liking..