I fucking did it again: rubbed huge blobs of shampoo into my eyes mid-shower. I have no idea what I’m suddenly doing wrong in my 30s to be unable to wash my hair without oracular self-harm. The third time in a week and it’s become a psychic burden whereby I’m convinced it will trigger a difficult day, so of course it does. Packed. Repacked in a different case. And again. Decided fuck it I’m not going on tour. Then left for the train.
I’m here to open for – but much more importantly see – Carter USM‘s secret show, because I’ll be in Europe for their two larger reunion gigs. Plus Marc is back in the UK. Except that in the repacking panic I left my acoustic guitar pick-up, some cables and several other vital bits at home and I’m supposed to be on the Eurostar tomorrow morning. So I play a short set using a hi-hat mic on my acoustic (clarity but no balls), which goes surprisingly well – quite upbeat and jokey – then instead of sticking around I have to jump on a train back to Brighton to pick up the stuff. Missing Carter. And I carried all my stuff for the Europe trip all the way to Southampton then home again.
In the French bakery at St Pancras, I’m waiting for Frank when an elderly couple wander over. He wants a croissant but she wants a crepe from the café next door. Their solution is to each go into the adjacent café and sit and order separately, but sit right next to each-other separated only by the glass window dividing the two cafés. They seem quite content.
Anyway, I’ve got to say Eurostar is lush, I’m sure we accidentally booked First Class because we get a gorgeous meal, much better than airline food, with dessert and wine if we want it (I have apple juice). On my mind is my key task for today: to pick up the hire car in central Paris just before rush-hour and drive it across town to the venue, over that infamous lethal roundabout that doesn’t count on anyone’s insurance, when I’ve only ever driven a tiny bit of right-hand drive in L.A.
So I’m nervous. But what transpires is worse: at Gard du Nord absolute muttons at Europcar won’t let us have the car we’ve booked. Frank has the credit card to pay – but no driving license. I have the license to drive – but no credit card. Despite us both being there and it being totally sound, because if I crash Frank pays, obviously, somehow they won’t let us take the car – the name has to be the same. And it doesn’t say anything about this on their shoddy excuse for a website, they deliberately gave Frank the impression when he originally booked that this wouldn’t be a problem.
None of the other car hire companies sat in a line can help because all their cars are booked.
We leave carless (and late) but hold the booking, hoping to resolve it over the phone. No such luck, in fact they attempt to charge us a €1,400 cancellation fee for not taking the car and the customer services woman is almost impossibly rude to Frank on the phone. They only relent on the fee after a shouting match – I’ve not seen Frank so angry. God, we’re stranded! Might as well get on with the gig.
Dinner at La Fleche D’or is delicious despite it seeming like quite a grimy club. It’s set above a railway bridge looking out over a set of railway lines. Seedy glamour abounds but the other musical acts are utter shite. I learn a harmonica solo for a smart new FT tune (quite a short, quick one) with a working title of Dan’s Song.
Drinking heavily now (mixed emotions at not having to drive) I chat to this nut-job singer Cosmo Jarvis at the venue. He’s not playing tonight, his band are touring supporting Gabriella Cilmi around Europe and the TM knows Frank. The band are charming guys but Cosmo is filth: just one of his stories is about drinking some bloke’s piss, catching thrush from it, then giving it to his own band-member by snogging him. They’re good company but I find myself edging away in case I pick up something nasty.
Next morning, after struggling to work out train routes and fare budgets, leaving us aghast, we are rescued by Frank’s Parisian punkrock friend Cham from Jedethan, who used to work at Avis and scores us a Cleo. We’ll have to drop off in Geneva, leaving a gap in our transport plan between there and Vienna, but the deal is much, much better. A blessing in disguise. The icing on the cake is, the pick-up is in the north-west of Paris so we take a hefty Metro ride and I won’t have to drive through the city, just out onto the motorway north.
Traffic, traffic traffic. Amsterdam rush-hour but I’m not scared of right-hand drive anymore, even when I turn right onto the tramline. SatNav takes us down several narrow alleys to the wrong Paradiso, so we’re scarily late.
Italian dinner. Hotel room on the fourth floor, with no lift and steep stairs but an amazing balcony looking out over the rooftops. Despite being on the edge of the red light district, which I’ve never seen, we decide to kick back in the room / on the balcony and go to bed pretty soon after that. Therefore apologies – I won’t be able to tell you about stoned late-night debauchery in the ‘Dam because there wasn’t any.
I’ve just discovered my new-ish mobile phone has a golf game on it. That’s what I was doing at 1am before faling asleep.