European Short Weekender 2011

6th May 2011 Eurofoot Café - Metz, France

I had it in my head that I was going on a long tour and kept confusing myself with the numbers of underwear and t-shirts I should been packing. This was because the tour was originally two weeks long. Unfortunately we had six shows cancelled so we changed the plan and organised the remaining dates over two separate trips. This trip was for two shows - Metz and Hazebrouck.

We woke up at 6am to catch the 9.45am ferry from Dover to Calais. Again, forgetting that I was only going for two days, I made a point of having my last Marmite on toast and a decent cup of tea. We loaded the equipment into the van, checked we had our passports and I did a last count of underwear and t-shirts.

Usually the sun makes a town look nice, but the sun was out, and Dover still looked like a shithole. We headed for the Sea France ticket booth and were conveniently ignored by security, even passport control didn‘t want to see our passports. We boarded the ferry and Gareth decided to have a little sleep, Phil put the finishing touches to a poster he was making on his laptop and I headed off to change my money. The Bureau De Change advertised that it didn’t take any commission, but the crafty fuckers made their money by offering a terrible exchange rate. The real exchange rate was ninety pence to the Euro which meant I should of got more Euros back than the Pounds I gave. I got sixty nine Euros for my seventy Pounds. I would have waited until I got to France but strangely enough, France don’t have Bureau De Change’s [Phil discovered this the last time we were there]. I headed back to the others, buying a coffee on the way and sat down to watch a game of ladies tennis on the television.

We were at the front of the ferry so when the doors opened we were one of the first to disembark. We again avoided any passport control and after a quick reminder to Gareth that they drive on the other side of the road, we hit the motorway. I had read Lee Ranaldo the day before on Twitter and he wrote something romantic like, “Just got to Spain, now driving along the Mediterranean talking poets and poetry”. We had just got to France, now driving along the motorway somewhere between Calais and Metz every now and then pointing at things we thought were funny.

The sun was still out and Metz looked fantastic. The part we were in had that “Guildford” feel about it and the only difference was the Tricolores hanging from various buildings and statues upon entry. You don’t get that in England, we tend to reserve the displaying of the Union Jack or The St. Georges cross for international football tournaments or scaffold companies. When we got to the venue we unloaded our gear down two flights of stairs as the venue was deep underground and met Joachim and the other people who help run the night. I’m terrible at remembering names so when they are names that I’ve not heard before, and said at speed, I find it extra hard to remember. This is a fault of mine, not theirs. After setting up we sat about for a few hours watching the television. It was all in French but was somehow very absorbing. We watched an episode of The Simpson’s and a news program in which we guessed the story. One story was about Princess Katherine’s sisters arse and one was about a chap that had been killed in Pakistan by U.S troops, who in France, goes by the name of Ben Laden. We met the other bands, gave a friendly handshake and sat down for some food.

The first band [No Metal In This Battle] went on around 10ish, During their set a drunk man decided to make a tit out of himself by dancing/staggering and trying to talk to them while they were playing. You get them from time to time and it’s strange how they never come in twos. When they had finished I went upstairs to use the toilet. As I was climbing the stairs, the smell of sick was getting stronger and as I reached the top of the stairs and turned the corner, a kid was sitting on the floor with sick on his clothes and the surrounding floor. After using the toilet I hurried back to Phil and Gareth to tell them so they could go up and have a look for themselves. Whilst the second band [Theme of Laura] were setting up I nipped out for a cigarette and Phil and Gareth joined me. Outside sitting semi conscious in a chair was the guy that had been making a tit out of himself while the band played. We were minding our own business, chatting away, when he starting trying to undo his flies. He didn’t manage to get his cock out in time so settled for pissing in his trousers. A long stream of urine made its way from his right leg, down the street and into a drain. There was so much urine that it wasn’t getting through his jeans quick enough so a bulge had appeared just under his thigh. As the jeans drained slowly the chap that was being sick upstairs came falling through the door onto the floor missing the piss by millimetres. Other than that, everyone else was behaving in a rather dignified way. Theme of Laura took to the stage/floor and Mr Pissed Jeans had returned, fully conscious and like nothing had happened. We played last and had a great time and even got an encore. The people of Metz were very receptive and after we had played, at least seventy percent of the audience bought a record. This was well above our usual crowd to record sales ratio!

We hung around after the show drinking and chatting to various people and the other bands, both of which were ace. This feeling was evident when we said our goodbyes as at the beginning of the night we only used handshakes but by the end, it was full manly hugs. No kissing though, we’d only been there a few hours.

As there was nowhere for us to stay, Joachim took us to an F1 hotel and bought us a room for the night. We had stayed in a couple of F1 hotels when we were on tour in France with Nitkowski the year before so we knew what to expect. I for one actually like them as they are clean, cheap and comfortable. Gareth noticed a sign on the gate that read “You know your six digit code, use this to…“ It was obviously a badly translated sign but we thought it was a friendly way in which to start a sign and that more signs should start that way. For example, you could have on the London Underground “You know the gap, please mind it” or “you know your bag, please take it with you”. We stopped at a vending machine on the way to our room and bought as much food as we could with the money in my back pocket that we’d got from the sale of a t-shirt. In case you‘re interested, we bought one bag of Madeleine’s [brioche], two packets of Mikado and three bags of Emmental Croustilles [Nik Naks]. We settled into the room for the night with our food, drank some more alcohol and watched An Audience With Johnny Halladay and the French version of Loose Women.

7th May 2011 Shaka Laka - Hazebrouck, France

We had one breakfast between us so the plan was for Gareth to go and get as much as he could carry and bring it back to the room. Most of the breakfast had been eaten by the other guests and even had it not been, Gareth was told he wasn‘t allowed to leave the dining area with any food. Gareth returned empty handed and we woke Phil up, gathered our stuff and headed for a Supermarche. We bought a baguette each and something to go inside but I made the mistake of getting some fruit. Experience has told me in the past not to as the fruit buying etiquette changes from place to place. I couldn’t see any weighing scales so I took my bananas to the check out and when it came to my turn the lady did an impression of fruit being weighed on some scales. Holding up the queue behind me, I set off to find the scales and weighed my bananas.

The best route to Hazebrouck from Metz is via Luxembourg and Belgium which is a tad bizarre considering Hazebrouck is in France and we were already in France. We stopped off to stretch our legs in a service station in Luxembourg and I bought some cheap tobacco. The lady serving me was very pleasant and spoke perfect English, which was a relief as I had no idea what language they speak in Luxembourg and would have looked silly had I tried to speak in not only broken, but completely destroyed French. There was a girl and guy looking for a lift to Mons but we declined their company on the grounds that we were not going past Mons and were instead heading for Hazebrouck. It’s a shame as it would have been an experience and we could have had some fun with them. We could have pretended that we were of the far right wing ilk and see how far we get before they either stop agreeing with us and/or ask to get out the van.

After passing Mons on the journey we got to Hazebrouck and the sun had retreated behind the clouds. A few buildings had Tricolores hanging from them and the roundabouts each had a sculpture in the centre. The violin/cello was my favourite with the globe coming in a close second. Gareth wouldn’t do a 360 round the roundabout so we never got to see Britain on it. The venue itself was an ex British/Irish pub which made it feel like I was back in England. Even the doors had Push/Pull signs on them. The owner of the bar looked like a cross between Bill Bailey and our friend Jerome from the band Revok. He too was a really nice guy and showed us the room in which we could stash our valuables and if we wanted to, have a sleep.

We met the other bands and ate a Lasagne with them that the owner had made. Lifeless Hope went on first and Fall of Messiah second, both of which were brilliant. We played last and the sound of the room was amazing. We played a thirty minute set and when we finished were asked to play an encore. We sold a few records afterwards [nowhere near the extremes of the night before] and drank a couple more beers before heading back to Pierre’s house [drummer, Fall of Messiah].

Pierre lives on a farm about twenty minutes drive from the venue. It was nice to see stars in the night sky and had I not been cold, could have laid looking at them for the rest of the evening. Instead we headed for a barn, climbed a ladder and relaxed drinking beer in a room Pierre had made. It had sofas and mattresses and his band rehearse there. We chatted about bands and who knows who [Fall of Messiah know a few bands in England] and Gareth asked us questions like “would you wear a Foxtons t-shirt everywhere you go if in return they gave you a house rent free?”. As the night went on these questions developed into school playground style questions like “would you… your Mum or your Dad” etc. Phil asked the best question of the evening but I’ve been censored so I can’t tell you what it was.

8th May 2011 - Home - Kingston Upon Thames, UK

We woke up a 8am to catch the 11pm ferry from Calais to Dover. We hadn’t got to bed until gone 4am so we were still a little tired. Pierre woke up too so he could give us some breakfast, buy a record and say goodbye. We gave him the record and a tote bag as the night before he’d given us each a copy of the Fall of Messiah record [I highly recommend it]. We exchanged email addresses, said goodbye and drove to Calais.

The drive home was uneventful and we were back in our house by 1pm giving us the rest of the day to recover. Usually I feel sad right about now but this time I knew I only had a week of work before I was going to be setting off to do it again.

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