The last few days have been extremely tiring and stressful. My woes started on Monday with a 10+ hour drive to get to Nancy. I really don’t mind driving at all, I’ve driven absurd distances in the past (last one I recall, Cornwall to St Andrews, Scotland, nearly 12 hours each way!), just to play a 45 min set! I find that a little more concentration is needed driving abroad. I’m extremely wary of speed cameras, they’re not as visible in France as they are in the UK. The mobile ones are the worst, the gendarmes are very sneaky, you can sometimes spot them hiding in the bushes waiting for a kill; or they go for the sniper tactic and set up on a hill a distance away from the road, camouflaged with leaves, twigs and branches, or as an old derelict chateaux. I made that last bit up. The solution, to my paranoia, would be not exceed the speed limit and I try my best not to… but you know how it is.
Arrived at hotel in Nancy approx 22.30. All I wanted to do was get my head down, I was completely worn out, but.. it’s not that simple. Trouble is, when driving long journeys, you try/have to keep yourself awake and alert by what ever means necessary. Some might use illicit methods… I personally like to keep within the law these days, so I gorge myself on coffee, chocolate and occasionally (last resort) those vile energy drinks. So, I get to my room, collapse on the bed and find myself paradoxically exhausted but wide awake; the sugar and caffeine racing through my system, while my brain is pleading with my body to let it get some sleep. Not sure what time the flesh finally conceded, certainly in the ‘wee wee hours’.
Thankfully I could have a lie in the next morning. I must have been on hotel auto-pilot, as I don’t recall leaving the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign out - but there it was, clearly, mercifully displayed. If this small detail is overlooked it can cause extreme, unnecessary, unpleasantness to both visitor and staff: the tap tap tapping, upon my chamber door, ‘le menage, le menage’, only this and nothing more. I can empathise with the maids, it’s probably not the most rewarding job, not made any easier by some grumpy old duffer telling them to ‘f**k off and leave me alone!’ All because of the simple act of hanging a Do Not Disturb sign outside my door - only this and nothing more.
I had to be in Metz, 40 mins drive from Nancy, for 5pm. A ‘showcase’ was planned at a record store, a proper record shop, I might add, selling predominately real, current, vinyl. It went ok, a little ‘Spinal Tap’, met some great people though. I came away encouraged to release my music on vinyl. It’s becoming popular again, especially in France, so I’m told.
Then on to the gig, La Chaouee, a small cafe/bar run by fine gentleman called Gregory. This is where the stress and frustration starts, nothing to do with the venue, I just couldn’t find anywhere near the gig to park! I went round and round with the rush hour traffic, through ancient narrow lanes, nearly entering one way streets, I was losing my mind. My agent was calling me wondering where the hell I was, it was a nightmare! As I passed by the venue for umpteenth time, I saw Gregory outside standing at full stretch, surveying the terrain like a meerkat, looking for me. He spots me and offers to drive my car, as he knows the area and of places to park. I jump out, grab my guitars and start setting up. I’m still slightly on edge though until I see Gregory walk through the door and hand me my keys (I’ve already started the set at this point).
After all that, it was a great gig. An appreciative, attentive crowd and a good portion parted with their hard earned cash to buy my CDs. There were a couple incidents involving some drunk Frenchmen; one was so taken with my music he insisted that he hugged me, I was praying he wasn’t going to kiss each check, as is tradition in France - of course he did. His spiky 3/4 day old stubble felt like a wire brush on my freshly shaven skin, and with one final bear hug squeeze, it was over. All in a days work.