31 Days to Go : Real Life

For those who know me, I guess that I am renowned for driving everywhere. Most of it came through choice. What is the point of getting to an airport 4 hours before a flight, checking in one small bag, arguing with check-in desk girls about carrying on a £7,000 camera lens, queuing for crazy security checks and then being worried about being hit on the head with 2 whiskey bottles in the overhead compartments when it was seemingly not allowed to carry on a camera lens!

By the time the air traffic controller gives the pilot the word go, the car traveller can be flooring it through Europe with already two countries under their belt.

Driving around Europe first opened my eyes. It showed me new cultures, resulting in making new friends.

However that was back in the days when Simple Minds were reeling off tracks from the Real Life album in 1991. It’s now 2010 and I’m no longer the thin athlete that I used to be. Driving from my home in Shropshire to places like Sicily or Sofia was common place. I’m kind of wary that my body will not be able to live up to the demands of this FIFA World Cup. So this week I did a test!

Although a little earlier than expected, yesterday morning (Sunday) I awoke at 0630h. Did some work, went to Wolves v Sunderland, then covered the Shrewsbury Town FC Player of the Awards night. Whilst some of my friends were already 2 bottles of red wine the good requests to join them in a nearby bar had to be turned down – I was about to drive to Hamburg.

After more editing pictures for Wolverhampton Wanderers, come 3am I was on the M54, then M6 and by the time I was on the M1 I was regretting not filling up with cheaper fuel at Sainsbury’s when paying a personal best for diesel at 0430h – or should that be personal worst!

Arriving in Dover, it took exactly four minutes to get to the queue via ticketing and then after barely a ten minute wait, the short drive onto the ferry was rewarded with a hastily eaten breakfast.

Then it was sleep time – Part One.

… with nearly 90 minutes sleep as I reached the 24 hour mark of being awake.

Rolling off the Dover to Calais ferry on the right hand side of the road, friends, clients and colleagues kept up their uncanny record of deciding to call me when I am abroad as my Parrot did the business ensuring hands free through Belgium. Why people fail to call me when I’m at home makes me wonder if the mobile phone companies tip these people off saying its now OK to call which of course results in them clocking up bigger bills through roaming charges.

The road ventured into Holland then turned into Germany as I lapped up every minute on the Autobahn with drivers flooring their BWM’s and Audi’s up my VW’s rear end, flashing me to move over, even though I was clocking 130mph.

The Autobahn takes no prisoners – as does the A1 in Italy. My calls for the Police in my home country to concentrate on catching ‘bad’ drivers who are totally unaware of their surrounding bubble and would have more chance understanding a foreign bible of a strange religion than Road Craft, the Police’s handbook for driver come to the forefront of my mind once more. The criminals aren’t the ones doing 90 mph in a 70mph zone, they are the unsafe ones doing 60 in the middle lane.

The Germans are great drivers. Every single one of them looking in their rear view mirror and pulling into an inner lane to let past a speeding fellow motorist. Every one travels with impeccable discipline in keeping their distance, unlike some Brits who greet you with a middle finger should you complain when they cut in front of you because they have seen ‘a gap’.

Home is now 600km away as Hamburg appears on the road signs. Hamburg a place I love to hate. I missed the filming of a Simple Minds video at the Hamburg Docks in 1991, but it is a place two great friends in Nicole and Stephanie both live. However just as I can not spend time with my friends back home, on this jaunt over the next few days I will just simply be too busy to have time to meet them that I have not made contact.

My eyes are getting tired though. I’m finally throwing in the towel. After filling up with a more reasonable priced tank of diesel than found on the M1 in England it was time for a 2 hr power nap – home pillows carried on the back seat always result in a more deeper and more comfortable sleep. You don’t get that with Lufthansa!

I was refreshed and with Simple MInds blaring through my car speakers and my Parrot taking calls, I was amazed and stunned at the size of some of the strange cargo vessels as I passed the docks of Hamburg – was this an inspiration to William Orbit?

With no water on any vine leaf’s, a steaming hot shower refreshed my body as I was reunited with a photographer who we had planned to cover the World Cup with.

As Gordon Brown was resigning, we were waiting for our food in a local Bistro. You know a restaurant is slow when the CD gets its third airing whilst on repeat, but the Schnitzel we ate was top class as KC and the Sunshine Band were singing about Getting Down Tonight.

With my mother still to this day asking if I have packed when I go to Glasgow for a day’s work, fellow photographers reply to my status of happiness in completing a drive equal to that of Johannesburg to Cape Town with their own tales of other epic adventures.

As some of my colleagues gain huge admiration for completing the London Marathon last week, I’m full of confidence that when special stage 5 comes up in the Tour of South Africa, if I’m at the wheel I’ll be King of the Mountains for the 14 hour drive.

There is nothing obviously clever about no sleep for over 24 hours and working under your own tank of enthusiasm and drive, but for me anyway, it’s a World Cup requirement.

But now my body’s tired, I am a Travelling Man, but to those who still mock me for my long drives – Quit Dreaming, this is Real Life baby!

I need sleep. Tomorrow is UEFA Cup Final training.

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