You get used to waking up in strange places. To the point where the only weird thing you could possibly see when you woke up would be your own walls.
Tim was getting dressed. It was eight thirty, or something like that. He was going to the car rental place to pick up the rental car we’d been promised, so we could get the heck out of doge and back up north, specifically to the Slam Dunk Festival, where we had the tasty 6:15 slot on the Front magazine dance stage. I was so excited. So excited I happily dozed right back off as soon as Brave And Noble Tim had left the doorframe behind him.
I woke a little while later to the sound of ringing telephones. Jack threw me mine. He had his Here We Go Again face on.
“Sprrfsh vrrrpsh vrrrp.” said the phone. “Sprrrk sppsh vo faaaargh. There is no car.”
“Whaddya mean there is no car?” I demanded, half askeep. “They promised us car!”
“There is no car,” said Tim, grimly.
"Fuck," I said, eloquently.
There was no train either. Well, no train that cost less than £300.
“We’re going to have to take the L,” said Jack, who, as he tells us often, is a Realist. “Get back to London, sort out shit out, be at the festival site in Hatfield tomorrow, ready.”
“Never,” I said. “People are going there to see us! They’re sending me messages about how excited they are! We will not let them down! We will make it! I have faith! And blind faith has got us this far. Let’s ask Twitter.”
I then remembered that, just last night, before we went to bed, CharCharGabor82, who was a real person I’d put on the guest list for the Nottingham show because I’d seen her on Twitter saying how sad she was that she couldn’t afford to come to the show, had, via Twitter, offered to drive down to where we were from Nottingham and drive us all the way to Leeds.
I opened up my raptop, still as pleasing a sensation as when I bought it nine weeks ago. "Fwup," it said, languidly. In my DM comumn in Tweetdeck were the following two messages, from CharCharGabor82:
Still haven't figured out if you want me to get u haha. I'm road trip ready if u do.
My numero is 0********** if u need a chauffer. I might even don a hat.
“We’re saved!” I exclaimed, with vast joy. “Look! That’s why out of all the billions of tweets in my Home column I saw that one and put her on the list! So she could save the day and drive us to Slam Dunk! Sweet serendipity!”
I phoned CHarCharGabor82 on the number she’d DMed me.
“Hello,” she said.
“Hello,” I said, remembering I’d read somewhere that the word hello was invented specifically as something for people to say when they greeted each other on the telephone. “This is Akira The Don. We would love to accept your generous offer of a lift to Leeds.”
“I shall be there in a jiffy,” said CharCharGabor82, or something like that. Perhaps she said “in three shakes of a lambs tail”. I can’t remember. Something to the effect of “soon.” I put the phone down and beamed triumphantly at Jack.
It was around ten am by this point. Soon Tim came back, and I told him the good news. He, like Jack, was cautious. “Is she in that little car that went ‘poor poot’ when we saw her leave in it after the gig in Nottingham? Has she left already? It takes 4 hours minimum to get to Leeds. We need to be there to line check at 5:30. It’ll take up to half an hour to get on site. So we need to leave here at 1 at the latest. Is she driving from Nottingham? Has she left yet?”
“Yes,” I said, in the manner one would say, well duh, as if they were the stupidest questions I'd ever heard. “It will be fine.”
We watched a little Russia Today, and Jack made some coffee. About twenty minutes or so later I got a text from CharCharGaboer82 saying she was about to leave.
“How far is Nottingham from here?” asked Tim.
Here was 3 hours from Nottingham.
Here was Bridgwater.
“Bridgwater is the country’s suicide capital,” said Jack, incorrectly. “Don’t quote me on that.”
Charlotte had sent me a photo of my cactus. It was flowering.
We left the hotel at miday, as is right and polite, and wandered into town, beneath the doleful calm a thick, damp tramp's blanket of doughy cloud. We passed the shit cinimea we saw on the way in, that looked like a crack house, or something that had gotten bombed in the war and never rebuilt. We passed the café we’d played in last night, the café we’d gone through hell and high water and a seven hour journey in the wrong direction to get to. The café Tim’s car had died trying to reach.
“Ho ho ho,” I said.
“Ho ho ho,” said Tim.
Jack smiled, beatifically. He seemed very calm. We all did. Our lives were not in our hands. It was OK.
We’d been sat in the Costa Coffee on Bridgwater High Street for a few hours, before that stated to change. I’d observed a middle aged woman telling some friends how it was her decision if she wanted to have sex with other men, and that her husband would have to deal with it. Jack and Tim had discussed things of great manly import, or so it appeared from where I was sat, clattering away furiously at my raptop. I suppose they might have been talking about comics, They usually were, now I come to think of it.
I had written most of the Manchester and Bridgwater blogs. It was half one. Four hours till load in. The occasional hopeful and cheery text would come in from CharCharGabor82, who had been stuck in terrible traffic for many hours. I spoke to her, and she said something about a possible shortcut. I pictured her spinning the steering wheel and abandoning the motorway, driving through rolling Postman Pat fields at breakneck speed.
“This is very much like Clockwork,” said Jack, who was still very calm. I was lesscalm. I had a sort of tragic desperation about me. I refused to believe that all was lost. I concocted many ways we could get there in time, mostly involving speeding and Luck.
“All is not lost!” I said, finally.
Jack and Tim went for a walk. It was Two-ish. Hope was draining from my pores like ghostly sweatbeads in a backwards gravity spaceship. I sat in the Costa like a sad pink island, surrounded by a sea of bags of cables and decks and socks and things, and finally, head bowed, accepted my fate.
I would not entertain the men and women of Leeds.
It was OK.
“Wah,” I said, sadly to myself, and drew a message on my fingers to post on the internet by way of apology.
At around three or so, CharCHarGabor82 rang, excitedly. “I’m nearly here!” she said, “We’re going to make it!” I knew that wer were not, but I thought it best not to say just yet. I didn’t want to crush that hope, and for her to crash in the last stretch, out of sheer sadness or something. I might have, were it me.
Presently, Jack and Tim returned.
“I just saw one of the most heinous and grimy things I saw in my life,” said Jack, excitedly. “I just saw a kid with one bottle of generic Tesco energy drink, pouring the bottle of energy drink into a bottle of Scrumpy jack. It’s 2 in the afternoon. That’s deep shit.”
I agreed. That was some heinous shit.
“Anyway, we got you something,” said Jack, and gave me a hug, and a large-headed Spider-man toy.
“We weren’t supposed to go, obviously,” reasoned Tim. “We could have got in a car and had an accident There’s no way of knowing we’d be in Leeds now. We might be dead.”
Jack nodded, sagely, and Tim burst into song: “There is no earthly way of knooooowing!”
Presently ChaChaGabor82 phoned. She was opposite the shit cinema by the hotel. “I’m opposite a really horrible looking cinema!” she said.
We found her, our knight in a tiny shiny car that went ‘poot poot’. I was sad that we had to tell her we weren’t going to make it to Leeds.
“Oh no!” she said.
“Will you drive us to London?” asked Tim, with his cheeky face.
“Yes,” said Char CharGabor82, which was an awfully nice thing for a person who’d just driven for four and a half hours to pick up a band to take them to a festival only to find out they weren’t going to a festival at all.
We didn’t go straight away, obviously. We walked back through town, showing CharCharGabor82 the sights, like the shit cinema, and the café we’d played in, and went back to Costa, our new home, with our sea of bags, and made a new island.
I clattered away on my raptop a bit more, and rang my girl to tell her I’d be home that evening. She didn't sound as excited at the prospect as I’d hoped.
“You’re not supposed to be back till tomorrow!” she said flusteredly. “I have to paint! My sister’s here! We’re planning the wedding!”
“Fine, I’ll find somewhere else to sleep!” I stropped, teenagishly. “See you tomorrow!”
I hung up and gazed mournfully at my sharpie stained hand. I supposed that she probably had an awful lot planned to do today, before I was supposed to go back. I figured I would stay at Tim's or something.
Charlotte rang back.
“I’m sorry, it was just unexpected,” she said. “Of course I'm excited to see you. I love you!”
I shed a sneaky little tear, and returned to the party. They were discussing pound shops.
A waitress dropped some cups. People went, "ooooh!" Eventually, we left Costa. I was glad to see the back of it.
We got into CharCharGabor82’s little car, which was no mean feat and reminded me of those jokes about Minis and elephants, and set off home. With the weight of expectation, and Not Knowing gone, everybody was suddenly in fine spirits.
We listened to CharChargabor82’s iPod, and bantered, merrily. Tim’s car, which was supposed to have been taken back to his old man’s house by the AA, had gone missing. This was potentially good news for Tim, who’d recently had a laptop stolen, out of the car and lost an iPod in the car, as if they had indeed lost the car he would get the insurance, and a new car, rather than having to deal with a dead car that needed scrapping, and maybe even a new laptop and iPod too.
We stopped at a services for food. I, foolishly, chose the KFC bucket, and suffered the consequences. Tim went for the lab shank.
“Ah, life” he beamed through his magnificent mutton chops.
“Ah, life,” I agreed. Jack smiled, nibbling on a sandwich. He looked as calm and comfy as he had all tour. A realist, I supposed, is rarely disappointed.
It was dark when we got back to Hackney Wick. Tim and Jack helped me carry my stuff up the metal stairs to my door. It felt like along time since I’d seen those stairs. The fairy lights twinkled up the metal hand rail all the way up to the top, where My tiger was sat at the top, waiting for me, surrounded by balloons.
Charlotte’s sister answered the door, grinning mischievously. Charlotte was getting changed, or in the shower, or something exciting and girlish like that. The house was all shiny and painted and new and full of pink balloons. They were for my birthday. I’d forgotten I had a birthday.
I dropped a second sneaky tear, and got rid of it just in time to meet the rocket ship embrace of my beloved. It was like the first time. My heart was full. I could have died there and then.
But I didn’t.