With yet another Thirstday night dawning at our fave club, it was time to open the ol' arms to welcome Duncan Scott, Perfect World's underrated (but not by us or PW) warmer upperer, into our panting yet fulsome bosoms.
Support came (oo er) in the form of our bestest Dover DJ - Old Toffo himself, who provided it better than a new pair of lycra ribbed tights with extra stretchiness ever could. Duncan was elevated, for a change, to top spot pershshishion and, as we expected, performed moist admirably in his allocated role, keeping the mostened heaveners on their toes and on one (missus). His deeply garaged and dubbed out US/UK profferings were sweatily lusted after by the family of music appreciation society (Canterbury Branch). Suffice to say all the usual shiny and shapely shenanigans took place. Gone looked 'mad'. BGNK and his 'girly' (his word not ours) graced us with his presence. Those Lazy Bastards Dave, Iain and Kirsty, turned up and slimmed around moist luxuriously plus the usual hordes of no-nonsense hedonistic heaveners enjoyed themselves in a moist opulent manner.
I had to take it relatively easy, as we had what was to be the moist excessive few days ahead (let's see you try to keep up with Lazy Eeny and see how long you, or your money, last).
Straight from 7th we were off to catch Le Shuttle to Calais, from whence we would begin our long trek, ending in Rennes. Once there we would stagger around in an unusual fashion, hop in motor and drive back to not avin' it at all, in 'ell. But that's another, and very long, story.
On Thursday we were still intent on conserving our energies for the constant bombardment that the next few days (hopefully) promised to throw at us. Nero, aware of the 500 or so miles that remained to be traversed, kept her drink consumption to an absolute minimum (that's if you can call that watered down slop they sell at the Werks 'drink') and only managed to consume five or so pints; although it was the "or so" bit that worried us.
It was at this stage that it was decided that a certain young Whitstable socialite, the Lovely Laura should be kidnapped, thus giving her a proper excuse not to go to work the next morning. The Lazy House Crew had a plush hire car (diesel, which is just as well considering the amount of miles they ended up driving) which in true hire car stylee had the shit thrashed out of it and over two thousand miles added to the clock.
Whoops. With Al Jay and Louie making up the select band of inter-continental party peeps, we set off straight after the club in excited anticipation of all the brain cells that we'd bid fond fairwell to over the next 24 hours or so.
With Nero already feeling sleepy before she left the club, we stopped off at Folkestone, to powder our noses and drink lots of tea, so as to have to stop for the optimum of piss stops during our journey. With LL maybe experiencing a few last minute doubts, i.e. would she be sacked if her bosses found out that instead of bad period pains, she was actually going to France to party herself rotten, we drove expectantly onto the posh, brand new Le Shuttle along with a small handful of other folks (3). The staff seemed desperately glad that we were using the service. They resembled first time party promoters who were shitting themselves that no one would come to the gig. They looked on indulgently as we put the cassette player (cheers to Jenny) atop the car and played music with repetitive beats. It seemed an ideal situation for terrorists with a car full of semtex just waiting to blow the tunnel up, as there were no car/luggage checks. They didn't even say anything to us when we left our boot open, with Oz's DJ box complete with requisite 'Car Bomb' sticker on full view. We were laughing. Especially at the massive "strictly no smoking" signs as the fag was lit in front of the cameras.
Basically you sit in your car for half an hour and then you're in France. It's that fucking quick. By the time you've put out your fags, gone for a piss and compared 12'', you're there, and it's time for the long drive ahead.
Driving in close convoy, we entered the darkness of France in all its immensity. That fucking country is larger than Liam thinks he is. You'd think that with all that space they'd build some bigger roads a la anglais, but they seem to prefer the quaint concrete impression of the old fashioned dirt track (do they have a better road protest network than we do or what?) Single lane road transportation. Fine if you want to poodle around in 3rd gear behind 3 juggernauts for 50 miles. It's rather like driving along the back road between Whitstable and Canterbury, and being stuck behind a Bretts lorry, but for 80 miles. No way either to overtake as it's too dark and windy.
So for at least 50 miles you dawdle along, feeling your blood pressure rise and getting extremely wound up at your slow progress. Plus there's Louie in the car in top ''stay awake at all the crap times of the day and sleep and miss the party'' mode, and he's conveniently forgotten his tobacco (not that old chestnut. Again). So every five minutes its ''have you got any fags?" Al had to pretend to be asleep (!!) and put his head under his coat to escape when asked for the 45th time. He didn't. No one did. Louie was wired to fuck. It wasn't a pleasant time. Everything started to resemble one of those nightmarish journeys of your extreme youth that you have to take with your parents....
All of a sudden the road widens for a millisecond, quick, overtake before it narrows again for another 25 miles. A few moments in fifth before the next lorry appears on the horizon. That's why the journey took 8 hours!
However with the arrival of sunrise, maan, and a little bit of help from other departments, spirits were lifted and we motored happily through the vast bucolic sprawl of Normandy. Every single town looked exactly the same. With houses grey and stone built clinging to either side of the rutted track that sliced through their midst. No signs of life. No shops. Pharmacies with big green neon crosses outside were much in evidence.
Probably there to dispense the bucket loads of anti-depressants needed to survive driving on such long boring roads. A strong feeling that maybe these 'villes' weren't inhabited, but were maybe part of a massive film set prevailed.
Luckily the sunrise was pretty spectacular, as shafts of sunlight pierced the layers of cloud, before coming to rest on various froths of mist that hung in wreaths above the frosty grass. Not half as beautiful as Brittany, which is throat achingly photogenic, Normandy was a succession of flat, massive farm lands with severely mutilated trees scarring the horizon. You could feel Europe stretching for thousands of miles beyond.
At last. A motorway! This would take us on our (supposed) last leg of the journey between Rouen and Caen. The foot went flat to the floor and we sped into the rapidly lightening sky line cheering uproariously. Hurrah! Until Eeny left the lovely, smooth, fast motorway in favour of a pitted single track that wound its way interminably through various sleepily similar French hamlets. At this rate the next 130km would take 3 hours.
Making a snap decision we waved the perve-mobile down and made them turn round to rejoin the motorway. Balance had been restored, not before the spectre of toll gates hovering in a shimmering haze in the near distance, rapidly brought us to a halt. Shit. Guess what? No money!
In all our befuddled eagerness to get to Reg's ASAP we had forgotten one quite important thing. Money. We hadn't changed any. None at all, and now a French toll booth operator was asking us for 23 francs for the privilege of using his motorway. With a brief conference ensuing we decided to offer him l'argent anglais. He seemed to be quite familiar with this way of doing things and gave us change in francs. Probably thinking what arrogant bastards we were. All we have to say on the matter is 'when's the fucking ECU coming in then?' coz it'd make life a fuck of a lot easier for arrogant bastards like us to go abroad when we don't have to worry about such minor things as changing money.
Disaster averted we drove off, confidence restored, having experienced our first 'shit, there's a foreign person, how do I communicate when I can't speak their language' confidence shrinker. This misplaced security didn't last long as yet another toll loomed grimly on the horizon not ten minutes later and we realised we didn't have enough change left to pay for it. So out came the fivers and the previous experience was repeated.
Much lighter in pocket but at least with a few francs on us now, we arrived in Caen, approximately 4 hours after leaving Calais. Our instructions were to drive to the centre and ring Reginald, who would ''come to pick us up''. We stopped outside a cafe (that stood next door to a shop run by A. Bastard much to Al's mirth) and looked for Reg's number which Eeny readily provided. Only one problem it wasn't R's number, although we didn't realise this at the time and left a message on the answer phone anyway.
Then we sat, lamely and skintly, with about 50 francs between 8 of us pondering what to do. Luckily Nero had remembered at the last minute to bring the address book, and it was discovered that Eeny had written the wrong number down. Whoops. Oz phoned. Reg answered. We got the directions and everyone relaxed, momentarily. Al went and ordered another coffee, not realising that he wouldn't be able to pay for it and for a while it was quite embarrassing for us, but extremely so for Al as he realised he couldn't pay. We all giggled hysterically as we watched him deal with it, each glad it was him and not us. Luckily the woman gave it to him.
Disaster laughed in the face of, we set off down the road to Rennes to find R at the Symphany of the Butts (oo er). Refusing to let the fact that our petrol was severely in the red we set off on the 'few' kilometres down the road. With instructions that basically were 'turn right after the restaurant and the phone box' we managed without much difficulty to find chez Reg, who could be spotted standing in the middle of the road awaiting our arrival expectantly. Hurrah. We'd arrived.
Greetings and introductions followed as we plopped on cushions in a most fucked fashion. The room was already full with expectant party peeps over from England. Pleasantries and cups of tea were exchanged before the desire for sleep became overwhelming and everyone sloped off to the most comfy looking spot they could find. Curled up together in all our clothes, we lamented our failure to bring a sleeping bag and a duvet, a la Lazy Style, and shivered our way into immediate unconsciousness, only to be woken a couple of hours later by Louie who had obviously decided to sleep at the party when everyone else would be having fun (so no change there). Reg had prepared a steaming bowl of stew that did the job very nicely and while he and cohorts set orf to decorate the club, we lounged around insouciantly, pondering how to feel the vast stretch of time before we set off for Rennes, a mere 190km or so away!
Nero and LL decided to go for a walk, for the first time since childhood, to try and warm their frozen digits. Fucking quiet. No one around. Sun bouncing off the frosty grass. Too energetic. Let's go and wake the boys up, go to Rennes and drink some beer. We go back to a silent house. Oz is awake and walking towards us. Everyone else is asleep, especially Louie who looks really quite disturbing stretched out like that on the couch. This is to be the position (missionary) that he is to maintain for much of the weekend. AL JAY staggers out of the car looking rough and hungry, crumbs of chocolate chip cookies in his stubble. We conspire to wake the lazy bastards up, who are still slumbering on blissfully, swathed in mounds of fluffy duvets. The heat from their breath misting the windows, which are ajar as it's so fucking hot in there. Bastards. LL has been volunteered to do the job, to wake the Lazy House Crew up! With tempting offers of stew and coffee, she is up to it and they stumble bleary eyed and sleep addled to fall in lazy tumbles upon the cushions.
At last! We're ready to leave! We kick Louie in the 'ed to waken him and set off in convoy to Rennes (''it's just up the road''). The 200F we borrowed goes in the car for petrol and we drive off into a gorgeous sunset where the sun hangs low, hovering above the horizon in a flaming red orb, before suddenly slipping behind the earths curve. Where are we...
Once we get to the bar that old problem's come looming back. No money and no means to exchange the crisp pounds that are burning holes in our pockets. Nero and Oz disappear for a frantic hunt about the town in the vague hope there'll be some bureau de changes lurking on street corners. There aren't, so admitting defeat we retire to the bar and sit on low plastic chairs rescued from the sixties and seventies, while our stomachs growl in agony. The bar, al modo is the meet before the party which doesn't begin till 12 (they go out late in France) and has decks in the corner and more than a smattering of Eenglish over for the party.
All of a sudden Bruno, the owner of the club, le Stanley, where the party is to be held, appears carrying 3 of the largest pizzas I've ever seen. This is food that he's bought for us. He also buys us some beer. Overcome at the reaLauration we've met a club owner who's spot on we thank him and tear into the pizzas, the veggies amongst us removing the ham first. Restored somewhat by this we all relax and the vibe in the room visibly alters as the party begins.
Reg is on the decks and doing a good job as we leave, along with the perve-mobile and another van load of peeps to follow Bruno to le Stanley, which apparently is in the middle of nowhere. It is. Despite Nero driving there with no lights on we arrive in one piece expecting a small refurbished barn of some description. In the darkness it resembles from outside a small refurbished barn, and we follow Bruno inside.
Wow, what a venue. Absolutely impossible to describe, it brought smiles out in wreaths upon our travel worn faces and our knackered bodies knew immediately that they wouldn't get any rest that night. Apparently Bruno had rebuilt the place, from derelict. And what a fine job he has done. Being small and intimate enough to feel that your have been invited into someone’s home, as soon as you walk in you relax. On two floors, both totally made out of wood, downstairs is where the decks are. Two small wooden dance floors with strips of tiny flashing fairy lights across them wink invitingly. The whole space is curved with lots of places to sit on well plumped plump cushions in darkly intimate little nooks and crannys. There is a pair of majestic wooden stairs that lead from the dance floor to the floor above which resembles an Austrian skiing lodge. Chesterfield sofas and comfy seats are arranged all round the room which is beautifully warm. It's lit by a myriad of oil lights that hang low from the ceiling kissing the table tops. We all flop in pleased amazement on the seats and pretend to fall asleep, but our bodies refuse to play, apart from Louie who immediately falls into deep sleep. Laughing at his lack of stamina we set about the serious business of enjoying ourselves.
Iain and Oz played with each other for the first couple of hours. To the side of the decks there is a roaring log fire and we have been given 24 cans of Stella to get on with. The cans are only 33ml size though, so can be drank in two gulps. No one starts to come till about 1am, and as the floor fills Oz takes over to warm them up. Upstairs by now is so hot you can't really sit up there and the smoke machine downstairs has gone into over-drive so Oz can't see his records at times. But we don't care and skip around in a huggy, chatty sort of way. As one does. Reg turns up with entourage in tow and a UV cardboard cut-out of Colin the Dog under his arm which is given pride of place at the head of the dance floor. By now the French are gyrating as only they can. One group has a pair of shades which each member wears for a few thrusts and then passes on. Al's eyes light up at all the young totty and Laura looks totally unsuitable to go to work. Al manages to wake Louie by saying we all know what a crap dancer he is, and Louie wakes immediately, falls onto the floor, starts throbbing and says in a hurt manner ''I'm an excellent dancer''. It doesn't matter he's up now, for the duration, and Al smirks off, his job well done.
Oz leaves the decks just as the smoke machine (which is under the DJ table) reaches its belching peak, and Iain takes over. By now, well fluffed up we go outside and marvel at the venue again. Outside there is a marquee for 500, gardens and a very large pond. The back of the club resembles an olde worlde oak beamed English manor house. It's lovely and as Al points out, no one is trying to sneak in the back door like they would do in Britain. Everyone is well behaved, apart from Iain, but luckily he's behind the decks and his impressions of a melting candle don't cause too much consternation. And the night passes in a warm, contented haze of talking, drinking, chilling and dancing.
After Iain is Doc Leaf, from London who 'does it himself' and proceeds to get everyone chugging along nicely. By now the French have consumed a lot of beer, but at no stage do they start to behave like their British counterparts do when under the influence. The place is packed and very smoky. Louie is found sitting outside in the perve-mobile as the smoke "hurt his chest."
After it's off to a small bar, Betty Boops, in a nearby village a "few" km's away. Inside it's packed. The perve-mobile had driven off early so Iain could secure the decks. The bar is playing techno, and Iain is on the decks (again) in the tad overcrowded back room. We sit in exhausted groups. Around us some of the French blokes seem a bit desperate to pull as a woman gets groped and one takes his trousers down behind my head. Remembering the festival last year and gonads in hot knife bottles, we smile. Al finally manages to get on the decks just as it's decided to go, so the next hour is spent trying to prise him off (difficult).
The Lazy House Crew announce their departure, but then end up waiting for us, so we can follow a bloke who knows the way back onto the main road. We hug Reg, Jonny, Marina and others goodbye, thanking them profusely for such a good night and set off on the long trek back.
It is 9am and has just got light. Iain and the bloke who knows the way have been waiting for us for ages, but after they go the wrong way once and then again we leave them to get on with it as we spot the correct route. It is at least a couple of hours later that Iain finally overtakes us.
He is making wind up signs next to his balding pate before he motors off into the distance. I bet they go wrong again laughs Nero. In no time at all, Calais looms large. We have sliced 3 hours off our time. Its 3pm as we drive through customs, who take one look at our ravaged faces, take our passports and make us wait while they try to find some dirt on us. We have 15 minutes to catch the train. We sit there yawning as they keep us waiting for 12 minutes, before one of them hands back our passports looking most disappointed. With no time to get duty free we go straight to the train for the final leg of our journey. The Lazy House Crew are nowhere to be seen.....
...We wake suddenly. It's 9.30pm and we have to be at Sheppey in a few hours. We plan a slow meal and a gradual wake up culminating at the party, until Nero remembers that she's providing the decks for their room. On cue Maurice phones, and asks where the decks are, and we reassure him they won't be long. We phone up Al to tell him to get his arse round ours and discover the perve-mobile only got back at 6.30pm, a full 3 hours after us. They got caught speeding (75 pound on the spot fine) and made a detour via Paris, but didn't seem too disheartened.
It's time to go off to Paradise, to 'ave it large' as the flyer says. Questioning how Sheppey can possibly be described as 'Paradise' we spend the rest of the night looking for it (Paradise, not Sheppey). A holiday chalet park catches our eye and sure enough, a faded painted sign proclaiming Paradise declares it to be our destination. After a while the bouncers deign to let us in when we explain that 'no we are not paying as we are playing'. Doncha just love bouncers? There's something "universal" about their "polite but friendly" psychotic steroid door manner. Everyone's pleased to see us but that's because we have the decks, which quickly get set up. The Rogues are there, fresh from a five hour drive from Lincoln. They too had not been allowed in. Their first impression of the party had been someone spitting: ''I don't give a fuck who you are, you're paying like the rest of 'em''. Mmn.
The room we were in wasn't the room we were supposed to be in. We were meant to have the much smaller room upstairs, with oak beams, but Maurice's equipment wouldn't fit up the stairs (missus). So blame him. The room we were in had flooded two days before, so the carpet was wet enough to grow cress on, and it was bastard freezing. There followed an unseemly fight for the gas heater after it got taken from our room and put upstairs. After being fobbed off for an hour Oz went up and stole it back, whilst Alistair Aphrodisiac pleaded ''Please don't take the heater !''. Take it we did and the atmosphere in the room thawed by a degree. With the wet sploshing up your legs, close your eyes and you could have been outside in February. It was certainly damp and cold enough.
The faithful desperately tried to rally the troops and struggled gamely to establish a mood, but it was looking decidedly dreary. Admittedly we didn't have any lights, which didn't help, but when we managed to block off the light from the corridor and the bar and Jes introduced his deep Dutch meanderings things suddenly started to warm up (metaphorically speaking) and it looked like we might actually be having a party. Just as Timo took over and the room was much more animated, the music got turned off. The police had erected road blocks preventing people getting to the party. Now they were stopping it. It was about 5am. Oh well, at least we could go somewhere warmer. And we did.
Basically we upped the party and moved it, rig and everything to somewhere we knew we'd be made welcome, at uncle Walts. He had spent the previous night in hospital having his head stitched after some scumbag had broken in and stolen his bar takings, leaving him unconscious on the floor. Never being one for letting the details of life bring him down, he opened his arms and welcomed us to his bosom. And we thanked him for it. We warmed ourselves by his hearth and soaked up his generous hospitality, listening to great music. What a difference it made. And at least the Rogues hadn't driven down for nothing. Every one relaxed and got into the mellow vibe as Al upped the spiritual quota. "Yes Suh!"
Totally, damn fine. We love you Walt.
Sunday was the birth of a new occasion. Now each and every Sunday when you're all partied out but don't want to go home yet, or it's too long to wait till the EK, come to The Ship all day, for a spiritual experience, or just to drink lots of beer. Or both. Or neither. Sounds courtesy of those dodgy deep house DJ bods.