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Sunday 24th February 2008

Days Without Alcohol 56.

Well the car held out, but nonetheless it was a hell of a day and a good lesson as to why you shouldn't play Bristol the day after Durham.
I had left plenty of time for the drive, leaving at midday, after having had a light breakfast and a strenuous work out in the gym. I had planned to stop off on the way a couple of times to get some work done on my script and was looking forward to my lunch even as I drove away from the hotel.
About five minutes out though I suddenly had a thought and checked my pockets and couldn't find my phone. I had left it in my room, which was very out of character as I am usually quite anal about checking I have everything when I leave. So I had to head back and pick it up. This ten minute delay probably cost me three hours, though I suppose it is possible that it also saved my life.
I had been going for about half an hour and was motoring down the A1M when everything came to a halt. I was stuck in slow moving traffic for over an hour and when I got to the front of the queue I discovered that the whole south bound road had been closed due to an accident and cars were being redirected on to the north bound carriageway and being sent back where they came from. So perhaps if I had not left my phone at the hotel I would have been that little bit further up the road and perhaps my day would have been ruined in a much more serious way. I think, on balance, that it's much more likely that I would have been ahead of the crash.
I cursed the idiots who had had this accident, before considering the fact that for the road to actually be closed down things must be pretty serious down there. And I heard on the radio that the road would be closed until at least 4.30, so there was no way I could wait. And yet no-one was giving out any information about alternative routes to head south and that's something that sat nav isn't great for. You can discount a bit of your route, but without knowing which bit exactly to tell it to work around it's a bit tricky. So I got out a map and decided to find a path south the old fashioned way. The easiest and least likely to be busy route was to take an A road across the country and travel down on the M6. It was only a 40 mile long road and surely there was still plenty of time to drive down the motorway. But of course, the A road was very windy and heading through hills and valleys and it took almost two hours to get to the M6. I don't know if this was a clever or stupid move. Presumably there would have been some minor road that might have taken me south, but then it would have been packed with traffic.
But there was no turning back this time. Though with only two apples in the car I was by now starving. I stopped off for a coffee and a sandwich and feeding Bristol into my sat nav I saw that it had my eta down as 7.38pm, just 20 minutes before I was due on stage, with about 280 miles to cover. Presumably I would need to stop again at some point and if there was even a minor delay then I was going to be extremely late and if I got behind another accident (or was involved in one, which seemed more likely given I was going to be driving fast for so long without a break) then I would actually have to cancel the sold out gig.
It was a stressful and unpleasant drive down. I was driving fast and managed to get the eta down to 7.30, but knew I would have to stop for a loo and food break (due to my run I was only about 500 calories into the positive today and if driving really does burn off an additional calorie a minute then I was in danger of wasting away).
Then I made the mistake of ignoring my sat nav and thinking I would take some time off my journey if I went down the M6 toll road. This would have been true if I had been going to London, but it added another 20 minutes to my journey. I stopped for another sandwich which I ate as I drove, plunging into the darkness, praying to a God I don't believe in to keep me awake and keep the traffic moving.
I arrived at the venue at 7.55pm and was on stage by ten past. It wasn't the ideal preparation for a performance, but luckily the enthusiastic crowd lifted me and though I didn't quite feel that I was even in my own head at the beginning it turned out to be another storming gig, even when one of the lights popped and went out during the second half, leaving part of the stage in darkness.
After the show a man came up to say hello. It was Angus Ashman, who I used to walk to school with when I was 8 and who I haven't seen for 32 years. I have only made contact with him after someone told him he was mentioned in my blog. Who would have thought calling someone a non-door opening pussy would help rekindle a friendship from over three decades ago.
It was cool to meet him again, though I wouldn't have recognised him, even if reassuringly neither of us has got much taller since we were 8.
But then I had to jump in my car for another two hours plus so I could drive home. I was driving for ten hours of the sixteen that I was awake today and can't really remember much about the journey home. But as I lay down exhausted to sleep, images of the view through my windscreen were burned on to my retina as if I had been playing some addictive driving game all day. Which I suppose in a way I had.

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