These grunting, mucky bastards are your family, now. It's time for a family outing to Basel. Love your family, immediately and forever. Family delights. Family cares.
It's early morning and everyone's forgotten something. Grandad's forgotten his drum pads. Mum got too involved in something and left the immersion on. You aren't wearing any underwear, but you don't tell anyone.
Put a scrunched up bit of paper in a shoebox and shake it around. Shake it around for hours in joyless monotony. Shake the travel maraca.
The hours pass like a dripping tap filling a swimming pool, but at least you're all here now. It's the Phoria-Smythington's family outing to Basel, and your first stop is some French place called Mulhouse, where you stumble out of the van and into a chrome and neon karaoke bar with a live performance of “A Whole New World”, inspiring you into wellbeing again along with a “beer”, which is a device you attach to your arm with a mechanical tongue that licks a little patch until it turns raw, which in turn tells your brain to release a new album of endorphins so your body and stuff can enjoy it all and the family can have something in common: a raw, bleeding patch on their arms that makes them feel great.
What's that? It might be a new day in a new country, but this family hotel has stars outside.Mum is happy she'll have a clean floor on which to do her ironing. Dad is happy he can put his slippered feet up and watch TV and pipe up intermittently about the state of the road. Little brother James has a soldering iron, two kilograms of semtex, and a behavioural problem. Grandad needs somewhere to settle in, and your room isn't ready yet. It's Room 101. This makes you happy and apprehensive, as you wonder what they're preparing for you in there. Turns out life in there is the same as life out here. Go figure.
Out for a family meal. A day and a half of travel with sweating, grubby skin. Set-up, thunderstorms, bad packets of meaty euro-tubes and weirdness. The enveloping, soapy bubble of family in a totally new place (a whole new world), now made fine by clean and smiling hosts and a truffle dinner in one of the twisting gullets of the town. A smiling waiter who's had ones-just-like-you in all day, and sniffing clientèle who make haste soon after your arrival. Is that the ricotta, or those boys? Either way, it's blue. Eat your boeuf and let's get out of here. They're tickling each other and doing things with the breadsticks.
Manson had a family.
Yours barely know where they are. A square, somewhere. A growing crowd of people. You're setting up equipment that looks like a telephone exchange and one link in the chain keeps stuttering. Not now. Even the sound technicians have a nervous smile on their faces. The heat and the tiredness. You're not on edge so much as standing on the fronts of your ankles. This is new. Why do it new, now, Equipment? It can work. It will work. Do an interview with mum - moments before you get onstage - in a daze, being asked to comment on the state of inequality in Switzerland with a fresh mic and a big glass eye in your face, going out to people in their armchairs who have the option to change the channel; to change their immediate company.
You say you could do more about the issues, but right now, in this state, you don't know if that's true.You look like a hayfever-stricken frog.
You start playing – the family sings its Christmas songs – and you demand a Red Bull and chug it onstage. Your vision spins. The crowd gathers. The cameras are on and running you out of town in thick wires. Everything works, but instead of tiny keys and skinny strings there are bell-ropes and pulley systems and old mechanical workings that you have to heave and push and grind and wade through. Your performance hangs by a single thread string in a knife-throwing practice room.
Take it down and put it away. You did it and it all ends with a raucous cheer. Now the sun starts to set and you need that tongue-comforting thing to start licking your arm again. Head out into the cereal bowl to see what's happening and who's dancing. Another band finishes. “Thank you so much, everyone! We'd love to stay and party, but we have to go and catch our flight.” You recognise them. They're that family from down the road who puts the cover over their car and has a rotation of doormats. Their front door is spotless.
Your front door is a length of tin foil hanging from the ceiling.
Some people in the crowd suggest you're famous in this place; that Dad has taken you by the hand and dragged you onto the rollercoaster. You don't know about that. People are nice, though. Meet people and make them feel uncomfortable.
Walk across the city to a club. You don't go underground, but you regret that in the morning. Stroll back through to the hotel and watch everybody do like they do everywhere else. It's Friday, and the family takes a break from one another. The kids are in the crèche; the adults are in the lounge.
Fuck off to the family home in the morning because you've all had enough. Sing a song or two and whistle up your own arse to enjoy the echo and put a plaster on your arm and on others' arms with a Nightingale smile. Sit in a chair and waggle your legs and get a boat.
Do it again.
Get some new equipment and get ready for Piknik festival in Oslo.
It's a long, long way away and there'll be other things to do.
How are we getting there, Dad?