Push on through and start this.
So we pull up in Paris at about 1 a.m., suddenly all too aware that we have nowhere to stay. I'd been up since five – never wanting my 'room-mate' to be up and getting ready for work while I lay about in bed, using my 'career' as an excuse – and the two drivers had about seven hours of driving in their pockets. Jeb is Jeb, so he was tired, and Seryn was exhausted from the comparative over-stimulation of having left the house.
Do we kip in the van, blanketed-up against the cold streets of Paris, or do we check-in to the first hostel we see? Perhaps we should have planned ahead. We back and forth on this, eating from a pallet that we'd filled with food before leaving the house. Muffins and slices and pasties and out-of-date crisps and the things that we lived on over the course of the trip.
Never more pastry than in these few days.
What do we do?
Jeb can be proactive when seeking slumber, so he was the first to volunteer to run over the square in which we'd parked and speak to our first French person outside of a service station.
It was costly. Twice the price than if we'd booked online. This was the extent of our research.
But we were much as I am now: a passenger in a poltergeist. We had all reached that point where your brain convinces you that fuel is to be found in frowning.
No more of this. No more. None.
Worry about it tomorrow.
Credit card, and lifts that act like a puzzle from The Crystal Maze.
Take the stairs.
We were split across rooms on the fifth floor.
It all looked so fine from outside. All glass and lights and 'modern traveller'.
Into the sweaty, humid black. Bunks were assigned but already filled by others, so find your own. It was a wild west of foam mattresses as thick as DVD cases and what felt like alien fingers crawling across you as you slept. I thought the room was full, but torchlight in my bunk at 4 a.m. told me otherwise. Another intrepid traveller, attempting to take what had been allocated. Sorry, Sir, but when the authorities' backs are turned, we have our own game going on. You'll have to figure out these rules on your own, just as I did.
I eventually got an hour or two of rest after laying awake in the dark for hours, sniggering at my imaginings of how the others were getting along in their respective rooms.
It was a joy, then, after being awoken by the 7 a.m. refitting of the next-door bathroom, to arrive at a riverside breakfast greeted by four other frog-eyed men whose arms were as limp and lame as the stale cereal they were each lumping into their mouths. Jeb chewed on the milk and took a sip of sawdust coffee, before giving me a look.
'This is shit, isn't it.'
Nobody slept as soundly as the spiders that spin around the van.
So we moved in confusion and caffeine, driving around to get the kind of view of these cities we so often get; mainly from the window of a rumbling van. Tin can safari.
We did hop out to get a few selfies out by the Eiffel tower, though. Despite our state, our smell, and our brains slowly calcifying, we were still classified as humans; still strangers to one of the most iconic cities in the world.
It's all a blur, from then until our checking in to the hotel we'd been afforded for this night by the promoter. This was a first. Our first hotel. Riverside. In we go, our chests puffed up with pride.
Name?...breakfast...Check out...rooms...keys...yes, yes, yes. Mmmhmmm.
'...and it's all been paid for.'
This put a particular kind of smile on our faces.
Showers, naps. Games.
Knock on Grandad Jeb's door and run away. He will always open it, and always grumble.
Meanwhile, I'm peering out from behind the vending machines down the way, and giggling, and wondering why no-one else will play with me.
But we're clean and hydrated and heading to the gig, in a cool little place called the Trabendo, just off the beaten track, as part of the Fireworks festival.
Thanks to the crew and staff and promoter, you were all fantastic.
And hello to the awesome Sylvan Esso and Fickle Friends, with whom we had the honour of sharing the stage.
And thanks to all the people who turned up. The room was absolutely fantastic. There was a feeling in the air that I haven't felt in a long time. Out front, and backstage, the party was a constant force to be reckoned with, and everyone was a part of it. Smiles and energy and good feeling and smooth running. No hiccups, just good people and good times and grins and sweat and beer and bourbon.
Those are a few of my favourite things.
And then we pack up and ditch the van and head out, surfing on the buzz that only a great gig in a strange city and no sleep can provide.
We were ably guided by a local friend of a friend – the International Phoria Network runs deep – and after watching the barriers of the metro fall like crumbling mountains beneath our flying feet, we travelled through the wormhole to go...where? We did not know.
'Do you have any idea where we are?' Jeb asked.
'Nope!' I said, with a grin on my face.
Suddenly a bar, and I'm hanging off the end of it like a villain at the end of some action movie, the city trying to pry my fingers off and make me fall.
There are people inside, and there are people outside. We're talking and proudly letting our Englishness fall out of us like farmyard buckets spilling over with freshly produced, certified organic effluence. We're outside, bragging and joking. We're inside, leading the loud party and the music gets bigger and little pockets that once sat around in stone start ordering more and breaking out in dance, and we claw into the wood, making more beer and getting thicker and letting Paris channel us wherever it wishes.
And then we get a taste of it.
And I'm looking at my phone, trying to GPS it back to the hotel with everyone in tow, and I look up and the world has gone dark. The lights have gone out. I'm only reading shadows. I'm in the street and there is no colour anywhere.
I call the others and there is no answer. But I have the route to the hotel.
I find Jeb, like a lamppost in the wind, swaying on some corner with a little gaggle that had joined us out of the bar.
And I'm getting a call from one of the gang I've lost, my phone beaming at me through the darkness.
They've been locked inside a shop. Their eyes were bigger than their bellies could afford and now we are stuck and they are locked in behind blind black steel shutters and we are broke. We are stony broke, and the manager wants one Euro.
Oh, and before this bit, just as I have found myself in the darkness, I am caught in the centre of the underground workings of the city, for a brief moment, and it is only after the tires scream away behind me that I realise, alone and newly unlit as I was, that it was perhaps only a little joke in French about my personal 'intake' habits that may have gotten me out of more trouble than any steel shutter will give you. Everyone here is spring heeled.
Listen, in GCSE French, children.
But this man was sniffing, as it were, around the shop where my friends are shuttered. What's linked, here?
And a man appears out of the darkness, his bright white eyes gleaming. Also our Parisian guide has come to help, appearing from nowhere. She and the man are now arguing.
I must leave her and find one Euro.
So Jeb is still with his friends on a distant corner and they have something strange going on, and while he leans against the wind he chats to one or two of them who have craning necks and meerkat insincts, and who I know I have seen before; who ignored me on the other side of the road, and now they are surrounding us and circling us like jackals.
And one man speaks to one girl who wants to take us clubbing on the Champs Ellysees, and from what I hear he wants something from her more than the cigarettes that she offers, and in between the laughter and the heads of lager and fizz and pop there is a cats cradle being weaved and my mind takes an ugly turn.
On the other side of the street, they are still arguing. She is strong and that is good, but his eyes are fierce and there are more mopeds than only his, all with their engines running and heads turned uniformly, watching their friend.
And I break in to the conversation behind Jeb that I have been monitoring, because these party animals are smaller and the men who have caught them are not well, and I must have one Euro. My friends are locked in. But he doesn't care. And I have a Rizla raised in my hand that's out in front of me and I am ready because I have interrupted his cold-call sales pitch, so the thin roll of paper is held up like a fool's talisman and rests, powering the hand that protects me with mere drunken innocence and I keep my wits about me and I bag a coin from the girl once she has put the man to rest and he leaves and she returns to some of her friends who have appeared. And Jeb sways and I tell him to come with me, because we have raised more than our fair share of anything for one evening.
And the moped gang takes one measly Euro and slides off to whatever deliveries they may make, while the gang reunites and laughs and courts the last, strange thirty-minutes in confusion and relief and we walk a moment and the light returns to the city and turns everything gold and we smile, and Trewin says we need something to remember what happened and I say don't worry, I'll be writing about it.
So we say goodbye to our guide and our friend and we waltz through the roads, staring down taxis, and I'm wondering where we will go next, and what possible route we will be taken on to get to whatever resting place we might be heading to tonight, because we do not know if it will be wood or stone at our heads. A night rarely lets you go once you've been thrown to the dogs. You have to get out before they put the reigns on you, else you're not getting out at all.
And then I am sure he was an angel.
Patient and kind, to four strange and loud men, in our first night in Paris. He spoke no English, so I did my best, again – sat in the front seat with my phone held out in front of me, showing him the same route that I'd tried to get us on so much earlier in the evening. And he followed it and let me speak in broken French and smiled and nodded. He did know one phrase, actually. So I would speak badly and apologise and he would say 'It's OK. No problem.' It happened enough times that we were laughing about it.
And we got out at the hotel and he was a good man and we tipped him well and we stood outside the hotel and smoked in silliness and brushed into the lobby to say hello to the night staff, with smiles on our faces and brains that had been well thorned by the rose of Paris.
One man can work the bar, but he has no power. The hotel shuts the pumps down and locks the cabinets. I can buy him a drink. No? We still have something left in us, Trewin and I. We sit and drink water and we learn the man's politics and how he is a good man. We mean him well. It is short but he is courteous, and I hope he found us respectful.
How else would we be?
And suddenly we swallow night-time like a pill and it is morning and I don't know how I've slept, but I have. I am in bed. And the mirror shows that I am on television, being filmed on a handi-cam, and the mirror turns sideways and bumps itself on my head.
And we all pour down the lift-shafts and again just throw the breakfast at ourselves.
And we go, swimming through the air with light heads to wherever we parked the van. Ed is well rested. He will drive.
And Paris says goodbye to us and we wonder what the hell just happened.
These cities have their ways. We'll be doing more of them as we go. We'll be back in Germany in May, and we're looking forward to our first gig in Norway at some point later this year. Zurich, too, next month. And Brussels.
And until then we'll be getting the album done, as we have been doing so diligently. We're in a good spot. We're doing well.
Come and see us, if you're about. Check everything out for where we are. It ain't right here.
Because, for now, I am trying to piece this all together.
Thanks, Paris, and all who helped us along the way. We'll be back.
And we'll carry an extra Euro, now that we know.
Just in case.
Because these things can happen.
Over One Euro.
Hope you enjoyed it.