After finishing up in Budapest, I spent three weeks back in the UK. I had a big plan laid out, and it was a good one: I was going to visit one of my best and oldest friends, Sam, for a holiday weekend in Brighton, along with his girlfriend and a bunch of their friends. Then I was going to spend a week visiting family in Leeds, and then I was going to head to France and find a Workaway or HelpX on a farm somewhere, and stay there for two to three months to improve my French and try to enjoy some more of the farm life that I loved so much in Australia. After that – well, I hadn’t planned any further, but I was confident something would come up along the way. Amerique du Sud, peut etre.
But hey, the best laid schemes gang oft agley. First of all, I realised that I added my Schengen days up wrong. Since Brexit, we Britons only get 90 days (three months) within a 180-day window (six months). Originally, I figured that since I left the Schengen area to travel Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia back in July, the days I spent in the Schengen in May/June should have been ticking back down, leaving me with another nice chunk of time to spend in Europe. However, I forgot one important factor: I’m a fat stupid dunce half wit bell end who can’t do anything without an explosive disaster. Since I entered the Schengen at beginning of May, my accrued days won’t start to drop off until October, and even then it’ll take months to reset them. So: spending a nice idyllic season in my favourite country is… no longer… legal.
And then another disaster struck. Sam’s partner of two years broke things off unexpectedly just days ahead of the Brighton trip. It goes without saying that this was a gigantic blow for Sam, and so I got the flight to the UK anyway and the two of us spent the weekend going out around London. Highlights included a punky night out in Camden, drinks with our pal Mike on the South Bank, and a conga line around a bar full of OAPs. After this, as Sam’s living arrangements were now up in the air, the two of us headed back home, to Leeds. Sam stayed with his parents, and I stayed with my mum and stepdad.
It was a super pleasant three weeks. The abrupt change of pace and lifestyle – from a sweaty whirlwind of bunkbeds and buses to a tranquil summer garden – was initially a little jarring, and it took me a week or so to decompress and adapt to the new pace of life. I soon got back into the flow of home life however, and took great pleasure in seeing all my family, including my dad, both sets of grandparents, my auntie, my brothers who live in Manchester and Bristol, and my little sister, Katie, who is 6 years old now and remains the jolliest, weirdest, funniest little girl I’ve ever met.
Several months earlier, perhaps June, Sam and I had booked tickets to a music festival in Spain: Cala Mijas festival. The Arctic Monkeys are bringing a new album out this year, four years since their last release, and we were determined to see them. Sziget Festival in Budapest looked promising, but it was over seven days and we’re pushing 30 now, lol, so we shopped around a bit more and found Cala Mijas: a simple 3-day affair, with Arctic Monkeys, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, and Liam Gallagher as headliners, along with Blossoms and The Chemical Brothers. Cala Mijas festival was set to take place from the 1st and 3rd of September, and would act as a nice final blowout to bring summer to a close. We were supposed to go with Sam’s ex-girlfriend and her friends, but of course that was now off the table.
Alongside Sam’s breakup and resulting flat-hunt, other big changes were afoot: my remote-work employment was coming to an end, as was Sam’s – our final days arriving at the same time; one week before the end of August. Now, I don’t know about you, but a sudden expanse of free time ahead of a music festival gets my cogs turning. I wanted a new adventure, and Sam wanted something to distract him from the breakup. My first suggestion was to travel overland to the festival over the course of a week – down through England, France and Spain. However, Sam wisely pointed out that this was a shit idea and we would spend the whole time doing nothing but riding trains.
Instead, then, I suggested we start our pre-festival adventure in a country I’ve always wanted to visit: Morocco. We could fly London to Marrakesh, then travel to Fes, up to Tangier, and finally take the ferry to Spain. From there it would be a quick couple of buses to arrive at the festival. A nice little compact adventure.
To my eternal surprise, Sam said yes. We’d never travelled together before; this was a big deal. In a giddy flash I booked it all – hostels, trains, the ferry. And then immediately I thought: bollocks. I’d jumped the gun; thought only of my own taste in travel. What if Sam hated it? What if Morocco was cruel to us? What if, in the wake up his breakup, I ended up dragging my friend through a searing hot hellscape of nutters?
OF COURSE THAT’S WHAT SODDING HAPPENED.