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Si Si Je Suis Un Scally

by Dave Richards

Summer 1982. Me (aged 16 going on 17) and two other lads (aged 18. One tent. One giant "2 Para" aluminium frame rucksack each. One Inter-Rail ticket each, destination St Raphael, South of France for a fortnight camping in Antibes. I dunno why we were going to Antibes, I think one of the other two had been before. Don't remember much about getting there apart from being on the sleeper train from Paris with loads of French schoolys who didn't wanna know us.

Got to St Raphael and got a bus to Antibes. Every single campsite was full. Vague recollections of yomping inland along country lanes in 120 degree heat with this enormous rucksack chafing me back. Pure 'Nam. Finally got to a site with a single tent spec available, right by the communal showers/bogs. Didn't care at this point. We knew absolutely fuck all about camping. Just getting the tent up showed how little we knew - we were there malleting the shit out the steel tent pegs and they were just bending and snapping in half against the rock hard ground instead of going in. We did about ten of them in beyond repair until some other camper showed us the ancient art of pouring a bit of water on the ground to soften it up before insertion. Science. And no pegs left for the fly sheet. The little cooking stove thing got lashed after about two minutes of not lighting and from then on I lived on French bread and Orangina.

Antibes was last. Cack boozers, cack beach, cack people, cack weather, cack everything. I hated it. The pebble beach was infested with fat British biffs who abused the "lucky-lucky men" (catchphrase - "ASDA Price". God help them), and the big caravan site Nite Spot was a whopperfest. The only interesting thing that happened was after about a week when a load of rough arse older Huyton heads turned up one night. They were following Liverpool pre-season and were on a stopover before going to Switzer the next day. They hated every other English person in the immediate vicinity, geg-ins were ruthlessly dismissed, complete zero tolerance on all non-scousers. I was impressed and terrified. The next day (Saturday) we decided we would jib Antibes and go to Switzerland for the game as well. Tent packed up that night, we got to the station early hours to find there were no trains to Switzerland or anywhere else as it was a Sunday. Gutted. I couldn't face another night in Antibes, so we decided for no reason to go to St Tropez cos someone had said there was a big campsite at nearby Port Grimaud.

On the virtually empty bus to St Trop we noticed three longhairs at the back - real hippies man, two dudes and a chick. They were Yanks and they had a decent sized Sanyo tapedeck with Led Zep blasting out. Things were looking up. They got off the bus and got on the ferry with us across the bay to Port Grimaud, a sort of jarg mini-Venice that faces St Trop. We trogged along past loads of caravan sites until we got to a campsite called Prairies de la Mer, which was massive and we pitched up there.

Prairies de la Mer ("Fields by the Sea" !) was sound. We got the tent up no problem - experts now. The hippies were by us too so we got Hendrix, the Doors, Zeppelin etc blasting out all the time. I used to watch dumbstruck as they did in a huge bong in front of the tent. They were ace at the frisbee as well. The campsite was multinational, lots of Italian bikers on Moto Guzzi tourers were there - not outlaw bikers but smooth scooter boy types. There were hardly any Brits at all - they were all in the caravans, and we got loads of weird looks as we bounced out for our first night in button down shirts with the top button done, sky blue jumbo cords and Adidas Tom Okker, straight to the arcade - I used to bladder "Pheonix" in there - good job they never had "Caterpillar" or I would never have come home. We found out that a mile down the road was a big disco in a old warehouse so that was where we were going. We got there and queued to get in, and the bouncer goes "Ten francs each lads" - fucking hell, another scouser. Turned out a load of fellas from Liverpool were running this disco so in we went, buck-shee. Straight onto "Galaxians" in the foyer for half the night. The big tunes then were ABC's "Poison Arrow", loads of Duran Spandau Visage type shite that was madly popular with the English lads in "pleated pegs", Irene Cara's "Fame" - two beauts used to take over the dancefloor every night when that came on, "Fame" T-Shirts, all the J-Lo moves, the lot - the night one of them tripped and went on his arse was comedy gold. The DJ would throw on the odd golden oldie like "Jumping Jack Flash" and "Paperback Writer" that we used to buzz off. Don't think any of us got a grip of a bird the whole time we were there though, we were just too ahead of our time for the little Home Counties rips from the caravan sites. Plus we stunk. And we were skint.

Time to go home meant getting a train to Marseilles to get up to Paris for the boat train. We had missed Marseilles first time round cos the train went straight through to St Raphael. What an eye-opener the Marseilles-Paris train was. It took eight hours and I never moved from me seat the whole time. I was terrified. The train was like the Midnight Express jail - evil looking French Arabs, goats wandering up and down the train, prayer mats and constant wailing, weird looks off everyone - it was like they'd never seen an infidel with a mushroom head before or something. We got in with two other English lads, a Yorky who had been climbing the Alps and kept his icepick under his seat for the whole journey, and a Cockney lad who had a Sony Walkman, the first time one I'd ever seen one. He let us have a go of it and all he had on it was a Yazoo tape. Disaster - Yazoo or carry on listening to Led Bedouin ? To my eternal shame, I stuck with Yazoo. We reached Gar Du Sud, then the Metro to Gar Du Nord, and the boat trains had all gone so we got the last train out to Amiens where we kipped on the station floor before getting the boat train and ferry back to Blighty and the coach home for a full English brekky and about ten baths.

I didn't really enjoy the holiday, but I learned some important lessons - Led Zep sounded better on blow, don't fuck with the Huyton Baddies (for it was them), being a Pheonix Meister gets you zero minge, Southerners got their clobber out of the adverts at the back of the NME, don't even think about taking the piss in Marseilles, and camping is shit.




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