Berlin to Dublin – after the party, it’s the afterparty

The two-day drive from Berlin to Dublin last week gave us an intense overview of the differences in motorway services across the continent.

The German ones are pretty consistent, though don’t really do breakfast. Easy to rob condiments and butter that you shouldn’t have to pay for and feel like you’re sticking it to the man a little. Good for emergency, though shit quality, trucker-wear – jocks and t-shirts and the like. The Belgian ones are often independent one-off truck stops, which are great on paper but really are grease-fests selling various battered and deep fried lips&arsehole meat products. Often with a hard looking she-pirate at the helm. (We only stopped at one, which of course gives us licence to tar them all…)

The Dutch ones seem to be a franchise, everything overpriced but nicely faced-off. And those fucking coffee machines with the small brown plastic cups… We tried to make the French “just get some bread and ham and cheese” thing happen by shopping in the services there, which was a bit half arsed – standing by a motorway in the stink of petrochemicals making sangwiches is not a good look. And the English ones – well, the sight of a Ginsters pasty has me all sentimental at this stage, and a lot of them have M&S food now which is a good thing. Dominic had flown home so no time to feed his compulsion to buy shit in these places like a fold-up chair, 50-piece tool kit, or USB numerical keypad…

We were however visited by no less than three roadside-assistant men in hi-vis jackets at the Toddington Services (Southbound) on the M1. The van had developed a condition known as “limping”, meaning any hills were a real struggle and we feared being stuck somewhere not nice. They couldn’t sort it and we limped on to Holyhead. Diversions through the last leg of the journey meant that “20 minutes left” on the GPS turned into an hour and a half and had us following a convoy of 40-foot trucks through the windy Welsh countryside. We were for a while behind a Kingspan truck whose frame had collapsed, and from which a strap had come loose, swinging a metal buckle around, into the path of oncoming traffic. Mad bastard.