A hitch-hiker had murdered a motorist somewhere along this stretch of road so the chances of two rod-toting, long-haired 20 year old males getting a lift to the next town – let alone Cannes – were slim to say the least. For days on end, Steve and I tramped the coast road from the Spanish border at Bezier, Karrimors on backs and thumbs extended to the thousands of cautious motorists who sailed on by.
Far worse than this blister-inducing, back-breaking dilemma was our lack of cigarette papers. At that time everybody, it seemed, was a smoker and roll-ups were an essential part of being a 70s budget-traveller. The tobacco was no problem. In Barcelona, Steve had spent his last quid on a huge pack of floor-sweepings – coarse enough to actually puncture the paper as it was rolled.
In searing Mediterranean heat we walked up to 25 miles per day sustained by benevolent melon vendors and the odd boulangerie – but with nothing to puff on. At last a short parade of shops came into view, one of which suggested we try a Gauloise. I left my pal, close to tears with physical exhaustion, to sit on his pack while I went in for the papers. My addict’s eyes locked-on to a display of Rizla-style double-packs and very soon I was waving jubilantly to the shattered Steve, there, on the other side of the road. His joie de vivre returned and we sought a shaded place to rest and to savour the delights of inhaling carcinogens.
These French fag-papers were much wider than those back in Blighty, Steve observed, but I told him to be grateful and to get on with it. Soon we were laid out in the shade of a leafy bough, at peace with the world and buzzing with the rush of nicotine. On my third or fourth drag I noticed that I was now holding a trumpet-like affair, an unfurled fag which I re-licked in situ to prevent its complete disintegration. Steve was having the same problem, prompting not a little profanity and much criticism of shoddy French manufacturing. Our cigarettes were duly finished by lightly gripping their length – as if playing a tiny flute. We persevered with this method for the following 48 hours, each smoke involving bad language, extensive rolling and the deployment of two thumbs and four fingers.
It was on the second night of our enforced trek to the Riviera that we met a pair of fellow unfortunates and stopped to share our woes. Eventually the girl, French, took from her pocket a pack of tobacco and asked if we had any papers. Did we have papers? Yeah, we had papers alright but only these crappy foreign ones, I explained. She was welcome to a wodge but they didn’t have any ‘sticky’, bloody things!
She switched on her headlamp to study the pack and quickly informed us they weren’t supposed to be sticky – “eet can be a problem trying to make cigarettes wiz contact lens cleaners”