Friday 10th September 1999
|Martin, in Munich: "The alarm clock goes off at 7.45am
and I staggered downstairs for some breakfast. Just before 9am it is rucksack on, bills
paid and out the door, with the hand luggage clanking from all the bottles and cans raided
from the (free) mini-bar. A gold membership card acquired in a previous incarnation comes
in damn handy at times . . .
Arrival at Munich railway station, and onto the train bound for Bologna. Only seven hours to go - thank God for that extra battery for the laptop.
The train leaves on time, and we head through southern Bavaria and into first Austria and then Switzerland. A few people get on, a few people get off, nothing out of the ordinary, really. However, we then hit the Italian border and all hell breaks loose. Suddenly there are millions of dark-haired, olive-skinned people each with a phenomenal quantity of luggage all trying to cram themselves on the train. Overhead luggage racks are rearranged time and again in order to try to use up every last square inch of space, but still the gangways are completely blocked with bags three-deep.
The train makes its way southwards through some spectacular countryside. Eventually, Bologna is announced, and the struggle is on to get through the sea of bags. That done, everything gets a lot easier, and less than half an hour later a No.21 bus has deposited me outside the swimming pool."
Phil, back in England: "I'm like a ten year old kid going off to summer camp for the first time....sooo exciting.. Have to suffer going into work till about 3 in the afternoon. My boss hasn't been in the office for most of the last two weeks and my motivation is already waning big time, but today I can't be bothered to do anything at all. By 2 o'clock I give up, grab my bags and head for the airport.
Ruth and Liz had arranged to meet in the pub at lunchtime, despite the flight not being until 6 o'clock! By the time I get there, Liz is running around trying to sort out the tickets as the travel agents have screwed up big time. Some of the flights are not booked, some are booked but wrong and a few are right. Arghhhh... But then we're not aware of this, 'cos we are stacking up the beers in the bar. Poor Liz. Relatively ignorant of her woes we, that is - Mark/Liz, Marion/Doug, Gilly, Chris (youngish nutter one - not old crazee one or really young one), Eryl/Helen, Peter, Ruth, Ed, Rob, Colin and Keith Waterhouse, Carron (Keith's girlfriend) et moi all check in and head to the departure lounge. One or two of the crew get held up at the hand baggage scanning, and a suspicious looking latex glove is pulled out and displayed around the security staff. Muffled giggles and some seriously grotesque looks and all is returned and on we go.
Eryl went off to buy a mini frisbee, which we chuck around the airport, all the way to the departure lounge and is still airborne once we're seated on the plane. Not surprisingly we're stuffed into the very back. Okay, all done....settled....let's go....errrr, wait a minute....where's Liz??? After checking in, she'd returned to sort out the return flight screw-up. She's managed to do most of it, but it looks like Rob's going to be emigrating, as they're not sending him home..."
Martin, back in Italy: "There were a number of familiar faces at the pool, Martin played for Bologna 2 against Bologna 1, and although the first team won, it was a hard grind for them. A portent of things to come . . .
Eight o'clock came and the session came to a halt. Leone needed to do some more last-minute organisation, and then it was off to the airport in convoy to meet the main travelling party."
Phil: "Touchdown....we're in Italy!!! Excitement takes over, and as we file through the passport check, Eryl and Ed head off for the arrival lounge.....without waiting to collect their luggage... I yell across the hall, just as the automatic doors open to release Eryl to the world beyond. Ohhh, close call.
A silver Lamborghini awaits us in the arrival lounge. Hey, these guys know how to entertain us. Oh, actually this one's just on display. A mini bus and a very Celtic looking, flaming red haired Italian called Fredrico is our chauffeur for the trip to the campsite. Faced with the option of camping or bungalow, I am adamant that I'll be in a bed in the bungalow, and I don't care who is put out..... The campsite itself is in the middle of a an industrial estate on the outskirts of town. There didn't seem to be much residential property around, so apart from the steady stream of traffic hammering along the highway out front, and the odd one or two hookers thumbing down a lift (in more ways than one, hee hee), the place is DEAD!!
Oh we're so hungry and thirsty. It's about 23:00 (having lost an hour coming over) and time is ticking on. Leone, the tourney organiser, points the direction to the nearest bar. Out front, and then right... Peter, Chris and Doug head off into the distance. Martin, Ruth, Eryl, Helen and myself follow, but after about 100 yards, Martin takes us down a sidestreet. He knows the way.....apparently ;-). We're walking down an alley lined with warehouse loading bays and it is getting really dodgy. At the end, the street breaks onto wasteland, but some neon lights from a restaurant sign shine a few hundred yards away. Say, why don't we get out a big sign which says "MUG ME"? In Italian, of course. All that effort, but by the time we get there, all we get to see are the staff sitting down to a late night espresso.
Back at the campsite, some of the others have also started to settle down and are playing cards. The atmosphere is very quiet and sombre. Not the usual wild party animals we were expecting. I'm not ready to hit the sack (it's only midnight). Martin tags along and we head off the other direction. Can you believe it....about 500 yards behind a grove of trees, there's a cafe/bar and it's jumping. This is THE place to be. There's old blokes out back playing some odd pool table based game where they don't have cues, but flick the ball with their fingers.....you what?? Out front, a bunch of young Italian stallions trying to chat up the local totty. I accidentally left my wallet back at the campsite, so Martin gets the beers in. A quick short beer that doesn't last long, and then we go for a couple of litre jugs. These things take both hands to lift. The owner seems quite pleased with the extra business and starts bringing food (FREE). It's tapas-type stuff, so we ain't complaining. Looks like we've started a trend also, as all the Italians are now getting jugs too... Haa Haa. They even come over and without speaking a word, point at ours, then theirs, then grin extensively. The eyelids are starting to go and we head back to camp.
Back at the campsite (at 0200 hours) and I'm desperate to go to sleep. Chris however has returned from a very unsuccessful trip in the other direction and, hearing about the bar, drags Martin back there until 0400!!!"