OK, it’s been a while since I’ve updated this… I promise you, it’s not all my fault!! I did attempt a journal entry in Stansted Airport, however, the rank little software that they use on their internet kiosks doesn’t like the live software at all… so no update at that point. Sorry.
So… the past few weeks, like the few before, have been a little on the busy side.
In early October, I travelled back to Europe, for the last time on my special dispensation (i.e. to watch football on the company)… Virgin Atlantic again, although this time, their in flight entertainment was shoddily on loop… I mean, this is the 21st Century… looped entertainment?! So in the end, I managed to watch only one movie, some looped episodes of Only Fools & Horses, and in the end, I spent half the flight doing Sudoko and chatting to the air hostesses at the wee bar-like thing which they have in the business cabin on VA flights.
Anyways, upon landing I got my first hire car of the trip… and off to Tonbridge I go. A quick catch up with Mr & Mrs A Corrish, and in to bed for a 0420GMT start… not a hassle any more as that is about 10 minutes earlier than I get up when I’m BAU (business as usual) in India!! Yes, the world really is a wicked place… why can’t they all just operate GMT!?! So, up early, to discover it was a single degree celius!! Looks like winter is about to bite the UK!! And off to Slovenia… via Croatia. We were catching a flight from Stansted to Pula, which has the biggest Roman Ampitheatre outside of Italy (or so I’m telling everyone, you can judge for yourself when I upload pictures later). A quaint wee Croat town, with a bit of history, some nice, typical, narrow streets & squares… and possibily the largest imaginable ship building site in the middle of the bay to totally destroy the look, if not the appeal of the place.
But as this was not our destination, having got some pictures of the biggest Roman Ampitheatre outside of Italy, we headed for the station for our train journey to Ljubljana. Three legs requried… Pula to Buzet, Buzet to Davica, Davica to Ljubljana. All told, about seven hours of travel. Leg one, was on a tiny, initially two carriaged train. I say initially, because when we arrived at Buzet, we discovered that the other carriage was gone… anyways, like a good London bus journey, it was also fashioned by a stop every couple of miles… or in some cases, yards!! Litterally, most gaps in the hedge were serviced by Croatia Railways’ finest.
Buzet itself, turned out to be another tiny stop… but it was actually a border stop, so there we were, our now reduced carriaged train, and only six individuals waiting on the next train… three of which are border control. It was a touch surreal… and for a moment, just a moment, I thought I heard Banjos in the distance… hehe. Actually, we did spot one guy, using a parachute, cross the border, no doubt illegally, and I’m sure he’s being incarcerated somewhere appropriately now.
The rest of the journey, actually got quieter… the trains better, and the views, stunning. Slovenia is a beautiful country, with mountains & rivers, valleys & lakes. It’s almost as nice as Fermanagh when the sun shines!!
On arrival, we headed for the hostel, and met Sasa (pictured) who was our city advisor for the next couple of days. She is a student in Ljubljana, although not from the city, and travels home regularly to attend family vintages – wine making weekends by the sounds of it. Anyways, time for some local food and off to the restaurant we went… it was 2000EST, we were eating some fantastic steak, outside, with the Castle on the hill in view… bluntly, it was bliss.
The following day, still suffering a bit of IST, in EST, I was awake at 0600 local time, and decided to surf the net for a while… and there, as ever, was Sasa. For the next couple of hours we hashed about anything & everything about Slovenia. Armed with info, Alex & I took to the streets, the markets and the castle. After this, we took a 3K walk out to watch a Supporters match which was taking place that day. In what can only be described as the most professional set up I’ve ever seen for a supporters match (including the one in Finland where the local press turned up & yours truly gave an interview) we managed a battling 1-1 draw.
And so to Match Day. Up, at a reasonable time… 0630 EST, this time, and chatting to Sasa’s friend this time, as Sasa was off for the Vintage, the morning went by, before we caught the train to Maribor – a small town in Eastern Slovenia. Again, the journey was beautiful, although, somewhat spoilt by two NI supporters who were more concerned about how they would find out if Ulster had won some rugby game somewhere… anyways… we arrived in Maribor safely enough.
Now, I had arranged previously to this, to do an interview with the BBCNI Online team about my journey to see wee Norn Iron. So we met up and did the interview (can be seen here when the video clip online is working, which it hasn’t been for a few days) with the guys… all a bit of fun!! After this, and some cracking pizza, we met up with Da, Lavelle & Andrew, enjoying the banter and the weather – which was fanastic. Alex & I then decided to do a quick once around the city (really, it doesn’t take that long) as well as spotting the oldest vine in the world (alledgedly) and partaking of perhaps the biggest burger I’ve ever wittnessed, outside the football ground.
Then, after all this, there was a matter of a football match to play. The atmosphere in the small, but compact 12,000 seater stadium was superb. We were talking after the game that perhaps, it was the best away atmosphere we’ve wittnessed in years. Poland in 2005 was good, Denmark & Sweden weren’t bad, but this was superb. Anyways, our little 1,200 contingent, were in fine fettle also, so the noise throughout was immense. The game itself was pretty good fayre, although in the end Slovenia ended up winners following a couple of typical lack-of-concentration goals which NI seem to make a speciality.
As befitting of the occasion, we headed out for dinner, and the normal post mortem began… to be honest, these are fast turning out to be the footballing highlight of NI away matches at present. The banter, in picking apart our manager’s lack of tactical nous, is amazing. We also had a Slovene gentleman walk up to us & give us 20 Euros for drinks as a thank you for visiting his city so peaceably. Truely, it’s easy to be gracious in victory!! But a lovely thought, nonetheless.
And so back to the UK the following day. To be honest, the journey home, was pretty uneventful, with perhaps the steak stew in Ljubljana airport being the highlight. Alex, bless him, was unable to fall asleep & was doomed to 2 hours of listening to the South Belfast NISC… I missed it, I was fast asleep. Oh well. Having got Alex home safely, I was heading to Newport in my Peugot 208 Sport… it’s fair to say, she could shift. A couple of uneventuful days later, I was on a plane to NI to catch up with Mark & Dad, and also to see NI play San Marino in Belfast.
We won. Four, let me repeat that, FOUR, nil. I don’t remember seeing NI win by four clear goals ever, or in fact NI scoring more than four (although Mark is convinced I saw us beat Austria 5-3 when I was a kid… I don’t remember it at all). After the game, it was downtown to catch up with Cat over a coffee & put the world to rights. Always good fun. She got to meet royalty the next day, but I’m sure, in her heart of hearts, she’ll say it was more fun meeting me… hehe.
And so back to England the next day… this time, Scunthrope!! I’d never been in this part of England before – a new Airport in the East Midlands Airport, and into the Scunthorpe office… where it has to be said, they were ace. In fact, they made their Gloucester counterparts look like muppets… fair play & big up the Scunthorpe Mafia!! Another couple of days there, and back to Heathrow for the flight home, but before I caught that, I caught up with Sripriya, who lives beside the airport. Sri joined the bank at the same time I did, and is perhaps one of the sweetest ladies you’ll ever meet… shockingly guillible on the pranks, but great fun.
And that was another tour of Europe.
My flight back was uneventful… again, looped in flight entertainment… so I put the head down for 5 hours and kipped well. And so back to India… I’ll catch up with the highlights of that another time… time for breakfast!!