One of the lighter things that we discussed at the ludicrously late Monday night\Tuesday morning dinner in the hotel following our 15 hour working day was “How the hell are we going to get any time in the hotel’s gorgeous swimming pool if it’s going to be dark when we get back from work each day?”
This was a trifle pessimistic given that there was still daylight at 9pm in northern Italy but it reflects the air of despondency that hung over us that night. And then someone had the bright idea that we should all get up at 6am and have a dip before breakfast!
So we did!
Having got to bed at around 2am, by 6.15 on Tuesday morning I was, along with most of my colleagues, jumping into the pool for a few brisk lengths before dashing back to our rooms for a shower and then down for breakfast at 7.15.
The Tuesday working day was also too long to allow an evening swim but we had all enjoyed the Tuesday morning dip so much that we did it again on Wednesday and, indeed, for the rest of the week. In fact writing this at a distance of 14 days from that first week I don’t now remember if we ever managed to get an evening swim. Perhaps we did but I do know that those morning ones were the best start to the day that we could have wished for.
Of course, not everyone was always completely wide awake when they entered the water!
I think it was on the Wednesday morning that my colleague designated Engineer 4 in my personal listing noticed that shortly after he got into the pool a thin, soggy piece of cardboard floated up under his nose. He had left his cigarettes in the pocket of his swimming trunks and the packet and its contents had dissolved!
I don’t know what happened to the tobacco from them but the rest of us (not wanting to be banned from using the pool by the hotel management) became extremely adept at either picking up filter tips with our toes or “pearl diving” for them! He didn’t do THAT again!
And then came Saturday and because of our hard work in playing “catch up” we had two days to ourselves and no real inclination to go anywhere but the hotel.
The senior person from the Project office in Peterborough had left us on Friday and his place was immediately taken by the senior Applications Packager whose services we might still have needed to get back on track.
This person (who I shall call Apps) had the distinction of being slightly larger in girth and weight even than I and had a style all of his own when it came to getting into the pool. He would walk along the edge then turn sharply and carry on walking straight out onto the water. There would follow an enormous splash and we would assure him that one day the miracle would happen and he would carry on walking!
Right after breakfast we all gathered with sunglasses, towel, suntan lotion, water and anything else one might need for a day by the pool in scorching hot sunshine and occupied a number of sunbeds. We then quite simply soaked up the sun all day with frequent leaps, dives or “bombs” into the pool to cool off.
It was bliss and just to cap it off I managed to get tanned without getting seriously burned in the process!
We did much the same on Sunday although we did take a brief trip into town just by way of a change first.
With our second week, evening working was no longer necessary and we were able to have a swim for an hour or so before dinner each day. What with that and the fact that the weekend had satisfied our desires for cool water, the 6am dips seemed neither necessary nor useful and we all had an extra hour in bed instead.
Mind you, by the final Friday it was starting to dawn on some of us that there would be neither pools nor hot weather at home and it suddenly became desirable to immerse ourselves one last time.
The part of the crew returning to Manchester missed out here – their flight left around lunchtime so they went from the hotel to the factory and then almost immediately off to Milan. The Luton crew, however, did not fly until about 9pm so had kept a room at the hotel for our luggage. We were released from the factory at about 2 pm and by 3pm Engineer 1 and I were gently floating about in an otherwise deserted pool. We dried off in the sun, jumped in again and dried off again before going to get changed for the flight home.
Even though other colleagues (who weren’t there) and my own family may sometimes be heard to use the word “holiday” about the trip as a whole that last dip was really the perfect end to a very arduous working fortnight.