NOTE TO NEW READERS: It cannot have escaped your notice that this is Part 7 of a series. If you have come into my little blog for the first time at this article may I respectfully suggest that you would be best advised to go to the start of the series by following this link https://littlealfie.wordpress.com/2012/07/29 or, even better, to the very beginning of the whole thing back in February 2009. You can do that by accessing the “Archive” section somewhere down the right hand side of this page and choosing the appropriate month and year. If you choose the latter course I must warn you that I am rapidly approaching my 200th post so I hope you have some time on your hands!
Of all the people either out in Italy from the start of this Windows 7 migration to its finish, or indeed those who only appeared for a few days and then left again, I have to admit that I was the oldest – possibly by as much as 10 years. The others ranged from Helpdesk (who had his 23rd birthday while we were out there) to Engineer 2 (who alleges that he is 47).
While they all knew that I was able to do the job we were there for I think that one or two of the “young, free and single” 30-somethings wondered if my 30-plus years of married bliss might handicap me in the area of what is known as “social drinking”! Or. To put it another way, was someone going to have to carry me home as and when we went out to get completely tanked?
And, as that first horrific week of long working hours wore on, the need for some sort of alcohol-based tension release became overwhelming!
So, on Friday evening six of us (Team Leader, Network Support, Engineers 1 & 4, Apps and I) persuaded the hotel people to summon a BIG Taxi and headed off into Casteggio.
All that we knew about that town was what we had seen as we drove in and out of the factory each day – it gave the impression that if you replaced the cars and tarmac with tumbleweed and sand the sight of Clint Eastwood in a poncho wouldn’t have been out of place! Because of that we weren’t expecting much in the way of entertainment – maybe a bar or two.
It therefore came as quite a shock when the taxi dropped us off at the town square (charging us €30 for the privilege) and we saw that the place seemed to be buzzing with activity!
We warmed up with a few beers at a number of bars with outside tables down a little side street then moved on when the local mosquitoes managed to catch up with us – that wasn’t the type of “buzzing with activity” we wanted. And to our surprise we found that on the far side of the square and parallel with the main street was another street that was completely closed to traffic for the evening and full of bars, live music and families just strolling about in the comparative cool of the evening.
So we threw ourselves into this friendly sociable gathering and worked our way along these bars and it was in one of them that I discovered for the first time the very wonderful thing that is the Mojito! This is the perfect alcoholic drink for a warm summer evening and I think I had several – if you want to make one yourself here is how to do it: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/4077/mojito – try it – it will be worth it!
Delicious as they were Mojitos were a little expensive and took quite a long time to make so as we moved on I switched to more simple drinks such as Jack Daniels and Coke or Disaronno (or any other generic sort of Amaretto) and Coke.
Unfortunately, as the night wore on the bars became more and more generous with their spirit\liqueur measures and we were finding less and less mixer in the glass with each round. At our final stopping place (that we stayed at from around midnight until they closed at 2.30am) they were using a whole bottle of Amaretto for only four drinks and the same sort of proportions were occurring with the Jack Daniels!
When the shutters started going up we asked the waiter with the most English to summon a couple of Taxis to take us home! There weren’t many of these about so Apps and I grabbed the first one to arrive because we knew when to stop! Mind you he did regale the driver and me with some fairly awful Country & Western singing on the way back!
I have it on good authority that one of the remainder of the party actually passed out on the drive of the hotel and had to be carried up to his room! And they wondered if I would last the course!
Of course, when we got to our last night in Italy (the second Thursday) we had just about recovered from the previous Friday and wanted to do it all again. This time everyone went – in two of the hire cars with Project Manager (who didn’t want to drink) and Engineer 3 (who doesn’t drink) doing the driving. We had mentioned our plans to some of the friendlier office workers at the factory and a number of them agreed to come into town and join us.
We started off sitting outside the bar where we had left off in the early hours of the previous Saturday morning and where the bar staff both remembered us AND were pleased to see us again! Our factory hosts arranged plates of snacks for us (none of us had yet given any thought to eating) while we consumed a couple of beers but the arrival of these seemed also to bring about a mosquito attack that forced us into the bar itself. And it was there that I failed to notice how narrow and unstable were the chairs we were sitting in! I attempted to clap my hands on a particularly irritating mozzie that had followed me in, overbalanced and fell over sideways, chair and all!
Everyone was concerned that I might be hurt but I stood up quickly, displayed the squashed insect on my hand and announced “I got the bloody thing!” This got me a round of applause!
There, now no-one can accuse me of only relating the stupid things that other people do!
Since we couldn’t get around the insect problem our hosts suggested that we get out of town and up to a place in the nearby hills that was too high for the mosquitoes to survive. So we formed a convoy and followed them to a village that I have since discovered was called Salice Terme which did seem a little cooler. It also seemed to be where the younger, underdressed generation went for their nights out and was absolutely heaving with people having a good time!
Some of us felt that the Irish Pub that we were taken to wasn’t giving us the full flavour of Italy, wandered off and gate-crashed a party down the road with a live band by the simple expedient of saying to the bouncer “Hi, we’re English. Can we come in?” He shook hands with us all and waved us in.
After an hour or so I received a phone call from Project Manager who wanted to know where we were and to tell us that we going home so we had to stroll back to the Irish bar and rejoin our colleagues. Or most of them anyway – we were missing one person who had apparently been getting on rather well with one of the Italian office staff and had gone home with her in her car!
And that’s all you’re going to hear about that – I have been deliberately vague about names in the last few paragraphs and the unwritten rule of “What happens on Migration stays on Migration” applies here. If you were there you know the story; if not, you aren’t going to hear it from me!
We got back to the hotel somewhere around 2am – just in time to start packing for the trip home later that same day!
You will, no doubt be pleased to know that there will be one more short piece and this series will be over!