Wednesday, 9 September 2020: It’s early door here. 5.44 in the morning. I like to be up before the day begins with a cuppa freshly brewed coffee writing. My thoughts are without distraction. I can both see forward and look back with a clarity like no other time of the day.
In a world free of pandemic I would be writing this from Folkestone. Had an entire holiday planned. 4 days in London and 7 in Folkestone followed by Euro Miniatures Expo. As it is, my family is safe in the States until we get the vaccine and then we’ll think about concorsos again.
In the meantime, I’ve got plenty of planning time before Euro ’21. When I think of Euros gone-by, I very often think of the first morning after arrival. That first sunrise on the terrace of The Clifton Hotel with a cuppa. I am, if nothing else, extraordinarily-organised. Obssesive-Compulsive? Never mind.
When I first attended Euro in 2003 I had no idea what was in store for me. I arrived to Folkestone on the Friday morning, and realised in short order my visit was too breif. I wanted more time with my mates and more time to know Folkestone. By 2006 I was arriving on Thursday and by ’08 Wednesday. Since 2008 I’ve usually arrived on a Wednesday afternoon. So, Thursday mornings I’d be up bright and early getting my day on.
Although the hotel provides coffee service in the room, and I indulge in it, it’s instant coffee. There are electric kettles you fill with water in the room, and when plugged in they boil water in no time at all. Mix in the instant coffee, powdered milk and there you are. It’s something resembling coffee. Whilst better than nothing, it’s not very good either.
Of a morning, I sneak quietly into the bathroom with my iPhone
and read the morning news and sip my ersatz cafe whilst Daiana slumbers. It’s a simple moment, but the first morning in the room is quite wonderful. A time of reflection. A soak in the huge bathtub, a shave whilst playing utterly British New Wave on my iPhone.The Cure. The Smiths. Level 42.
After the crisis of ’08 and after a horrible relationship ended in 2012 I attended Euro again. I missed ’09 & ’11 and as a single man once more I was able to fully enjoy Euro with the chaps. It was at Euro ’12 I really began to cherish each and every moment. A connection to Euros before the Crisis – and felt hope again for my future.
At Euro ’12 I was in the room I had shared with an ex in 2010. Now so much more happy. The scent of the room. So much like Nana’s in Southwick. The creaking of the floors on the landing outside the bedroom door. The swinging of the door on its own between the bedroom and the hall to the bathroom. The dated furniture. The view to the green behind the hotel. All so familiar.
There is something for me incredible about that first morning’s coffee on the terrace out front of the hotel. Sitting in the same table at the corner of The Leas and Clifton Terrace watching the traders doing their move in for ‘The Big Show.’
A nice waiter chap with ginger hair—I think he was Polish—would bring a silver tray with a pot of coffee and a cup. Later I would begin to ask for two cups as always someone I knew would happen by who fancied a coffee. In the early days – when I still smoked – I’d fire up a fag and just sit enjoying the morning as it evolved before me. These were delightful moments. The sun coming up over an English Channel so familiar to me from my childhood.
Sitting at the table out front of The Clifton is my time of reflection and the excitement bubbling over, the wait for that first day of Euro-Militaire upon me.
In the photograph to the right are my Spanish friends Pere Pla
and Javier Soler. This was Pere Pla’s umpteenth visit to Euro, but Javier Soler’s first and only in 2013. Here you can see the coffee service I always requested and the table I loved to sit at.
I found this photo in my Euro archives. It’s the same table with Mike Rinaldi and Pat Stansal but at Euro ’08, five years before the photograph above. As is typical of England, not much changes.
My Euro experience is unique, I think. Most of the guys it was about a medal and a pint with their mates. Although I enjoy both at Euro, the highlight for me is more personal. It’s a connection to my past. And to my childhood. For most of the other guys who are either not British, or are from elsewhere in England, Folkestone is just another seaside town they forgot to shut down.
Whilst COVID-19 got the better of us in 2020, there are better days ahead. There will always be Folkestone and The Clifton. And I hope Euro.