This week I’ve been making videos for a band I used to go on tour with until a few years ago. We used to head off to northern Italy most years for a week or 2, playing gigs to a few thousand Italians in Bologna, Parma and other towns that we Brits mainly know because of the specific type of food we eat that supposedly came from there*. The band plays Welsh folk rock, is called Here Be Dragons and is run by my mate Mike.
When Here Be Dragons go on tour, Mike (being Welsh) always brings this little foam filled rugby ball along to chuck around, it works as a combined team building exercise and time filler whilst waiting for things to happen, which is, apart from sitting in a van, mostly what one does on tour. You wait for venues to open, wait for promoters to arrive, wait for sound engineers to turn up, wait for sound checks to start, wait for audiences to come, wait to be given keys for the accommodation, wait for taxis, wait for planes…
Once upon the end of a tour, having unusually had a decent nights sleep and not had to catch the plane at an hour in the low single digits, we were all packed and hanging around outside the hotel for the van to pick us up and take us to the airport. Out came the foam filled rugby ball. Thus we had it in hand as we entered the departure lounge.
We were gently chucking it around while we waited for our luggage to be checked in, as we queued to have our passports looked at, being silly, laughing, getting looks. The instrument cases, going in the cabin to avoid being destroyed by the baggage handlers, gave away our status as musicians so people accepted our playfulness. Big kids.
After all the usual walking down corridors, getting on and off escalators and travelators, we were directed in to a big glass room with plastic airport seating along the sides and a back to back row down the middle. Around a hundred people of various nationalities all waiting together for our winged metal tube to arrive. The band waited as we had been waiting for the last two weeks: we threw the ball back and forth.
Then the plane was delayed. Everyone was getting bored. Except us. We were getting more adventurous and spreading out, moving further away from each other as we got more confident of our aim.
It started with the occasional missed catch, when the ball would roll gently to some stranger’s feet and they would pick it up and throw it back to the big kids… a couple of throws later one of us would pass it to them deliberately. Passengers losing interest in their books or phones watched the fun going on, and if any of them caught our eye we would lob it to them too.
Language, culture and age barriers all melted away like morning mist. Soon they weren’t just throwing back to us anymore, they were looking out for anyone who might be a willing recipient, bringing other people they had never met or spoken to in to the game. Then that became the thing to do and it was obvious that throwers were trying to find a pass receiver who had not taken part previously, hunting for a hopeful face on the far side of the room. Soon, I am fairly sure, all but one person had caught and chucked the ball at least once… All but one man sitting in the central block who was, almost pointedly, reading his pink Financial Times, held high in front of his face. The ball was passed to a young lad sitting nearly opposite. The lad looked around and realised what I have just told you. The whole room seemed to hold it’s breath as he took aim and launched the ball directly in to the paper.
Thankfully, paper man found the incident amusing and we all laughed, able to breathe again. Maybe it was his lad, though I’m not at all certain. Our jet finally arrived, an hour and a half late, but unusually after such a delay, everyone boarded with a smile.
…here’s to living happily ever after, until the next adventure.
* A sauce that goes on pasta and thinly sliced pig respectively, in case you were wondering