I woke up this morning and not for the first time this week, I thought to myself ... you lucky so and so Gilham. On looking out of the window this particular morning, the stunning scenery was embellished with a near clear blue sky and sunshine blazing down. I already knew that this would be another special day, but that was the icing on the yet to be baked cake.
Breakfast was not obligatory this morning as for most it was a morning of relaxation before an early lunch, followed by a coach transfer to a team bonding exercise.
But as normal Henrik was one of the first down for breakfast at 8am with his new room mate Pontus in tow. For following breakfast, Pontus, together with some of the coaching staff, went to the Training Ground for a 90 minute work out.
At 11.30 the group were ready to board the coach to an unknown location, where everybody would take part in a rafting trip down the river. Now for those of you who followed my pre-season blogs 12 months ago - and in fact a year to the day - you would understand why such an experience filled me with dread. For on this very day in 2018, I was left stranded alongside a bridge in Austria as the group and their kayaking/rafting instructors, paddled away in to the distance. Three and a half hours later I was located and returned to the hotel. So you can imagine my concern as the memories came flooding back. It you must know, the bridge and I still keep in touch!
But this is 2019 and everything is rosy, and as a bonus the sky was pretty much cloudless with the sun blazing down. The journey took just under two hours to a quiet spot alongside the River Lech in a place called Brennbichl, which is the other side of Innsbruck. The Lech is a tributary of the River Danube, but instead of being blue (as per the Austrian Johann Strauss II’s classic Waltz) it was a slivery white colour emanating from the melting glaciers from the surrounding mountains. Oh and by the way, from the shrieks as the players and staff stepped in to the river it was obviously VERY cold!
Once they had put on their wet suits, life jackets, protective helmets and special shoes, and received all the necessary instructions and safety precautions they were off carrying their rafts down to the waters edge.
With 10/12 people per raft, including one instructor for safety’s sake, they were then off down stream into the fast flowing water. Fortunately this time the coach driver waited for me and we set off back in the direction of Innsbruck where we would meet up with the rafts and whoever remained in them. As it happened, like Brian Hanrahan when he reported on The Falklands War in 1982, “I counted them all out and I counted them all back”.
After a chance for everyone to have a shower, it was time to settle down for a barbeque. It also seemed the obvious choice with the Austrian Alps as a backdrop, to pay homage to “The Sound of Music” by inviting Ethan Pinnock and Christian Norgaard to entertain us.
Ethan was first up and gave us his version of Bobby Valentino’s debut single “Slow Down”. Not quite up there with Julie Andrews but the backdrop was most certainly on a par.
Then it was Christian’s chance to shine and he attempted to do so with Charlie Drake’s “Kiki Do You Love Me” which presumably was a reference to his admiration for the 70s songstress Kiki Dee.
It was then back to the Hotel with snacks for anyone who wanted them whilst I had the privilege of meeting our latest acquisition, Mathias Jensen. Again, as with Pontus the previous afternoon, I considered myself, as first and foremost a Bees fan, absolutely honoured to be one of the first point of contacts out here in Austria, to meet and greet someone who will be playing a major part in my life and those of thousands of other Bees fans.
I know I’ve said it before, but I’m going to say it again - I really am living the dream.