They were all smashed when I met them on the platform at 05:30 am. Minnie, A-Rod, Dré and Darbs; the entire Wing Command. I, the sensible one, had been able to get a few hours kip. They instead got off the train the evening before, headed straight to a nightclub put their rucksacks and travel cases into the cloak room, stayed up all night and then rocked up at St Pancras. I realised then what kind of holiday this was to be.
The entire team slept most of the 6 hour TGV journey down to Nice. The only interruption was Minnie transferring his stomach contents to his jeans. The Brits were definitely abroad.
We checked into the Villa Saint Exupéry Beach hostel in the evening. Our first night was fairly restrained. We had some pizza and got our bearings by visiting a few pubs and bars. The vibe was Nice.
The hostel’s infinite breakfast was a great way to set us up for the day ahead. Dré had spoken to one of the hostel workers about the best beach to visit. Villefranche was sandier than Nice and only 20 minutes stroll away. Worth a visit then…
An hour and a half march later we had begun to question Dré’s judgement as to what determined a 20 minute walk. “Yeah, I think the guy meant it was a 20 minute walk to the bus that would take us there…” Nice one Dré. When we did finally get to Villefrance, Dré was busting for a potty break. We duly waited while he went off for relief. When he returned, he was at a leisurely stroll, licking an ice cream. This did nothing to alleviate the annoyance of his 2 hour unguided walking tour. Nice one Dré. Never the less, we enjoyed the day down on the beach frollicking in the sea and definitely not perving on all the bikini clad girls. We decided to get the train back to Nice. It took 4 minutes. Nice one Dré.
Still, the evening beckoned. The hostel had an ample social area with sofas, chairs and tables. Johnny Foreigner was sat around watching Cool Runnings on the TV whilst a middle aged American gentlemen played jazz on the piano in the corner. Someone needed to get this party started. That someone was us. We installed ourselves on the central table. The hostel had a Happy Hour 6-7pm with 1 Euro cans of beer. Excellent. Pretty quickly the table was awash with our empties and soon to bes. We bust out the beer pong equipment and the SOL Top Trumps. The gravitational pull of plastic cups and ping pong balls is incredible. Extra chairs and tables were dragged in to accommodate all the Aussies, Swedes, Americans and other flavours all eager to get involved.
The drink flowed. Beer pong developed into flip cup. People who had only just met were now discussing tactics and moving experienced players to prime roles in the teams. Finally, just to underline our dedication to providing the fun, Minnie took to the piano and began hammering out Journey and Bon Jovi to the delight of all. (My requests for Hanson were less celebrated).
At some point the Austrians attempted a coup of the flip cup table. Before any plastic cups were annexed, Darbs and myself split off from Wing Command and made it into Nice town. Sadly though, I had forgotten to put Darbs down for his mid afternoon nap. Within moments the bar induced narcolepsy kicked in and I was left with an 11 stone door stop.
We headed home.
We went to Nice beach and played with a ball. It was quite stoney.
Not wishing to deviate from an effective plan, that evening we hit the main table again. Dinner became beers, beers became individual beer pong, that became beer pong proper and before you knew it, we where in the middle of International Flip Cup once again. When we could no longer ignore the complaints about noise from the hostel management we moved the whole party down to the beach. A few members of Wing Command took the opportunity for a quick dip in the sea. Having completed my 50 lengths I attempted to return to my clothes to get dressed. At this point in my precarious ‘trying to get wet jeans back on’ position Darbs took me down and wet humped me into next Tuesday. No one helped me.
This excitement aroused Darbs’ senses and he got talking to a nice girl called Natalie.
Somewhere between brushing teeth and turning our underpants inside out, we lost Darbs. We were concerned enough to leave the hostel, get the train to Cannes, play in the sea with our ball all day and drink beer.
On returning to the hostel we find Darbs. He has been ‘on a date’ all day with Natalie. I use quotations because in between having lunch and looking at a pretty waterfall she has threatened to kill him several times. I’m no Streetmate, but I didn’t take this as a sign of endearment.
That evening follows a familiar path. Only this time we push it even further, peaking with 11-a-side Sangria based flip cup. With staff getting increasingly tetchy about the noise and boisterousness it was time to get the whole show on the road again. We got the 20+ crew moving on and out and into Nice town.
I was walking and chatting to a nice Swedish fellow, appropriately named James the Viking. Dr, Minnie and Darbs were walking with another group about 20 yards ahead. The reason being within that group was Natalie, the girl Darbs had dabbled with the previous night. He was determined to force home the advantage. I explained this to The Viking and he immediately apologised to me, apparently having cracked onto Natalie earlier, possibly infringing on Darbs territory. I explain there was no need to apologise. Darbs is a weapon at the very best of times, and this was not one of his finest hours. He was pursuing in spite of her gentle rebuffing and she was therefore ‘fair game’.
However, I explained to James, this was Wing Command. Our job was to guide the heavy bomber to the target, distracting and confusing the enemy where possible. The heavy bomber had a considerable load to drop. The load had been backing up for a couple of months and I did not envy the final target, whoever they may be. When the damn did finally break civilians were likely to drown in the furious torrent. In my opinion Darbs should’ve been carpet bombing as many targets as possible. But instead he had focused on one, fairly low value target who was now getting dive bombed by anyone and everyone in a 5 metre radius. But, loyal to the last, Wing Command made its play.
From our holding position behind the main group I commentated to James as the manouvre progressed. “You see that strange guy who’s talking to Natalie right now. Well, that’s Darb’s main competition. Minnie is now going to remove him from the equation leaving the path open for Darbs”. As I spoke Minnie dove in with Operation Distraction. Natalie was getting harrassed by a strange art student type from Stoke. Minnie slotted himself in next to art student and fired off a savlo. (He recounted the conversation to me later).
Minnie: “So we are you from then?”
Art student: “Stoke on Trent.”
Minnie: “No way! My Gran is from Stoke on Trent!”
Art student: “Oh.”
Minnie: “Which part of Stoke?”
Art student: “Tunstall.”
Minnie: “No Way! Which road do you live on?”
Art student: “Roundwell Street.”
Minnie: “NO WAY! That’s the road my Gran lives on! Do you know her?!”
Minnie’s Gran routine had provided a valuable window, allowing Darbs to once again take up position as the number one harrasser. I could tell James The Viking was impressed as I explained to him what he had just witnessed. I maintained an air of nonchalance, like this was the kind of stunt we pulled every night.
The night continued to a club and then back to the Old Town where my negotiations with the local underground movement gained our motley ensemble entrance to a club. I started losing members of Wing Command as the pressure of 5 nights took its toll. Darbs lost Natalie to the advances of a U.S. push and started using the word ‘cunt’ a lot. Darbs and I hit the bottle and I felt a little subdued realising our French bender was drawing to a close. I eventually lost Darbs when he accidentally face planted the tiled floor (ouch!) and was carried home by a couple of American guys.
I ended up walking back to the hostel with James the Viking and his friend Anton du Beke. After relieving himself, Anton expressed his thanks at getting the crew into the club and generally for the conduct of Wing Command. It was over, but I was happy. The team had put in an excellent turn, building bridges and uniting nations in an understated but concerted manner. Particular merit went to Minnie who was awarded the Victoria Cross of Wingmanship for selfless actions in the face of the enemy.
Our adventure didn’t quite end there as we went on to spend 5 nights in Aix-en-Provence celebrating the Anglo-French union of a successful compadre to a delightful fille franÃ§aise. But I wouldn’t want to sully that with the drunken ravings of Wing Command. Suffice to say, now that the group has had the Stag Do to end all dos and the wedding to end all those, it’s now not worth doing either. Or if someone does, they’re going to have to pull something VERY SPECIAL out of the bag…