It was only after I had booked our flights and accommodation in Austria that Dougie discovered the European Beach Volleyball Championships were going to be held in Klagenfurt at the time of our holiday. He was beside himself with excitement and not, you might be thinking, for the chance to look at fit, tanned female players leaping about in the sand. Hadn’t even crossed his mind. No, his interest was purely on the sport front, he assured me. He has been an indoor volleyball player for most of his life and, in his current role as ‘setter’ for the Spalding Volleyball team, has proudly been honoured with the prestigious Player of the Year trophy in four of the last seven years. Of course, he’s getting on a bit now and has to wear all manner of support garments to protect his old knees and ankles.
I noticed he had quietly secreted his knee pads into the case.
“Just on the off chance they might be in need of a substitute,” he said casually.
“Ha! You think in the EUROPEAN championships they might just ask if anyone in the crowd wants to step in?”
“You never know.”
“And you don’t think they might have other alternatives to an injured Scotsman who’s teetering on the edge of the big 5-0?”
“No, I realise that. Only kidding. I might get involved in a game at the resort amongst the other holiday-makers,” he blustered unconvincingly.
We decided to go along to the championships on the second day when we hoped it might not be too busy. Entrance to the main stadium was free but on the final two days we would have to get there very early and, most probably, queue for an eternity. As it was, we had an easy half hour drive, parking was far easier than we had anticipated and there were no queues to get in. There was, however, a strict bag search at the entrance, confiscating everyone’s water bottles. Thankfully they didn’t find two of Dougie’s but a further search inside the stadium by a rather scary ‘bouncer’ spotted his contraband: he allowed him to take them in as long as he removed the caps. What’s that all about?
We had dressed fairly conservatively and, we thought, appropriately for a sporting event: shorts, T-shirts and trainers. We were, therefore, rather surprised to discover that most of the spectators, particularly as the day progressed and the heat intensified, had come dressed in very little. It looked as if they had just stepped off the beach which I suspect is just what they had done as the stadium was right by the lakeside.
All around us were young girls in teeny bikinis and men in shorts (not budgie smugglers this time. I hasten to add). It was a very young, happy crowd and their enthusiasm was infectious. At the end of every point the latest club dances were played, so everyone joined in singing and performing the actions. I can’t remember what they were although the lyrics of one said something about ‘to the left’ and ‘to the right’ and I know for certain it was neither Agadoo nor the Hokey Cokey.
The men’s games were very exciting. We watched Austria v Norway, Russia, Sweden and Italy. There always seemed to be a home team in the main stadium to excite the crowd, other matches being played on three other courts. We were also able to leave our seats and visit the promotional stands in the vicinity, picking up a mini-lilo and three water pistols, which we inadvertently carried through customs on our return flight.
An hour or two into the day, it became obvious why everyone was dressed in their beach clobber. At a given moment, four huge industrial scale hoses were turned on, spraying everyone with a welcome burst of cooling water (here’s what we experienced: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPbCMVJtA4s) Whilst everyone else leapt up and danced in the refreshing shower, we three Brits made fruitless efforts to keep our clothes dry. In the end, we gave up and happily allowed ourselves to be soaked, but sitting on a hard bench in soggy knickers is not pleasant.
We did watch a women’s game but my boys had seen sufficient female flesh in the seats around them to ensure they wouldn’t be missing out if we took our leave and headed off.
Dougie was a happy bunny for the remainder of the day and the following week, trying to recreate the club dances in his own unique way, more often than not singing a totally different tune.
“That’s not the words or the tune, Dad, and it’s not the right rhythm either,” exclaimed an exasperated Rory.
“Ah, maybe not, Son, but I’ve still got it,” he replied, shaking his booty as he shimmied around the apartment in a towel and a promotional baseball cap on his head…peak facing backwards.