The phrase "What goes on tour, stays on tour" is a well-worn cliché that usually refers to trips to Vegas and week-long stag dos in Malia. It can, however, also refer to a Korfball tour.
So, I write this report on the recent Nomads trip to Paris to take part in the Massy International Tournament knowing full well that certain details of the trip aren't really for publishing on a family Korfball club website.
Suffice to say you may be able to squeeze some info out of a member of our touring party...
Said touring party consisted of Alex, Georgie, Terry, Abby, Bex, George, Dan, Emma, Sam, Tamika, Stella and your reporter, La Barbe. Or Nick, if you prefer.
And although you won't get to read about all of the juicy gossip, I will say the word girth has gone down in Nomads folklore, the drinking games revealed a fair amount of comedy gold, as well as a few disturbing facts that may never shift from the thoughts of those there and Alex, will never be able to look at a rooftop decking in quite the same way again...
With that in mind, I take you to 4 am, somewhere in Surrey. The meeting point for our journey to Paris. Most are arriving on only a few hours sleep, some may even have absentmindedly pressed the doorbell as if it was a sensible thing to do when only half the occupants of the house were actually going on tour. At 4 am. Sorry!
The group assembled (Stella overslept!) and began spreading themselves between the generously loaned to the tour party, Bell family minibus and Abby's not quite so capacious vehicle.
Team photo with live updates from George
Luggage loaded, obligatory passport checks complete, we headed out to Folkestone and the Chunnel and our train under the sea. Not the one we'd actually booked though. And not because we were late to the terminal but because we took too long getting breakfast and handing out tour shirts complete with tour names on the back in the terminal and consequently missed our train. A fine start.
Those tour names btw:
Bell, Alex - THUMBPER (6)
Booth, Georgie - BAMBI (5)
Crenol, Daniel - CRENALDO (7)
Carswell,Emma - MARY-KATE (8)
Carswell, Sam - ASHLEY (9)
Forde, Terry - CUDDLE MONSTER (45)
Golding, Abby - VAPOORIZE (2)
Humphries, Rebekah - ABADUL (93)
McNulty, Stella - ARTOIS (13)
Rourke, George - DETOX (0)
Williams, Nick - LA BARBE (3)
Zilm, Tamika - KIWI (4)
Progress was good though, we managed not to lose each other, drove on the correct side of the road for at least 98% of the journey and made a good time until we hit the eternal traffic jam that is Paris city centre. Tamika also marked her debut as a proud Kiwi by listening to her beloved All Blacks lose to the Lions on the radio.
Escaping out of the other side and with only a small amount of getting lost in Palaiseau, we found our digs for the weekend. A newly built hillside retreat with a kitchen, communal area, plenty of bedrooms and showers, two outdoor terraces and a BBQ. A fine choice by our organisers and certainly one up on the Dutch sports hall floors that usually make up tour accommodation.
Things you think will make a great team photo after a few bières
It was, however,up the steepest driveway I have ever seen. If you can imagine what it's like driving a fully loaded minibus up a steep hill I can confirm that it's exactly as scary as you're imagining. All four wheels slipping we made it. Took a deep breath and got settled in.
No rest for the wicked though, we had a sports hall to find and a fridge to fill. Again, via a little bit of getting lost and a lot of a language barrier, we were registered and had liberated most of the alcohol from the local supermarket.
All set for after the days Korfball it was time for the days Korfball and the Massy International Tournament to begin. The tournament comprised of 8 teams, Belgium Under 23's, France (as in their National team), Nomads, Cardiff and four French sides of varying ability. Unfortunately, our dreams of easing into the tour were shattered by the fixture schedule.
First up. Belgium. The best youngsters from the second best Korfball nation on earth. Against a mix of our top three sides who had been up since 4 am and were mainly looking forward to the party.
Abby and Terry following the signs
Well, first up for me was reffing the French teams first game and having been chased across a field by a Dutchman the last time I reffed a game of any decent standard I was happy to survive with no big decisions to make.
It won't come as a surprise to say we didn't win against Belgium. They were the best players nearly all of our tour party had played against. Moving the ball rapidly, moving even faster themselves and shooting well. It was a handful. A 12-3 defeat (with two cruelly disallowed goals) was an incredible performance and the best result of the tournament for anyone who played Belgium until the tournament final.
Goals came from an Alex Bell penalty, Abby Golding from distance and me from the back corner (assisted Georgie) which was celebrated quite wildly. The real highlight though (unless you're listening to me talk about my goal, and I will, for years to come...) was an incredible reverse blam from Alex Bell on his opponent. When you have the opposition bench applauding, you've done well. Also, the Belgian coach's face when he asked if we were the Nomads first team and we said no was also a fine complement to the team's performance. A good start then.
The exact moment of Nick's goal (I think he has already got this picture framed in the loo)
A more relaxed win against one of the French teams completed the days Korfball and we retired to the house for a well-earned rest.
Pizza was ordered and the sun was out on the terrace, drinking games and some form of cruel torture was performed on George (well, a drinking game he kept losing, for what seemed like an hour) were the order of the afternoon.
George riding the rail replacement bus service
A night in Paris was on the cards but not before a lot of pre-drinking and hilarious rounds of "Never Have I Ever" and a Love Island inspired game invented by the more cultured members of the group called ‘My Type on Paper’, that involved people writing down the three things they look for in a partner and the rest guessing who the type belonged to.
Such games are made particularly interesting when you throw in the fact we had couples, old friends who'd played the games before, and Emma & Sam showing their sisterly love all setting each other up for a fall amongst the carnage. As it neared midnight we decided to head into the city, suitably refreshed and ready for Paris.
Some took the train, others found out quite how expensive an Uber from the Paris suburbs costs but we eventually all reconvened in a bar in the centre for more partying. I'm not sure Terry's wallet will ever recover or if I'll get the red wine stains out of my tour shirt, or if Stella has ever, ever stopped dancing on a night out but a good time was had by all.
Taxi's back and another sizeable dent in Dan's Uber account later in a cab that definitely didn't go the quickest way back and people stumbled to bed around 5 am.
The three hours sleep and play Korfball approach worked on the first day so we tried it again. It proved successful as by the end of the rest of our group games, everyone on tour had scored, we'd recorded two more wins against our French opposition and Sam Carswell had smashed a hat-trick of runners past the only person shorter than her she's ever played as an adult.
And so, it came to be - the showdown for the 3rd/4th place against the team from Cardiff, led by Welsh international, James Wilcox, supplemented by a couple of ringers and lucked up by a very cool Korfball holding dragon mascot. Bex had in no way being ramping up the rivalry on social media, so falling behind 3-0 early on and looking at potential defeat was not in the slightest bit worrying...
We needn't have worried though, our class shone through and Nomads fought back, the introduction of the shot clock in the final two games aiding the side more used to playing with it. Speaking of which, we were running the shot clock ourselves and it led to a Korfball first as George celebrated leveling the match at 4-4 by subbing himself off to take over from me on the shot clock. Nomads kicked on through and held out for a victory and third place. Only France and Belgium ahead of us.
George wasn't even posing for this photo...
After a brilliantly mad trophy presentation where we all tried to get on the podium box and a group photo for all the participants, we headed back to our palatial home to toast our success. The sun was out, the barbeque was out, the mood was buoyant and the beer was flowing.
As France is basically closed on Sunday we elected to stay in and try our best to get through the booze supplies. Emma Carswell provided a drinking game app (the wonders of modern technology) to compete alongside the well-known university classics, and another night of things that cannot be repeated unfurled.
With the morning came the joy of refilling the vehicles, removing sweaty tour tops and heading into Paris for a bit of sightseeing before home.
Ticking off Notre Dame Cathedral, a riverside walk, the Pompidou Centre amongst other sights and sounds we also fluked our way into having an excellent lunch at a restaurant picked mainly because it could seat twelve outside in the sunshine. Terry particularly enjoyed the steak he had that was bigger than his head.
Having bidden farewell to the fliers, Bex and George, off to Berlin and London respectively, we located the car, hit the road and after a slight hitch at the border caused by having and Australian on board, we made it home late Monday night.
It was really hard to recognise each other not in our tour t-shirts
Tired, victorious and proud to be part of our wonderful Korfball club it's a tour that will live long in the memory of those who travelled. Farewell to Stella who is off to Scotland on another one of life's adventures, but no doubt won't be a stranger to Nomads in the future. Onwards to the new season, and hopefully, another equally successful tour in the future.
Thanks to everyone who organised, drove, refereed, shot clocked, lent money, booked Ubers, cooked, cleaned etc. and made it a great weekend that is hard to put into anything resembling a concise report. So well done for reading all the way through!