I’m aware that a lot of people, if they were to write this post, would talk about their grandmother’s cooking, or fallen leaves in the autumn, or the smell of their new born baby. For me, it’s Lynx Atlantis… and they don’t even make it anymore.
This smell takes me to Malta. It would be February 1997 and it was a school football tour. It was also my first time on a plane. I remember that I was ill before we went, and shared it with my brother who was still ill while we were travelling so in turn shared it with the rest of the flight.
We stayed in an apartment with 4 sharing, although I can’t remember for sure who else I was sharing with. Joel stayed a couple of rooms up and provided the sound track to the week’s holiday – Urban Hymns by The Verve. There was a swimming pool right outside our doors but it wasn’t used as much as the little shop on the complex. How is that corner shops are a haven for young teenagers? I bought Kinnie and I’m still disappointed I can’t get it in the UK.
We had to cross the road to the opposite hotel for breakfast. After breakfast we would get into minibuses and drive to training. Our driver was John Cooper who, at the time, was a presenter at Dune FM. He taught us a filthy song about Yogi Bear.
All the football was played on pitches of white shale. This meant that they were very hot and also very dangerous when falling over. It was recommended that we put Vaseline on our legs to protect our skin. I was playing in goal so covered myself in long sleeves and tracksuit bottoms. The training pitches were by the coast and there were a lot of stone steps down to them from the car park.
Our first match was on a very cramped pitch with fences all the way round it. I remember having a bad game but not what the score was. The second game, by comparison was on a very open, wide pitch round which ran one of our teachers and his wife. Repeatedly. The third game was on a pitch a cross of the others, with a building round two sides but open on the others. James was fouled in the penalty area but, despite the blood stains and his skin on the six yard line, the referee only gave us a free kick on the edge of the box rather than a penalty. I can’t remember any of the scores but we were hammered so badly during a basketball game against one school that it was stopped before the end of the second quarter.
In our down time we would largely stay round the complex. One afternoon we went into Valletta and I bought a pair of cream coloured Puma Kings – still some of the most comfortable boots I have ever owned. One night we went to see Titanic at the cinema. Being the age we were we all bought large drinks and popcorn at the start, and then needed to race each other to the toilets at the end. I think one night we also went out for a posh meal and another to McDonald’s, after which Phil Clarke regurgitated a chocolate milkshake over the wild cats.
And the reason for the smell? It was the first can of deodorant rather than anti-perspirant I bought because it seemed like a good idea for a hot climate. I still have a can with a little bit in after all these years even though it’s not made anymore. Even to this day I just need to take the cap off to be reminded of our school football tour to Malta.