Starting with an inspired suggestion from Tony Smith the idea of a squash trip away flickered into life back in the spring of 2016. No one had really grasped that the nucleus of Rhiwbina Squash Club mainly consists of middle aged blokes; middle aged blokes who have lingering memories of sports tours of years ago. Fertile soil and the seeds soon started to grow when all the facts about the Belgian Open Masters Tournament came to light. It wasn’t long before 18 interested (MAB’s) expressed a real enthusiasm for the trip. Tony took the lead as organiser, having had some experience in these matters, and set about sorting the transport, booking arrangements and package. Everybody signed up with a deposit and we were off and running. As a result we are all the proud owners of our own SPIN number, something we never knew existed before but necessary to enter the competition. As things progressed more money was added to the coffers and before we knew it, it was take off time.
So sixteen of the original eighteen assembled at Rhiwbina Squash Club on a mild, dry Thursday morning to embark on the trip. Tim Dulson was appointed driver of the mini bus and Dave Dean was appointed driver of the transit van.
Three and half hours later we arrived at the Eurotunnel terminal and boarded the train to France. Unfortunately we managed to leave Dave and Christian in the transit van at the terminal for them to take a later train, however they caught us up by the time we had arrived in Bruges.
We arrived at the hotel at around five in the evening, sorted our rooms and room-mates out and then went into town for some food. Sixteen blokes trying to find a restaurant that suited everybody didn’t work particularly well but eventually we found somewhere. This was our first opportunity to sample the local beer, only to find that the weakest beer they sold was Stella Artois; needless to say it didn’t take long to get into the spirit of ‘boys on tour’. Back to the hotel for a night's kip ready to meet the foe in the morning.
Part of the package was to arrange bicycles for transport to the Squash Club; and whilst some took up the offer, others walked the two and a half kilometres to the club.
When we arrived at the Piramid Squash Club we were made very welcome by Kasper the club owner who was quick to make the connection with Rhiwbina as Peter Creed plays for the Piramid club. We all registered and set about trying the courts out and getting ready to play. First matches were soon under way and we quickly got into the spirit of the Masters. The matches were played in a competitive but friendly way and we were coming up with some good results. Everybody played at least once on the Friday and at the end of the day it had been arranged for us to visit a local chicken restaurant. The food was excellent even if the venue was a little small for such a large number. Then we spread ourselves around various venues in Bruges to finish the rest of the night off.
The Saturday saw most of us playing twice, something we don’t regularly. So whilst it came as a bit of a shock to the system and the legs, most of us achieved good results. We hadn’t been prepared for round robin arrangements so we all ended up playing a lot more squash than we had bargained for.
On Saturday evening a function had been arranged for all the players in the hotel.The food, which came in a series of specialities on trays canapé style, was delicious and coupled with the extremely strong beer on offer made for a great evening of chat and jokes.
So we came to Sunday. First matches were nine in the morning, so that really came as a culture shock for a group used to bacon sarnies and a read of the newspaper on Sunday mornings.
However we rose to the challenge and acquitted ourselves quite well considering. Things were starting to bubble a bit on the game front, Tony in a semi-final, Steve Jones in a final and several other of the boys playing for pride and survival. In spite of the partying the night before everyone played really well and showed Rhiwbina in a good light. Steve in particular came so close to winning the final.
However time moved on and we left Bruges at three in the afternoon to make our way back home.
We finally arrived back at Rhiwbina at midnight, having had a great time and with a few stories to tell.