June 2017 had a particular significance to me, and because of this I decided I needed to take a short break. The actual break itself was not as important as organising it was. I needed to prove to myself I could arrange and do the trip all by myself. This is because I have a long history of mental health issues. I’m 37, but was not diagnosed as having Autism until I was 34, and realised that for those 34 years I had been exploited by almost everyone I trusted, including my (now ex) partner of 10 years..
The first step was to buy the motorbike I always wanted. My existing bike was comfortable, economical, reliable, practical and quiet. I never liked it, so I bought the bike I always wanted, which is none of those things. I love it.
With the bike, now I could go anywhere and do anything. But where would I go? (yes, technically I could have gone anywhere on the old bike, but it would not have been the same).
Then I saw it, the event I had to go to! La Fiorita from San Marino Vs Linfield of Northern Ireland in the UEFA Champions League 1st qualifying round. The only problems were I’d never been to Belfast, or Northern Ireland, or a football match, or organised a trip like this before.
I’d contacted both Linfield and La Fiorita about the game. Linfield never replied, but La Fiorita did. I got a reply back immediately from Alan Gasperoni the club president, he was really pleased I wanted to go. He said if I could meet him before the game he’d give me a ticket. This was awesome as it saved me the £11 of buying it myself.
I was not able to find a La Fiorita shirt in the local shops, not even Sports Direct (I guess they must have sold out). Luckily I was able to get one made up in the photo printing shop right next door to work all it took was a phone call, an email and four visits.
The forecast was rain, rain, rain for the three days but luckily it did not. It was overcast all three days, but actually this was perfect as it meant I didn’t need suncream or waterproofs or warm clothes. It did make all my pictures look grey and miserable though.
I needed to get to the ferry by 9.30, and so if I left at 4 that would give me five and a half hours to travel the 249.9 miles. Had it been over 250 miles I would have been unsure if I could make it, but I was confident I could. But, just at the last moment I decided all by myself (and in no way because anyone told me to) to leave on a half day just so I wouldn’t have to stress about the journey up.
I don’t have a Sat-Nav, and although I (obviously) have a phone, I wouldn’t be able to check that unless I stopped. So I wrote down the instructions on a piece of paper and stuck it to the petrol tank on the bike. I went up M3 (where everyone drives like crazy) the A34 (“a lovely road”) the M40 (which I don’t remember at all) then the M6 and all its variable lanes and speed limits, once past that though, the M6 is also the single most boring road in the entire world.
Then I went to Liverpool. I wasn’t originally going to go to Liverpool, as the Ferry actually leaves from Birkenhead, but as the alternative was being run down by a van undertaking me at 80mph, I decided that Liverpool it would be. Turns out Liverpool is weirdest town on earth. It is a city with no towerblocks! Getting to Birkenhead meant going through an undersea tunnel. There is usually a toll for this, but it is free for bikes, I was so impressed by this I went through the toll booths I then went back through them again, did a U-turn and went through them again for a total of three times. (Unfortunately, to onlookers, it may have looked like I was totally lost at that point).
With perfect timing I arrived at the port at 8.30pm when it opened, meaning it only took me eight hours to get there. I did not pay for a cabin, so like everyone else I slept on a bench. Even for a bench It was surprisingly uncomfortable.
I arrived in Belfast, which is weird town as there is no rush hour and everyone drives slowly. I did pop to the Ulster Museum, which was like a physical version of a Wikipedia page. The sun also came out long enough for me to have a shadow, so I took a picture of that quickly before it went again.
I met Alan at the team hotel and he was a ball of energy and enthusiasm. He only had a couple of minutes to spare, but he was such a great guy, really friendly. I wish we could have spoken for longer. He gave me my ticket and also gave me a badge
I don’t really like football, so don’t remember too much of the match other than the ref was incredibly tall and two wagtails landed in the corner of the pitch. Sadly La Fiorita lost to a goal in the 89th minute. Whoever scored also came over to celebrate with the crowd in front of me and I was in the second row too, so had to pretend to clap too.
I returned to the hostel I had booked to find I had to sleep on the top bunk.
Next day I got up at 6am and went back home and it was incredibly boring and nothing interesting happened at all, except I did notice that sitting at a steady 70mph, North of Birmingham I am the fastest thing on the road, and South of Birmingham I am the slowest.
I got back at 11.58 which meant it took me less than five and half hours, meaning I could have easily made it up in that time if I had really wanted to. I went to work the next day