The Handlebar ( moustache ) Club
Visit to the European Beard and Moustache Championship

Held in Carvico, near Bergamo, Italy, 31st August 2002

The weekend got off to a good start with prime-time appearances on the Thursday morning edition of RI:SE, the channel 4 breakfast television programme.  The T.V. company had generously agreed to sponsor a fourth member of the "British Team" and in the course of the programme Michael Attree, who joined the Club fairly recently, was selected to come with us.  As a result he was featured the next day in his local newspaper, the Brighton "Argus".  Mike Solomons and Conway Chiles also got up in the middle of the night to take part, having their moustaches groomed by Gordon Murray Loy, whom we appointed as the Club hairdresser.  The real highlight of the programme was Rod Littlewood in bed with the presenter, Al Convy, wearing a night-cap and discussing his snood, Al having asked "What was that protection you were using?"

So the "Team" consisted of Rod Littlewood our team captain, Alf Jarrald who flew down from Manchester and joined us at Stanstead, Ted Sedman and Michael Attree. Traffic on the M25 on the Friday evening was even worse than usual, and what should have been a one-hour journey to Stanstead took nearly three hours.  So we arrived later than planned, met up with Alf, rushed through check-in, security, passport control, etc., and then sat in the aircraft for three quarters of an hour waiting to take off.

Arriving at Bergamo airport we were greeted by a bearded gentleman who we eventually realised was meant to be meeting a different group of entrants for the championship, and had confused us with them.  But fortunately the hotel mini-bus driver was also there and we were soon on our way to the hotel.  It was a very modern, business hotel with a credit-card-sized key to open your room door.  A further refinement was that the card had to be placed in a slot on the wall in order to make the electric lights etc. work in the room.  We are still wondering how Alf got his lights to come on using his breakfast ticket which was made of paper!

Having checked in at the hotel and had a pizza at the restaurant next door, we went back to our hotel with the intention of retiring for the night.  However, we were delighted to find that our friend Jörg Diamantopoulos and other members of the Höfen Beard Club had just checked in to the same hotel.  So off to the bar round the corner, and it was several hours and several beers later before we finally went to bed.

After a not-too-early start on Saturday morning the hotel mini-bus took us to Carvico where we registered in our different classes for the competition.  By the time we had sorted ourselves out we were just too late to take our appropriate places in the parade round the town.  But we joined in and followed on behind, and after listening to a few speeches found ourselves being given drinks in an interesting old building which might have been the town hall.  Then on to an enormous marquee ("Big Top" is perhaps a better description) for lunch.  The menu seemed to have a choice of four items for "starters", but when it arrived all four items were on each plate!  Then, not, rice OR pasta, but rice AND pasta.  And so it went on, together with copious supplies of wine and beer.  We spoke no Italian, but in "chatting" to the Italians at our table (who spoke no English) we demonstrated that you don’t need to understand the words in order to communicate friendship.  When Alf took some tablets during the meal the question "Viagra?" didn’t need translating.  Though there was very nearly a faux pas when the word "Carabiniere" came up.  Michael was on the point of expressing views on the subject of policemen, when he suddenly realised that he was being told about his new friend’s job.

In the Parade
In the "Parade"
Our Italian friends
Our Italian friends

Jurgen & Michael
Jürgen and Michael

During the afternoon Jürgen Burkhardt introduced us to Willhelm Preuß, the President of the Association of German Beard Clubs, and we had a good discussion of our ideas for holding the 2007 World Championship in England.
After lunch ended, at about 4 p.m. the competition started.  We were delighted when Michael, taking part in his first competition, was awarded the trophy for third place in the "English" moustache category.  Rod came fourth in the "Hungarian" class - (Guess how many entries there were!)  Alf had the misfortune to be in the extremely competitive "Kaiser" category which had a large number of entries.  He was placed twelfth, but one of our German members Jürgen Burkhardt did very well to achieve second place in this class.  And finally Ted managed to obtain third place in the "freestyle moustache" category.

Hungarian category
Judging the "Hungarian" category
Note Rod's waistcoat!

It was a popular event

With something like one hundred and twenty competitors being judged in a total of fifteen different categories of beards or moustaches, it was nearly 11 p.m. when the evening closed with a most spectacular display of fireworks (and the band playing "We are the Champions"!)  Then our friends from Höfen kindly took us back to the hotel in their mini-bus, and it was round to the bar again.  Michael made a particular impression on some of the Germans who were staying at our hotel, going out of his way to promote the entente cordial.  It is all a bit hazy, but I think the four of us joined the Höfen Club and conversely we now have four members or "Friends" from Höfen.  And I’m afraid it has to be admitted that, when the last Englishman left the bar just before 5 a.m. at least two of the Germans were still drinking.
So we were not early risers on Sunday.  But because Michael’s flight was booked at the last minute, he unfortunately had to leave in the morning whereas the rest of us stayed until Sunday evening.  So we all got up just in time to say our goodbyes.  Then after breakfast we went for a walk to try to find a small supermarket that we had passed on the mini-bus, hoping to buy souvenirs.  We were surprised to see lots of small lizards running around, but it was rather hot for walking so we gave up and went back - only to find that the supermarket was next to the hotel on the other side.  But being Sunday it was closed anyway, so we had to go to the bar instead!   Then back to the airport and an uneventful flight home brought to an end a thoroughly enjoyable weekend.  And this time Alf did not leave his pyjamas behind!