February 2007 seems like a lifetime ago now. This is another batch of my old photos. I went on a work trip which was probably the worst four days of my life. I hated trade shows anyway but to have to go abroad for one with people I didn't like and work long hours in a beautiful location I was going to have no opportunity to see was just absolutely miserable.
The people I was going with had all been before and I'd had weeks of how I would love the city and being regaled with all the wonderful sights, ancient buildings, food markets, and restaurants.
Great, one problem. I seemed to be the only person who was expected to be at work from 8 in the morning until 6 at night, it was winter and dark until 8 and dark after 6, you see the problem. Bologna to me was effectively a place in the dark and closed for business. The other people all had time off to do their own thing, and they would reappear with their stories and purchases, how lovely. Ultimately this attitude was what led me to leave that job. They told me I would love to go to the food market on Saturday morning, why they told me I'm not sure, they didn't strike me as conscious torturers but the effect was the same.
"The fantastic breakfasts at the fantastic hotel" turned out to be dire, probably the worst I'd ever experienced in Europe. They gave me 200 Euros cash for expenses. It's no surprise I handed it all back when I returned home, when would I have spent it.
Things got off to a bad start when I had to leave home at 4 in the morning, arriving straight to the exhibition hall after two flights because it was cheaper that way. This included the great pleasure of having to walk about eighteen miles from one end of Brussels airport to the other at 6 in the morning for the connecting flight. Arriving at the halls was when the hard labour began. To give you some idea of the type of people I worked with, the crate I had to open and unload to set up our stand contained a kettle and a weeks supply of coffee, tea, sugar, and milk. The only vital substance we didn't ship half way across Europe to avoid having to buy a hot beverage was the water. By contrast a neighbouring Dutch stand was fully equipped with a months supply of free gin for all passers by. Most of their staff it has to be said were plastered every day by about 10.30 am.
At the exhibition hall, it emerged that several people had been robbed at different locations between the airport their hotels and the halls, passports, wallets, everything. We were warned by the police when we left the halls to beware of pickpockets. I was about thirty feet from the main door when a woman carrying a baby, part of a larger group, put her hand down my trouser pocket, looking for loot. The police were inside the building where it was safe, this being Italy, their uniforms though were highly decorative and they were immaculately turned out, even heavily armed. Because of the warnings, I had stuffed everything I owned into inside coat pockets, including my camera, zipped those pockets and then zipped up my coat. The misfortunes of others had been my gain sadly. I have never felt so threatened and in danger anywhere in Europe before. I got to the hotel after 6 that evening, physically exhausted. By now I hated Bologna.
Two days later when I had started to realise I was not going to see Bologna at all, I made the decision to get up at 6 am and skip the breakfast, no loss there, to go out with my camera for a walk around to see what I could see. And this was the result. Dawn in Bologna, just waking up, in February. The pickpockets still abed.