MISSION IMPOSSIBLE - 'The Italian Job'

by Barry Russell - Your Humble Secretary

 

Claudio Rebecchi has arguably the largest collection of cigarette packs in the world and features in the Guiness Book of Records. A Club delegation went to Italy to investigate the purchase of this collection and to have the opportunity of at least looking at the materials in his private museum.

 

With two days to go Chad discovers he has lost his passport! Panic sets in. We go tomorrow and still no passport. At mid-day Frank faxes Liverpool Passport Office to confirm that our delegate is essential to the mission. At 5.00 p.m. the passport is issued.

J.J. Woods

We pass through passport control at Stansted at 9.55 a.m. bound for Bologna - still no Chad! Where is he? No need to panic, he and Graham are already there testing the Southern brew. We arrive in Italy and within ten minutes Albert Packet joins us, having flown in via Amsterdam and Norwich.

 

It is bitterly cold with snow on the ground in places. Has Frank Smith got his jumper? No! Did he look cold? I am not saying, but one cup of cafe latte later he perked up! A taxi to Modena as darkness falls. Claudio books a local hotel - 3 rooms - 5 people. A cosy prospect.

 

Fortunately there is a bar over the road, which

in the interest of International relations, is

soon explored. When it comes to food Chad

says 'I am not eating that Pizza rubbish' and

Albert declares his preference for plain food.

Luckily for all, except Albert, there is a high

class Chinese restaurant next door. The fare

is nothing like' English Chinese' but fills a void.

 

An early night is required with the prospect of

viewing 150,000 packs the next day. For some

the promotion of International relations at the

bar proves irresistible. One for the road is

followed by another one for the road. In the wee small hours they declare and resolve to be

up at 8.00 a.m.

Godfrey Phillips Live Packet

Up at 8.00 a.m. ( O.K. - 9.30 a.m. for one nameless auctioneer). Nevertheless, we are on time at the Museum (Claudio's garage) at 10.00 a.m. Some 980 non-pictorial tins line the walls and 20 filing cabinets hold 150,000 packs. Some 140,000 appear to be flat flip tops although the countries, republics and islands covered appears to be very comprehensive. We all favour the hull and slides and while G.B. has nearly 10,000 packs in total the hull and slides represent about 10%. I saw about 20 packets not in my own collection.

 

Chad further enhances Anglo/Italian relations when he accidentally demolishes Claudio's chair. Claudio wants 80,000 Euros for the collection including 3000 Euros for 20 ageing filing cabinets. The delegates withdraw to a bar to discuss the proposition. Valuations range from low - to even lower. We conclude the price is rather optimistic! Graham is more impressed with the latest unisex porcelain toilet. This has no pedestal or urinal, but lovely raised footpads and minute waste opening. Let us return to the collection. We feel the benchmark is gauged by the price of the 20 aged filing cabinets at 3.000 Euros (£2100). Each member can probably determine his own valuation of the whole collection by this indicator.

An early exit followed Claudio's homely hospitality and this allows Chad to demonstrate his well honed linguistic and social graces. Rejected by a Co-Op as he was not a member he soon set off the alarms by attempting to exit the wrong door. Rejected by the barmaid who twice declined his offer of marriage he was eventually consoled by his expensive duty free bottle of wine at 69 cents (49p).

 

This was certainly Mission Impossible given the price of the collection, but an experience nonetheless.

 

Ed. Note: For those who are thinking they missed out on a 'jolly' I should say that each member of the delegation was self funding, with no club funds used.

 

Two of the members who stayed longest in the bar came home to be struck down by an Italian 'flu bug', which put them out of action for a while.

 

Thomas Ogden

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