Tuesday 14/02/2006. Night.
At 3GSM, every night is party night — but Tuesday is the biggest of the lot. By now, the many UK trade hacks have formed into an ad-hoc team capable of draining the best-stocked bar dry in minutes and we set out to display our skills. We hit the Virgin Mobile party — all chocolate hearts and tapas — then on to the Orange bash, which is marked by a DJ and a green laser light show that homes in with disturbing accuracy on people's crotches. This is a bad omen, as I am to discover later, but for now I'm happy to admire the bar staffs' ability to build truly world-class G&Ts and the Orange head of media relations' extraordinary knowledge of every word we've written about them.
We finish the evening at Freescale Semiconductor's party. This is a spectacular affair fuelled by champagne and a performance from the Sugababes which commands the attention of a thousand drunken male suits through sheer technical ability and stage presence. Or perhaps something else. They even have the cheek to perform I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor, which, I'm afraid, I did not. A certain lack of coordination was further proven by my attempts to retrieve my bag from the cloakroom without my ticket, but all was well in the end.
We decide to walk back to the hotel, in the hope that the night air will clear heads desperately in need of clarity. As we traipse merrily down Las Ramblas, Barcelona's main party artery, I get a call on my mobile and as I chat away my companions put on a spurt and get about a block ahead of me. Now, you know those wildlife TV programmes where a lioness crouches in the long grass, waiting for a straggler to detach itself from the herd and get distracted by a particularly tender patch of grass…
Out of the corner of my eye, I spot some movement in a dark doorway to my left. I glance over, and see an apparition, a hideous hag whose true gender is very much open to debate. At that point, I am lost. She — he, it — locks my gaze, puts on a ghastly grin and launches herself out towards my unsteady path. I try to gesture her, him, whatever, away while continuing my conversation, but I'm like a Sopwith Camel in the path of a Sidewinder. Slam! I feel bony fingers clutch at my groin, and while I'm attempting to make clear my unwillingness to further participate I detect others slip skilfully into my trouser pockets. And then they're gone.
Luckily, I was prepared — there was nothing of interest in my trousers for my new friend as my valuables had been stowed carefully away elsewhere. And you may be thankful, dear reader, that brain-machine interfaces have not been perfected yet and I am unable to upload the mental pictures I still carry with me of the encounter.
There's no room to talk about the other pleasures of 3GSM — the Nokia party which set new levels of grimness, the GSM Association press conference where the CEOs of eight major network operators sat at one table and all I could think of was chocolate covered dwarves flinging custard pies in one co-ordinated attack, of the incredible inedible bananas in the press room, of sharing a rickety table with four gesticulating Spaniards who got so excited an entire cup of tea upended itself into my lap — but they never noticed, of the Samsung 3G phones that seemed to be playing ZX81 games, of Broadcom's plans to put high-definition TV on mobile phones… and the endless trekking from hotel to Metro to Hall 1 to Hall 5 to Metro to…
Barcelona's a nice city, I hear. I must visit it one day.