Having been the envy of all Maiden fans, by winning probably one the most amazing prizes the band has ever been associated with, this next paragraph or two will probably make you gloat.. Picture this, it is 5am and your on your way to the airport hoping the car doesn't break down. You arrive on time and think that is the most worrying part of the journey over - Wrong!

We have a connection in Amsterdam an hour after the flight from Newcastle lands. We sit on the bus waiting to be transported to the small KLM Fokker 100, to eventually hear plane has been delayed for an hour - there goes the Amsterdam to Athens Connection. We finally board the plane for the one hour flight and are made to endure the foulest plane food known to man, I wouldn't call it a meal more of a "I either eat it or go hungry", I choose the former and regret it instantly. We land to find the Athens flight has been slightly delayed, I decide to think that luck is starting to be on our side as we rush through the gate and board the Athens Flight. We find that the plane is almost full and me and my companion are sitting in adjacent seats. The flight is a little less stressful as the Crew give out ice cream, and coffee as well as the not so wonderful meal we have became accustomed to. As we land In Athens we find our luggage wasn't as quick as we had been to board the Athens flight and was still half way across Europe. We tried to find out what was going on, until we managed to get the very uninformative lost luggage papers. During this time Adrian Smith and Dave Murray along with the wives and ankle biters have wondered through the Airport went on to the hotel. We finally arrive at the Divani Palace hotel tired and very thirsty. We ask at reception for any member of the Iron Maiden party and are told for the first time in Athens in a polite manner to look in the bar. As we enter the bar it's full of people with Maiden shirts on. Just as I look around the room I spot Rod Smallwood who I introduce myself to. Instantly he shakes my hand and ask what has happened, and goes out of his way to make us welcome. As we stand at the bar I notice a short haired chap and a long haired chap enjoying a beer. Rod says something to them and they turn around to reveal their faces, I am shocked to find its Bruce and Nicko within two feet of me. Then Rod makes the mistake of saying 'well at least Newcastle won the other night'. With that I proudly reveal my Sunderland shirt. As I do that Arry appears, and shows a mock disgust at my shirt before joining his girlfriend and baby Stan. We finally check into the hotel under the watching eye of one of the bands' crew Jim Silvia, who makes sure that we are on the list for the Iron Maiden party finally 'Nightmare in Athens - Acropolis Now' has ended and I enter my room to find it dark, spacious and cool, with a soon to be half empty mini bar. I run a bath to try to wind down a bit before we go to the gig. When I finally get in to the scalding hot water, the phone rings, Its Johnny explaining what time we need to be downstairs for the gig. I again get back into the bath and start wash my hair (Yes! laugh you may but I wanted to look me best) And the phone rang again, and by now the floor is pretty wet with all the splashing around and resembles the hotel patio and swimming pool. This time its my travelling buddy Craig asking what the situation was I relayed back to him what Johnny had said and left the phone off the hook so that I could enjoy ten minutes in the now lukewarm water. When I made my way down stairs I was met by Johnny and we entered the bar, had few non-alcoholic beverages before making our way to the gig. The trip to the Venue - a 15,000 capacity soccer stadium, let us take in the wonderful scenery of Athens as well as Penshaw monument - I mean the Acropolis. As we neared the stadium the legions of fans on their pilgrimage became more and more until we eventually entered the stadium. As we looked out from behind the stage the view of the overcrowded stadium was a sight unbelievable to me, the thought of actually playing there gave such an adrenaline rush. Johnny asked us to follow him on to the stage where we could talk to the camera and do a commentary on the stadium. As we walked out on to the stage a kind of roar went up, I put my arms up as if to say "What was that for" and that incensed the crowd to throw numerous objects at us. My pants filled instantly with a chocolate milkshake type substance. That was frightening very frightening, I will keep behind the stage from now on. As we enter the hospitality tent one of the crew gave us each a Ed-Hunter cap, a mug, T-shirt, soccer shirt, and program. By now the nightmare of this afternoon is a distant memory and I am truly enjoying this. Janick then takes a hold of me and plies me with beer from a cooling cabinet ready for the gig. Then Rod gives me a Bottle of Tequila that would apparently only be wasted. Now with my box of Swag 'n' Booze I stand trying take in the fact that 6 of most talented guys in the world are all within a few feet of me. We then make our way to the mixing and lighting rig, which is well elevated for a short arse like me to see the stage with ease. We Stood with Rod and the bands' wives and kids who looked almost excited as me. As the fans anticipation rose to an almost unbelievable climatic level the intro started and the crowd began to sing along to Transylvania weird considering its an instrumental! Then with introduction from our once great leader Winnie Churchill the band broke out into a bombastic version of Aces High. During the first few numbers the fans started to light flares, which hampered my view from the mixing rig as well as anyone past the first 10 rows, as well as this making it practically impossible for the band to breathe. This became so intolerable that Bruce interrupted 2 Minutes to Midnight mid flight to address the source of the flares. Sorry about this but I have to make a point here, if your paying top dollars to see a band, what is the point in this behavior? It is a waste of time and everyone else is just going to think you mentally unbalanced. As the set progressed we were treated to classic after to classic in amazing fashion, although this was only a semi partial version of the show. This still managed to amaze me (Having seen some great shows i.e. Kiss, AC\DC, Raising Hell to name but a few) this one had to come close topping them all. Even more recent stormers such as Man on the Edge, The Clansman and Futureal blended in superbly with the likes of The Trooper, Powerslave and Phantom of the Opera. It just shows the quality of the bands back catalogue, yes sure there are some not so fine moments but these are merely specks of dust on a priceless Masterpiece. All too soon the show came to a pre climax with the obligatory anthem Iron Maiden We watched the encore for the side of the stage, almost being blown away by the pyros (I now have a great idea for Guy Fawkes). The encore consisted of Number of the Beast, Hallowed be Thy Name and absolutely amazing version of Run To The Hills. We quickly made our way for the stage to the awaiting mini buses to take us back to the hotel, we were very lucky in which we shared our journey back to the hotel with band. The journey was very interesting as it showed the band obviously still rushing with adrenaline talking about the gig, the new album (sounds as if we're in for an absolute stormer ladies and gents), and Nicko giving us a excellent version of 'My old man's a dust man'. We arrived back at the hotel to find a few fans awaiting the band. As we entered the foyer I spotted an empty seat and collapsed into it, trying to take in the last three hours or so, without much success. We found that our luggage had finally arrived and packed a few things into a small bag before going for dinner on the hotels beautiful Roof Garden restaurant. We had wonderful view as we ate the delicious food that the Barbecued Buffet had to offer. As I sat the enjoying the fine fare of kebabs, pasta, vegetables and the most amazing sliced spicy sausage I have ever tasted, I actually managed to take it all in. After dinner the band started to leave as they had 4am flights, I got a few photographs and had a few words with the boys before they signed a few items for me. Myself, Bruce, Rod, Johnny, Craig, Wally and the soon to Missus Wally, stayed up talking till the early hours gradually reducing in numbers until around 2am (Good song title that). The following morning we had to be up and ready for 9 (This rock n roll lifestyle is really tiring). We had time for a bit of breakfast, which was supposedly English cooked, it wasn't bad, but Wally covered his with ketchup to cover the disgusting taste of his eggs. As we waited for the Smallwood clan, we chatted about various things such as football, football and erm football. This morning we are checking out the Acropolis and to me its nothing really new as we have a nifty replica in Sunderland, the only difference being its not 2500 years old. The ruins themselves show the excellent architectural skills of the Ancient Greeks And some of the views from the sides of the ruins that look over the busy and very compact city of Athens are quite breathtaking. Following this we went of to the Olympic Greek stadium, which is quite a sight, especially to sports fans, after a few of our party had a quick jog/sprint/walk/crawl round the track before taking in the daunting prospect of this been full with 75'000 spectators. Quite amazing really. After this it was of to the temple of Poseidon, where one of the many Greek myths and legends was supposedly set. Heading back to the center of Athens we managed to take in the beauty of the Coastline and it is something special, living on the English coast myself, I was quite impressed with its beauty. We stopped of en-route back to the hotel, at a Grecian Tavernia, for a spot of lunch which was quite satisfying, until we were offered lamb spleen and lamb testicles at which point I became a hard-core vegetarian. Being the hard English Northerner I am who goes out in the wind and rain with his t- shirt on, this made my stomach go a bit on the funny side. Apparently a lambs naughty bit is quite good for you, but then again so lying on a bed of nails! We arrived back at the hotel tired, weary, quite thirsty and desperate for a lie down. We were greeted outside of the hotel by a few fans asking if any of the band were still around, and they we were told they had all gone apart from Dave. I went upstairs and had a bath, as I was getting ready I looked out of my window to see the amount of fans had doubled. Apparently they were still there until the early hour of the next morning. As it was Saturday I was trying to find out the football results. Typical when you really need someone at home they are never in. I later saw on CNN my team Sunderland had beat Bradford 4-0 - 'wey hey' the weekend cant get any better. I had quite a lie in the morning and packed all my stuff, which seemed to have doubled, and ventured downstairs to the bar. I ordered a bite to eat and a coke and was joined by Steve Cox the tour manager for another conversation on football, as well as the astronomical prices hotels charge for room service and phone calls. We left for the airport, and upon arrival said farewell to Johnny B who had been our main man whilst in Athens. Our plane was on time and after a 3 hour flight to Amsterdam and an hour to Newcastle it was back home to the what seemed now a haven for rest. After all of the trouble we had at the beginning of our adventure, it was wiped away within two hours of being at the hotel, we were made so welcome, and honored, that it was impossible not to have a great time. The motto of this story is always enter a competition as you never know - 'It Could Be You'
Thanks and Funktastic Regards.