Racket Boy – An autobiography by Philip George

Building Momentum- Will this Machine Not Go Any Faster?!

On the heels of our backshadowing trip to India, followed by a whirlwind ten days in Kuala Lumpur, I arrive at Malpensa Airport in Milan on 12th October 2023. It’s a cool evening and it’s my third visit to Italy since beginning the Racket Boy project two years ago, but the first time landing in stylish Milano where Giorgio Armani realised he “could become someone here”!

Phil’s flaming red VW Golf GTD is waiting to perform the more than 300km to reach his village in San Romano di Garfagnana, Tuscany. It gets easier each time, but it’s not just owing to familiarity and comfort. I’m in the safe hands of beautifully laid roads, a sturdy machine and a driver bent on precision control.

Off we go, the excitement and intrigue ahead of the roughly four-and-a-half-hour journey eclipsing the weariness that had accumulated over weeks of travel and numerous meetings, from Chennai to Delhi to Kerala to Kuala Lumpur and now Italy, before we head to Frankfurt for the launch of Racket Boy, the catalyst for this one-of-a-kind journey, uniting a writer and a wanderer in a shared quest for discovery.

What a ‘pinch myself’ moment – I actually am familiar with signposts bearing names like Bologna, Lodi, Parma, Poh, La Spezia, Cinq Terra, Aulla … Thanks to Phil, an extraordinary knowledgenarian (coined that!) and driver, I now know there are three airports servicing Milan; the Poh valley is the bread basket of not just Italy but also the EU; why Milan, Venice, Genoa, Tuscany et all have been firm favourites of soul searchers from the days of Shakespeare to modern icons like Ed Sheeran; that Henry V111 sent his emissaries via the ancient Via Francigena pilgrimage trek from Canterbury to Rome so he could take on Anne Boleyn as his second wife (this one for another day!), and the list goes on …

With Phil’s red beast blasting Italian and English numbers on the RDS (Internet radio live stream) we meander the highway and reach the cutoff at Aulla from where the circuitous up-mountain trek to San Romano begins, and when Phil’s F1 skills really come alive. It takes me straight to Phil’s late mother Kunjamma George once mockingly challenging her son, “will this car not go any faster?!”
Suffice it to say we managed to shave off about an hour, arriving at his medieval stone home at 2 a.m. to begin the next phase of our adventure.

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