Strapped lad…

The burning sensation in my elbow, hasn’t left despite the days away from lifting and lipsyncing Manny.
Time for Melanie.
She prods, I jump,
She manipulates, I look elswhere.
She shaves my arm (wow, it’s a long time since I’ve seen my bare arm and I am struck that it rather resembles my mums, in the pattern of birth marks).
And, applies the magic tape.
It spreads the load and will give tissue and tendon a chance to heel as I, grip and loose the handle a thousand times per show, pulling the cable, that opens the jaw to lip-sync the vocal track… and here in Germany, there are more syllables!

Monchengladbach…

A day to explore.
An hour waiting for the bus, forty five minutes through farm land, and then a city comes into view.
Looking forward to wandering without an Icey agenda and stimulating the part of my mind, I’ve had to keep quiet of late.
But a little surprised to find, that the centre is being remodelled and will be wonderful, I’m sure, when complete… but I need it today!

Going

Mostly gone

Find the Stadtisches Museum Abteiberg and reacquaint myself a little with Otto Dix, Max Ernst and Man Ray… and discover Ernst Barlach 1870 – 1938 (my favourite period for european expressionism & impressionism – or so it’s become).
Here’s his ‘Wandering Todd’ may, or may not be an appropriate depiction, but I used to smoke a pipe.

Der wandernde Tod, 1923


This is reminiscent of me walking the streets of this city for two and a half hours in search of food, not over salted, or coated in sugar glaze… I failed

Wash day…

Just so that you understand.
Life on the road has limited attractions for me… yes, travel does broaden the mind, but it also grubbies the attire and I’m presently a long way from my usual laundry facilities.
So, resort to the old way, despite rules that say I shouldn’t.

40degrees by the feel of it


Spin cycle


Bathroom decor

Grefrath…

A moving ice pack is an odd place… the busses and trucks of our mad circus, full of enthusiastic Chinese acrobats and glossy skater girls has turned up in little the town of Grefrath on a rainy November night… the town has a few early Christmas ornaments hung about it, but even they don’t make it seem jolly or welcoming; whipped chaotically off lamp-posts by a biting wind.
I seek dinner and a place to relax, but the town’s mostly locked up by eight, save a supposed restaurant in the square. Check the menu… wurst with everything, “That’ll be fine”. I enter with optimism, which collapses… all of it’s occupants – all smoking, including the kids – turn as one to look… as I mime, “Is the kitchen still open? …Can I get food?”. The gnarled leather woman behind the bar nods slowly and gives me the once-over, her gathered supplicants continue to stare… images of my being made into sausage come to mind. I politely tip my bowler and retreat out into the suddenly attractive rain & dark.
Back to my no smoking hotel room… which of course smells of recent smoker habitation, with its very stained polyester pile, and the too small cot that offers negligible back support, it is pleasant sanctuary.
I guess that the good inhabitants of Grefrath mostly eat at home.

Nailed to a tree

Seeking relaxation…

A long day, after a long week and I’d promised myself a treat, nothing too exciting… but important achieving some sense of valuing self.

There are no baths in this weeks hotel… just swanky walk in showers, (uber designed – but still they leak out onto the marble floor, making it treacherous) so I’m unable to soak out tightness & tiredness after the shows, particularly Saturday’s mega three, to ease my exerted muscles in deep warm water… or else, they’ll shape into impenetrable knots, with accompanying night cramps.

But, this hotel does have a sauna – open till eleven, I’m informed – I’d known about this all week, but our schedule did not previously permit. Tonight however… out of Manny by 10.35, “Should be just enough time” I keep saying to myself, as I lumber from venue to hotel (just next door) like a mad orc with He-Man inflated thighs… up the stairs to the fitness suite, towel clutched, heat and relaxation will soon be mine… almost there… but no – German efficiency insists that the white coated, hair neatly platted fraulien, turn off the sauna by 10.30, so that it will be properly cool by 11, when she will politely, but firmly usher compliant guests out and double lock the doors.
Bugger.

And the boyscouts do their best work in thigh and calf and the cramps do come.

Sunday… Well there’s another chance today.
The two shows go well and I was able to stretch out beforehand, so no strains. Audience applauds and cheers – they loved it, particularly the three little girls I saw in the front row, eyes wide, mouthes open, holding their faces, unable to believe that they were actually seeing their film friends.

7:30… we’re done and the other artistes can leave, while I don my maintenance crew role and begin to take Manny & Ellie apart.
I anxiously check progress on the arena clock… doing fine, ‘going pretty smoothly tonight,
8:30 and Ellie’s collapsed and in her travel container.
9:30 and Manny’s in… just legs, tusks and trunk bags to go.
9:45… pack away tools and tidy-up.
9:55 and I’m sauna bound.

Arrive at the door, where tightly platted fraulien is in the process of locking up… But, but??? “It’s not 11!” I whine.
“No sir, it’s Sunday… on sunday’s we close earlier.”
“Can’t I just have ten minutes… I’ve been performing for thousands… making children happy… helping Fox create a revenue stream…”
“Nien” she curtly says, and with a swish of her tight plat, she’s gone, leaving me with a curteous but somewhat ironic “Gutte Nachte.”
Arghhhhh.

Right! I need to do something… remember that our company coffee stand also sells beer… troll back… they’re about to close, but see in my eyes the need to complete one last transaction… buy two cans of Danish Faxe beer… pictures of rampant, muscle bound vikings as a logo of the biggest cans I’ve ever seen… back to my room… text – ‘does anyone want to Skype?’ Nope, too late for most, but David’s game. Start chatting, pouring and quaffing… the beer is absolute rubbish, but quantity can make up for quite a lot. First Faxe downed, as David tells me of home, of normality and Ely’s pony lesson, of rain, of playing cluedo, second Faxe now well under way, and I notice that in the frame where my monitor picture appears, the ruddy chap sitting there is slowly, but very definitely sinking… the muscle tightness dissipates and I’m melting. Listening, but no longer fully engrossed, I make my goodnights and slide off the chair, plumpf onto the bed and become a puddle of pooped pachyderm, incapable of finishing can number two… no further wassailing for me tonight.
I’d obviously never have made a good viking.

Muscle relaxant

Why…

Tired and aching after yesterday, plus a sleepless night, but I see, through Manny’s window, as I survey the audience in scene two, a little child reaching out for Peaches, beside herself with excitement as her film friends appear before her very eyes.

A child’s dream


That’s why.

Beginning the process in Stuttgart…

Go in at ten, but the costumes haven’t yet been unloaded, so I write more reports… in an attempt to get everyone on the same creature page.
Rehearsals begin at three… talk motivation and intention with Diego’s understudy and try to get life back into Crash & Eddie, who’ve lost some of the fun of their characters.
Then, back to the beasts at 5pm (without tea, I should add).
Three hours later, I’m still there – still putting them together and conducting,’maintenance’. While up inside Ellie, with alan keys clutched firmly – so they don’t drop inside the trunk again – and torch held in mouth, I perch on a ladder… in order that I can adjust her head bungee. She shifts on her carriage, I shift within, the ladder I’m on – shifts… we have a moment pirouetting, then gravity wins. Ellie, ladder and I clatter to the floor. Her steel skeleton rings like a bell, as it connects with my head… interesting tone I think, just before the pain comes.
Crawl backwards out of the costume… extract ladder, find dropped alan keys & torch, get help to bring her upright again, and recommence maintenance.
‘Tis a grand life and I have a sore head

Pasture of the breeding mare…

I meander into central Stuttgart (the name comes from this place’s early history… an enclosure where horses were bred and kept), to discover that there’s special exhibition on, in the main museum, ‘Die Welt Der Kelten’.

The Celts loved horses


This might be the first place… here near the headwaters of the Danube, a culture emerged, that was advanced, cohesive, had art and technology at its heart and dominated huge swathes of Europe – Ireland to Southern Russia – for near a thousand years.
They have since been called, The Celts, which comes from Greek meaning, “The Other People”. And I, a Welshman, from the Saxon meaning, “Foriegner” have blithely happened upon one of the greatest exhibits of their artefacts, I’ll likely ever see.

Three celtic monkeys… I’m saying nothing

Not the more usual focus on the Romano-Celtic expressions, as found at the Atlantic ends of their world, but a archeologically complete journey through from about 400bc to the 7th century AD. (I am ever irritated with this dating, in that they are not based on a Celtic calendar… I can’t imagine a druid, with a sundial on their wrist, counting down to the birth of Christ).

Ancient local cloth, with it’s pattern revealed

“Nein photographen’, I’m told… have to be sneaky – it’s twenty years since I last saw the Gundestrop cauldron… a cauldron of regeneration, depicting their pantheon of nature dieties, including Cern.

Linking us to the natural world… and our next

Hours later… Celtic time is different, I am tapped on the shoulder. “The museum closes sir, please leave.”, but I’ve only been here a hundred years.

I walk out into the street, echos of horsemen riding, bronze swords clattering, waves breaking on ancient shores – resonating around my mind.

This helmet would fit well

Vrrrrroooommmm…

Should have had an opportunity to experience a bit Stuttgart today, but am instead tied to reports on maintenance and creature condition… however manage to slip out by three and head just over the road to the Mercedes Benz museum.

Interwoven social & automotive history


Wow… I’ve never thought of myself as a petrol head, but realise that many of my favourite Matchbox & Dinkey cars, particularly the ones I so cherished as a child, were mercedes.
…And I touched the original Silver Arrow!
The story goes: The white, super charged, W25 was entered for the 1934 Nurburgring race, but discovered, the day before the race to be 751k, rather than the legal limit of 750k – so the team spent the night taking all the paint off… Of course, it won and a legend was born.

The engine sound alone, is enough to make you go weak at the knees

As I followed the 125 year journey, I was struck by quite how much change there has been, in what I consider historically, to be a really short time. This thought was motivated by the clever contextualisation of the museum, which had automotive examples on each floor, that were linked by walkways, whose walls were given over to iconic images of the same moment. Photography and the compact internal combustion engine developed at around the same time and are dependent upon each other, to record progress and to get you to where the progress is happening.

But with every technological triumph there are also disasters and this last 125years has witnessed the unleashing of uncontrollable monsters: contagions, conflagrations & climate change. For me, this is exemplified by my last snap… Glancing out of the museum windows at the world outside, now dark and midst rush hour, I noticed that the stream of hugely advanced cars (often Mercedes), taking their occupants home on the multilane autobahn outside, were at gridlock… as happens each day… travelling slower than a horse.
Progress?

Reflecting on progress

Ten hours on a bus…

Tried to think interesting thoughts, but the only one that came, was ‘make it stop’, Particularly since next week, we’ll be heading back over the same road as our tour criss-crosses Germany… were we to leave a visible trail, come spring there would be a psychotic web of our routes on these autobahns, which would leave any future archeologist entirely bemused, as to why, in the early 21st century, man was determined to do the diesel dance.

However… upon arriving at the hotel, I ask the girl behind the desk, “Where”. Her eyes light up… “Do you like Swabian food?”,
“No idea, but tell me more.”
“There’s a restaurant just a few kilometers from here, that serves traditional local dishes.”
“Mm hmph.”
“It’s in a mid sixteenth century house, built into the ancient Stuttgart city wall.”

She need say no more.

Twenty minutes later, I’m sitting in the Zum Acterburger, amongst ancient beams, drinking Unterturkheimer Gips and chewing on homemade bread spread with herbed lard and black pepper.

The road gets more distant


Then Fludlesuppe… meat broth with slices of pancake.
Followed by a platter of medieval joy – Ackerburger Pan… beef and pork, marinated in cognac, with cream, fresh mushrooms and swabian handrolled noodles.

I’m barely able to remember


More of their locally produced wine.
And finally, apple fritters, dowsed in cream and cinnamon.

Nope, it’s gone


Not something my system could cope with every night… but tonight, perfect!

‘A traveller in an ancient land,
complete with ideas grand…
determined belly to expand,
lifts a glass with dextrous hand.’

Bremen is done…

The show’s here have been fun, despite us not having side entrances, there being no flying due to rigging & motor issues and limited animatronics (this is an ongoing)… the audiences have been really appreciative.
And I’ve really enjoyed this city… it has a uniqueness which sets it outside the expected norms of other places I’ve visited over the years in Germany.

Here’s my first Bratwurst, bought in the square of Bremen, from a stall that required four staff… such was the demand, one lady responsible only for turning the porkiness on the griddle – €2.50 for an extremely good culinary experience. The mustard is a must. The roll… just a delivery device that stops you getting greasy hands. All ages were enjoying… seems safe – but McDonalds and Starbucks are muscling into this city, as they are everywhere I’ve been. The burghers of Bremen withstood assaults by the Saxons, the Holy Roman emperor and rebuilt after the allies flattened the city in WW2, but will they be able to withstand the fast food empire’s deliberate, cynical and corporate muscle, so determined to utterly dominate all possible markets, especially since they’ve been given the key.

Delivered with love

By these ladies

Return to Sweet Potato…

Tom Jones -‘It’s not Unusual’, is playing in the bar… we order cocktails and set about enjoying an evening – though less than an evening, as we’ve done two shows this day and there’s not much left of it, but Alice, Olga and I are determined to be somewhere else, if only for an hour. One rule… no talking about the show!
Then Shirley Bassey takes over and kicks a few out, as we get louder – but nobody complains… we are welcome here, in fact, our exuberance is enjoyed and amplified by a second round.

A Little Light Refreshment

My third visit to The Erotic Kartoffel, in as many nights and this will be my last… but this island away from the ice has been a haven to rival any.
More than erotic

I had to have the Banana chilli soup again, as I wondered if my memory had been playing tricks… no it was marvellous. Here’s the recipe:

Alchemy most sublime

Yesterday had a surreal aspect…

Made the short walk from the hotel to the stadium… seeing no more of life than was visible in the cold fog of an early German November morning. But the sight caught me… one seen in movies – a web of cables, conducting electricity for the trams, whose pickups sparked and lit the air for a moment, before all was returned to grey… no need to make this image black & white.

At the web’s centre – morning

And after fourteen hours of setup (though I am far from last to leave), I make the return trip… in a cold-war spy thriller, waiting for the drop? No, just seeking a few hours sleep, before tomorrow’s/today’s two shows.

Web of Night