End of the beginning…

We’re all pretty tired, and the tour is only just starting in terms of the ambition for it… best not to look too far ahead, as the enormity is daunting. Concentrate instead on the more immediate… Party tonight!



1) Alice in full Austin Powers mode.
2) My taking Hayato for a dance on top of the roll-around fridge.

She commands the space

She commands the space

Almost a day off…

I’ve been tracked down… just having a very nice steak & a pint in an Irish theme Pub, chatting with the Australian barman about rugby, enjoying the buoyant Bulgarian waitress, when the phone rings… “There’s a problem with Ellie’s frame!”
Twenty minutes later, I’m looking at her aluminium bones, there’s a gap.

Surprisingly, the weld gave

Surprisingly, the weld gave

Five hours later, with hand tools and found bits, we’ve spliced the break and reinstated the mast… very much what you might attempt as a fix on a yacht out at sea.

Spend the rest of the night in bed worrying about whether it will hold through the coming storm, ie: till we get to a port, which has proper facilities, including a welder.

Van Gogh & Munch…

Seeing the knife work for real

Seeing the knife work for real

I go to join the queue (with Alice – who’s had the same idea), that goes around the block of the Essen Folkwang museum, on this drizzly December day, all waiting to get in to see this exhibition of Expressionist painters and artists who influenced them. Getting wet are people of all ages and backgrounds… indicating again, a hunger for culture. I’m thrilled to see lots of kids with their parents, who are not complaining at being dragged away from the Xbox to see art.


Educated in more than the X’s

Prominent amongst those who influenced are Vincent and Edvard, who for me continue to stand out, both in terms of voice and finished works.
Munch particularly fascinates me as he seems to have returned to the familiar themes, but put a twist on them.

The Day After

The Day After

In the first room is a known Gauguin… though I can’t say that I really knew it till now, as previously, I’d only seen it as a small B&W reproduction in the Thames & Hudson A6 French Art book, I had for A level.

Who's the Barbarian?

Who’s the Barbarian?

Braque, Pechstein, Derain, Heckel

Girl with peonies

Girl with peonies

I've seen this light

I’ve seen this light

Both sides of the tracks…

Always good to wander a city on foot to discover what it’s about.
My usual starting point is the DK guide to Germany (about a page/city, inc pictures) that David & Ely sent me, a quick scan of Wikipedia and associated links and a very limited education.
“… Essen has many national and international corporate headquarters, attracting the very clever young from all over…” hopeful graduates setting out on ladder and snake journeys.
My apologies to those who know better, but my impressions develop purely on where my feet take me – there’s lots that I miss, but by wandering long enough, I usually happen upon an insight and my distinctly different appearance, allows me into places that locals might not go… at either end of the spectrum.
… today my feet take me swiftly out of the shopping precinct, away from the swipe readers, a commercial centre that has little architecture pre 1940, thanks to allied bombing and city planners, but now boasts the largest retail Mall in Germany, into which people scurry with wide eyed desire, from which they emerge, having momentarily satisfied – with acquisitions they probably don’t need, loaded down with plastic bags proclaiming which shop they used their credit in.

I don’t suggest personal immunity from this disease… I know it only too well and have succumbed often, to extreme cost.

And speedily on, seeking respite from named brand glamour amongst the immigrant stores, who only accept cash.

There, I consider an irony…
The population here (or so I read), is about 1-in-4 first generation economic migrant… and those who’ve sought the German dream, fall into two distinct populations… dependent upon which side of the tracks you live.
In the shiny glass & steel world, you might earn €60/hr, via ‘bacs payment’ minus taxes, health insurance, sports club membership, etc. for software development… worth all sacrifice made by your mother and father, who forwent food, so you could attend school and have the education they never did. Though the separation and personal cost, means you crave indian (or other) home cooking… hence the many themed restaurants and sports bars blasting out American ’80’s rock.
At the other end, are the invisibles, the no names, those who have come through desperation… grateful to be servants of a rich employer, who ‘need’s it done now’ – though isn’t sure what it is needs doing… they earn around €6/hr cash – much better than Delhi or Bucharest. And, if you perform tricks… can alluringly wiggle your software in sheer nylon & lace, you can both continue the education of these young graduates and, earn an equivalent €60/hr, minus what you pay the pimp.

I’m not good with software, but feel quite comfortable, having my kebab dinner on the wrong side of the tracks.

A meal fit for a clown

A €6 meal fit for a clown

On the bus to memory…

On the bus to somewhere else, passing through Leipzig’s outskirts: full of abandoned and crumbling communist era expressions of the multiple grand plans, counterpointed by the latest in confident steel and glass edifices and proudly restored 19th century expressions of commerce and wealth.
It looks like a place who’s people are deliberately trying to forget an era, now subconsciously classed as an illness. If Germany continues in this process, the communist period will be visible only in books and archive… odd then to consider that we all nearly died thanks to the 20th Century War.

No grey needed

No grey needed

Now fields and farms, agricultural yes, massive acreage, indicating huge machinery, but also many clusters of solar and wind (all of natures gifts harvested), ‘mongst which are dotted factories with neat communities in reasonable distance to supply labour… The successful expression of Germany’s mittle stand. And then a reminder… at the end of a ploughed field that’s been going on for a mile, there are odd undulations… it takes a moment, then I realise – bunkers! And now I see the rest – aeroplane hangers built into the ground, almost grown over with birch trees, but even their roots can’t penetrate, and a straight narrow flatness, indicating runway. When the eleven minute warning sounded, this looks like it would have been a ‘first strike’ target.

Nature harvested daily

Nature harvested daily

In a field of winter greens, I see as if in slow motion – life and death enacted as it has always been… A buzzard first, no more than a shadow cast over tilled soil, plummets, strikes, flaps over its kill, sinking talons deeper. Even if successful, the hare will be too much to carry off, so the bird must eat there… oblivious to we who now travel past, but never leave the road… and in this field, on the frontline, where the soldiers of the iron curtain and American forces determined to oppose met… I wonder how many other bird and prey bouts were enacted, though with armour & tracks in place if fur and long legs, jet thrust and missiles in instead of wings beat and ripping beak.

Age old conflict

Age old conflict

If we forget, then we shall make the same mistakes again.
We are within living memory of a conflict that lasted near a hundred years… that reduced once great powers to ruin. The ambitions of european imperialism, forged in the grand epoch are buried just beneath the soil of these ordered fields… echoes remaining in land and blood.
The world consuming empires of Britain and France, Germany and Hungary, are no more than dusty maps in libraries looked at by scholars. The later empires of the US and the USSR have each lost their purpose and much of their support.
We squandered our strength, busily fighting each other, to the point that none was left standing, none victorious and the very earth wounded.
And as my dad (born 1905, died 1983) foretold – so long as they don’t follow the same path to destruction, the yellow man shall inherit.

Christmas day…

Rehearsals from 10:30, two shows (which went very well) – a normal enough day… but for me, today is anything but normal, only the second in near thirty years that I haven’t been with Amos and the first of Ely’s life… I did make it home for Christmas – not in the fullest sense, but thanks to Skype my juddering motion and comments punctuated by loss of connection, appeared at the dinner table. I was told of roast and stuffed turkey, buttered carrots with cumin, parsnips with honey, sprouts with the bacon and of course, roast potatoes, with great wine… I whine – Owwwwww!, like the dogs who had waited and waited as the feast was prepared… they at least are eventually rewarded with the scrapings off cleared plates and bones to gnaw on… I don’t even get a sniff – there’s no app for that!

Did she drop anything yet?

And they had devils on horseback

Todd at dinner

There is a happy ending…
In my hotel room await two boxes of presents, one sent by family, containing treats and memory triggers and the other by lovely friend Justine, who understands wholly what it must feel like for a chap away from home (her husband is in the marines)… a complete Yo Ho Ho haul of jingling ornaments, Mmmm shortbread, a chocolate santa, mistletoe, oil for aching muscles, goodies and things I’d never think of getting for myself, plus cards with well-wishes from friends. I sit with a glass of wine amongst torn wrapping paper and expressions of love.

Last technologically enabled communication of the day in a text from Lill…
“Glad tidings and turkey filled tummies abound,
Siblings and dogs spread alike on the ground,
Now, as the cheeses weave their trippy spell,
Merry Christmas to all, and sweet dreams as well.”

Dinner with friends…

Do an unsuccessful wash of smalls in the bath – hang it on radiator, so that the whole room will smell, head into the centre to buy a speaker – so that I can listen to my music without it being tinny, followed by Starbucks, for cheesecake, coffee and most importantly internet… in comfy chair, I’m able to have a non-private private conversation, as I Skype home over headset. (the coffee drinkers hear my side only), while I get to talk with everyone… though I’m not entirely sure if this is a good thing as my sense of distance clangs. Maybe, I should just accept life, as one whose focus should stay in the hermits cell – it’s not a terrible place, but the fur door is certainly locked from the outside.

Then comes dinner…

Directions to Christmas

Having followed as instructed, I am welcomed from the dark street – the door opens, a hug given, a cold beer pushed into grateful hand in a kitchen of smells that fully evoke Christmas. Then, wide ranging conversation offered by people who speak English, though I am ignorant of their languages. We chat until the bird is ready (a beautiful goose) and with a never ending glass of wine, I fill – with food and friends and cheer.


I am a strange fellow to welcome in… I hope they didn’t regret!

Christmas decorations…

I’ve seen the pictures – at home the lights have gone on the tree, the cards are up on ribbons, the holly wreath is on the door… my adornment is of a more practical nature.

Manny Elbow

Two shows plus rehearsals today… they went somewhat better, in that the calls over the in-ears were fewer, as we circumvented things that didn’t work.
Tomorrow is a day off, though I think it’s going to take every moment of healing available to get people back to strength.
When I played rugby – one game a day was considered plenty… not so with the entertainment business.

Christmas gift…

I was looking for some meaning, something beyond the imperative that I should simply be celebratory. I wanted to see Christmas as more than the much publicised; discounted shopping opportunity.

My new chum, Wolfram offered me an opportunity to get rid of the ‘Bar humbug’… Having first met him as the tenor of Amarcord, I happened into him in a store – we each on our way somewhere, rushing, rushing… in aisles surrounded by tech stuff, we stopped and talked, ‘of sailing ships and ceiling wax, of cabbages and kings’ and concluded that there was yet more conversation to be had, but today – no time.

Hail fellow, well met!

I told him of the show… he told me of some people who’d really love to see it, but wouldn’t be able to afford the ticket price. They care for some young children, who’s lives thus far, have not been all that our society promises… ‘nough to say, they have not been protected as children ought.
I don’t think I can sort anything… policy is strict, Fox pretty tight.

But the idea burns and technology helps:
WTJ Text: What day, how many?
WL Text: Saturday, five.
WTJ Text: I check with the office…

And yep; it’s a possibility.

WTJ Text: Sorted
WL Text: Danke

Saturday, 3pm show:
I tell the cast, that we have some very special guests in the audience today… it puts extra pizzaz into our performance. To be able to offer such a special Christmas gift is a privilege.

Saturday, 5pm:
I go out after, to say hello, but the ushers have busily moved everyone out of the venue… heading back, the girl at the merchandise stand calls me over, “Some people with small children left this for you.” It’s a homemade book, with drawings by each of them and a big thank you written in crayon on the front.

The best gift to me this Christmas.

Saturday, 11pm:
WL Text: Hey Todd… I invite you to Christmas dinner with my family.

Christmas isn’t over yet and it’s spirit when allowed, can fill you up.

From Kalli, age 4

Yung Biau masterclass…

Focus, energy commitment

Youn Biau is here for a couple of days, to tweak.
A few minutes out of the show in total has big implications for running scenes at a practical level… technical, costume, character, energy. But beyond the logistical, just watching him do his thing is brilliant.
And the student enacts…

Le Le defying gravity

Before becoming the teacher…

Getting ready

Listening to history…

A single candle means little, but there were thousands

St Nicholas’s, from where peaceful protest helped bring down the communist regime.
…From May of 1989, regularly harassed, arrested, beaten with clubs… determined people gathered, in increasing numbers to show solidarity with the idea of change, no matter their religious, political or ethnic background. The final confrontation came on Oct 9th 1989… The regime sent 600 sympathisers into the nave, to fill the space – to stop the vigil, more supporters and Stasi functionaries were outside, but they were outnumbered by tens of thousands of people who disagreed – all holding candles… you cannot hold a weapon when it takes both hands to protect a candle’s flame from the wind. The regime had no answer and a fresh wind blew across Europe, that helped bring to an end a period of history, that had seen the extreme ideologies of fascism and communism emerge and wane across the inhabited globe.

Imaging October 1989, with all seats full and no standing room.

New Shoots growing from cold stone

Give in…

It is sophisticated black

My left knee, my lower back and my right elbow… all have burning sensations, that I can’t seem to clear by stretching, or with the passage of time and part of the ongoing problem is the amount of stuff I have to schlep around – with no private space to leave anything, I have to carry my office, my gym, my camera & tripod, my connected and unconnected life everywhere… so I give in, and buy a wheeled day bag, otherwise known as an old ladies shopping trolley, the very type I used to mock.
And after transferring my stuff, my conclusion is… why didn’t I do this years ago.