The Watchtower…

Here in Nantes, there is a watchtower, set with wide vantage en route to Paris, Poitiers… who’s simple function; was to give warning of invasion, its walls thick and strong to withstand onslaught for long enough that the fire atop might be lit, so to raise the hue and cry.

Watch towers

Watch towers

It has stood vigil for five hundred years on its mound, though now… the line of sight, is grown over by upstart saplings, the walls pulled apart by ivy’s searching fingers, the stairs to the long stolen brassier crumbled, the cry of the watcher – drowned by the passing trucks.
Ivy won

Ivy won

It has been replaced by a higher spyglass, one that circles far above and bears down, sending information to eyeless machines, that use algorithms to seek for malevolent intent… key words that suggest heinous act.
But the digital watcher was derelict in duty and missed the retail invasion that happened… the Danes, the Americans, the Chinese (though not the people of those places) have made us servile, as they have done in all developed states.
IKEA… cheap home products made at huge cost.
McDonalds… salt & sugar-cow & cardboard patties.
中国工厂 factories spewing out pollution… while making throw away stuff.
We are no longer citizens of a nation, but subjects of corporation.
The cries of the dying obscured by mind numbing mall muzak.

Overshadowed & forgotten

Overshadowed & forgotten

An encounter…

I’m distinctly missing getting knowledge of much outside of the Ice, we live as a machine that eats time. ‘Bus, hotel, unpack, recover, wander (a bit), get-in, repairs & maintenance, shows, get-out, pack, bus.’ metronomique rhythm, but without fully lubricated cogs or balanced weights, so more ‘lurch-clunk’, than ‘tic-toc’.

And my wandering day in Nantes this week, had me visit the monument to the abolition of slavery, that was inaugurated here last year… Like my local city of Bristol, Nantes is recorded as being responsible for the transportation of over half a million slaves out of Africa, while the trade was legal and regulated. The plaque (pictured) below however, gives no indication of the unrecorded thousands of men, woman and children who died, resisting capture, or falling on their forced journey to the slave ships, nor does it hint at the numbers involved in the unrecorded trade that surely went on.
And by extraordinary syncronicity, the only English language film playing in Nantes that night, was “Lincoln” (I should state that this is the first film, I’ve been able to see in the cinema, since leaving Chagford, last July… so quite an event)… which focusses on the attempt by the Abolishionists to get the 13th amendment through the house. Yes, it’s a condensed narrative and a writing of history from a specific viewpoint, but it’s gripping & marvellous… go see it if you can.

Numbers that astonish

Numbers that astonish

I’ve had my ears lowered…

My French ain’t up to much and today this was thoroughly confirmed.
I went shopping in the local mall, thinking that I was in safe territory, having used such commercial venues in various parts of the world across many years.
1) Start small, with smalls… socks and underwear – easy enough you’d think, medium, the same as I purchase from M&S in the UK, only to find when later putting some on, that they are not (how shall I say?) roomy enough.
2) Next, dejeuner… I studied the label and for just 12€ I can have a seafood platter to rival that of any restaurant. It was thoroughly bland and disappointing.
3) I need a trim, looking a bit poufy… explain using English, but with a fantastic French accent to the nice girl, and wonder if she could have a go at my beard after. One hedge trimming later, I emerge like a shawn sheep.

What the hell's that sticky up bit doing on my head?

What the hell’s that sticky up bit doing on my head?

Bus to Nantes…

The usual scramble for seats takes place, but I need to recognise that I’m entirely out of my depth, if trying to compete with the hardened skater girls. They are professionals when it comes to staring ahead and not noticing that there are many who as yet don’t have a seat, while they have created fluffy empires, across at least two. I’m half an hour early for the bus, bus find these vixens already situated, with shades over eyes and iPod headphones pushed firmly in.

So for six hours I perch on the attendants seat, next to the driver… well there is a view and I can write up my reports, but there’s no sleep.

So a quick galette filled with leak (poireaux), cheese and lardons, a jug of cider, a crepe with banana & chocolate, more cider and bed.

It's crap until it's crepe.

It’s crap until it’s crepe.


Doing this I log treats… it’s the way I deal with being away, being an itinerant, a puppeteer for hire.
So here’s how I rewarded myself…

Filet de bouef, with roquefort  sauce & pomme gratin

Filet de bouef, with roquefort sauce & pomme gratin

It remains

Day or night, you can see, if you but look.

Day or night, you can see, if you but look.

Chocolate and vanilla coup, with flaked almonds.

Chocolate and vanilla coup, with flaked almonds.

Filling up…

Five minutes to go before the last Paris show and there are near 9000 out there.

As of Saturday evening, we’d sold 53,600 tickets to Ice Age-Live!… guessing, that should push us well over the 55thousand mark for our total Bercy Paris run.
Below is a stitched together series of shots I sneaked – taken on my phone, as I knelt behind the video screen, 5mins before the last show.

Oh my gosh

Oh my gosh

For the finale, the clapping in time and general applause is fantastic… but the wave that hits, as the audience reacts to the final chord is stupendous… on the platform in Manny, I feel its power.

Two stories:
The little boy who held manny’s trunk… not wishing to let go, despite the publicity shoot being over.
The two little girls who simply stood holding hands, staring at the space where, just moments before, it had all happened… they’re friends from the films, had been there.

And it’s done, we’ve completed, I’m welling up.


Just completed the third of my three shows today… by the end of tomorrow at Paris’s Bercy Arena, I’ll have performed before tens of thousands of people, and done TV slots that will appear across France… Blimey! To celebrate, I’ve got a pack of saltines and some cheese in my hotel room – life at the top, ain’t all it’s cracked up to be!

The ancient city of Tod

Just the one evening show today… so I can have a demi-wander.
My choice… the Royal Palace of the Louvre.
It takes well over an hour to actually get in, but I have five left, I’ll be able to see much of it.

reflecting on my prestigious past

reflecting on my past

Comfort with a bite

Cat woman

Just plain scary... and yes he came to visit later.

Just plain scary… and yes he came to visit later.

I’m brushed out, along with the other detritus and have to rush in order to make the call time… I didn’t get beyond the Egyptian collection.
Truly staggering.




I’ve heard of this place – it lives up to its reputation and tomorrow we open here, so no ambling this week, instead; fixing, so that our stars can appear before their public… who don’t need to know that cable ties are the only thing between us and embarrassment.

Tomorrow... the house will be full

Tomorrow… the house will be full

Clever folks with notes…

Ella & Martin, helping Olga warm up.

Ella & Martin, helping Olga warm up.

So… our esteemed composers/librettists, Ella & Martin are here. Great to see them and I hope they feel proud of their creation. Without them, we wouldn’t be here and the world wouldn’t know of Ice Age-Live! Instead, it exists and this weekend over 55,000 people will attend this spectacle vivant, and each become a part.
An aspect of them, I note… they can’t stop, no tuning out, or letting it go. It’s all about pushing – as far as possible. I respect that.


After last night I am ready.
Five hours back across Northern France with this band of itinerants, who are straight back into it… conquering Bercy will be a mammoth task.
I however have a chance to enjoy my hotel room, which happily looks over The Seine, I make tea (almost the last of my Glengettie, rationing has worked to a point), strip off and lie on starched cotton sheets in bright sunlight, coming through my open window, while listening to BBC 6music. As in the Joni Mitchell song “Free Man in Paris”
‘I was a free man in Paris
I felt unfettered and alive
There was nobody calling me up for favors
And no one’s future to decide
You know I’d go back there tomorrow
But for the work I’ve taken on
Stoking the star maker machinery
Behind the popular song’

A moment of freedom taken

A moment of freedom taken

The sun’s direct light has left and it’s time for dinner… and tonight, I’m invited out, so take the Metro (posters of Ice Age adorn walls) to friend Alice’s mum’s apartment for a wonderful time, with champagne, foie gras, Yung Biao, Sid and Scratte in laughing attendance.

Yes... it's the Tour Eiffel

Yes… it’s La Tour Eiffel

My friend Nicholas…

There’s a much bigger story here, but where to begin?
I have been in another shed, in which I have entertained these last days, in which I’ve heard the happy squeals and shouts of children, known the sweetness of elation at having achieved and the weight of exhaustion after… Our get-out goes well and Mammoths are packed in just a couple of hours.

But before starting it all again, I’m to be taken back, to the first place… the ancient forest of Brocéliande,
Nico will convey me.

There, under a star strewn sky (I try to clasp the picture in my mind, for the days and sheds to come) I meet the most venerable of trees (though tree is too short a word) the mighty Chêne De Guillotin.

Where I laid my hand

Where I laid my hand

Tell them the story of the spider… no time… later…!

A most venerable tree

An idea of its grandeur

Then the first and final meal of the day… buckwheat galette, ham, egg, chèvre, with local cider.

Sorceress performing alchemy

Sorceress performing alchemy

And wheat flour crepe, chocolate, pear, almond, with Bouchinot (an exquisite apple liqueur.

With homemade chocolate... Mmmm

With homemade chocolate… Mmmm

And to prepare me for my cure…

Honey plus a sting

Honey plus a sting

After… past Folle-Pensee, a walk on secret paths, to the source, where first I sit and contemplate, then drink, then sink my head into curative water of la fontaine de Barenton. Beneath the surface, I open my eyes and see… though that’s not for now… later!

A place where madness is washed away

A place where madness is washed away

I am allowed to sleep in the forest, appropriately – in the place of a newborn.

Time passes, renewal comes, death and rebirth in this realm, are our realities, but all do not subscribe to such.

Thank you Nico.

Un homme averti en vaut deux !

A man who knows, is worth two!
Found sheet metal and fixings, set square and hacksaw blades. Three hours later, I’ve reinstated Manny, ready for todays appearances. Wired up, clamped down, bolted together, we can give him the full run.
And: Lee is back after his forced holiday. His long legs, make a massive difference to our ability to hit the marks, traverse the platforms and create the known character out of metal and fur… like all puppets, this one is entirely inanimate until we make it other. It looks good, but is dead until performed before an audience – animation is not simply about movement. Communicating life and character requires both the skill of the manipulator and the mind of the viewer, who agrees to see.

Where our show resides

Where our show resides