Nuremberg

There are many ghosts here…
Nuremberg is a word that has always resonated with me – despite not being of that time, when a majority of lives were utterly caught up in the World Wars, but in my little Welsh world, the aftermath was a distinct reality. Everything had changed and everyone about me had been touched.

I have met many over the years who have told me something of their experiences and I am left wondering how I would act or react in such circumstances.

The moment that really gets me, every time I brush with it, is the way National Socialism so confounded rational behaviour… was the opiate that produced the force, was made supreme for a while and so nearly won.

To understand why it became such a lure I need to look at context… not that depicted in Hollywood, or my 12yr-old self’s Commando comics, but feel the ground, walk the paths, listen to the wind amongst the birch trees which still carry the echoes of mass chants.

Post Industrial revolution power, gave European Imperialist ambition opportunities to expand its white empires, through mass production and unabated aggression. Europe had carved up much of the world

Marching to a different tune

Marching to a different tune

The extent of the megalomania

The extent of the megalomania

Then & now... the weeds win.

Then & now… the weeds win.

A three show Christmas day…

Altogether tough.
Workwise, just the shows to deal with and only minor breakages, but today’s The Day. And at its end, I can’t even manage proper contact with the family as the hotel’s internet is hardly working and the phone’s too expensive, so I eat my stolen from breakfast bread and cheese, have a chocolate I saved from my birthday and am heading for bed… tomorrow is just another day.

Here are my decorations…

Deck the halls with smalls all jolly.

Deck the halls with smalls all jolly.

Dickens would find some useful literary strands in this.

A gift of light…

In Nuremberg… away for Christmas, but kept close to home by thought.
Here in Germany they celebrate the festive season on the 24th… so the cast & crew of ‘Ice Age Live’ have Christmas Eve off and while the locals gather as families, give presents and consume the traditional fare, I’ll be heading for a Mexican restaurant (about the only thing open) before performing for thousands on a three show December 25th.

But for now, I want to share a Christmas gift I received.

As a puppeteer, I am extremely privileged, to witness moments where people give life to the things I perform… whether it be the most sophisticated, mega-buck animatronic, or the simplest sock puppet I am convinced that it is about the audience’s mind, rather than the character’s cost. Now… appearing live in Ice Age, I get to look out through the fur and steel as we shamble about and I daily see children and adults imbue our manipulation with greater meaning… and by so doing they are caught up in story, story that allows them to escape pain or sadness that exists outside these brief imaginings.

After Saturday’s shows this was made more than clear.

Announcement made at morning notes… ‘there’s to be a meet and greet after today’s third show’.

Three show days are hard on all, you have to dig very deep to maintain the level of performance, particularly when in the show intervals and between the shows, I’m having to conduct urgent repairs. Today: Manny’s eye & trunk cables, Peach’s head control, Diego’s hind leg attachments… all at a rush, but all managed away from the audience’s gaze.

By the sixth hour in costume, when not performing out on the ice, I’m pretty much hanging in the harness… trying to keep focus.
Then it’s the finalè of show three… lovely applause from this festive audience, take the bow and recede behind the video wall… we’re done!

Almost.

Just the ‘meet and greet’.

Tonight just one child.

She’s seven years old and has terminal cancer. Sid’s her favourite character. We all go to meet her.

She watches our advance from her wheelchair and her face lights up.

At the edge of the ice the mad herd stops, she is helped to stand before us and I see – through the fabric & fur – that within her chunky red christmas jumper, there is little in the way of body.

She hugs Sid, partly out of affection and pleasure, partly to assist her legs.

There is the click of lens shutters… a record of this meeting, but not for her.

Laughter trumps pain for a moment.

The herd makes to depart, she goes back to her chair.

Manny stays, moves close… an enormous creature before this tiny girl… and gently lifts his trunk and places it on her lap. She holds onto it, then rubs her face in the soft fur and looks up into his eyes and a smile that could illuminate all the world fills her face.

She lets go, Manny pulls back and just for her; rears to his full height & trumpets & bows. She laughs and claps. Her parents are in tears. I’m losing it. Manny turns and leaves… lone across the ice, through the video wall and the spell is broken.

Park-up, un-buckle, make-safe… leave the huge puppet in the dark of the back-stage… but there is no more dark, thanks to a tiny girl who is only here for a while.

May you too get to experience some light shining this Christmas.

Christmas ghost story…

Christmas ghost story…

Odd end to my stay in this very odd business motel.

There’ve been several incidents… Commented on a breakfast by girls who didn’t sleep, there’ve been many dark dreams and a few nightmares (me included) and so I set about a little local digging. They talk of Henry the Lion Heart holding court hereabouts, of the ancient Prussian realm, of the oldest lime tree, of armies and battles and war moving back & forth across this now quiet agricultural landscape.

So:
Each night I’ve returned to the hotel, it’s been after 10pm, so the sauna which people have been talking about has always been closed, but tonight I returned by 8:30 & went for a relax. Nobody was there and I enjoyed the first silence in two & a half weeks.
On my way back to the room I thought candles would’ve been nice, but I don’t have any. However… thinks clever me… this close to Christmas there must be some around. I scoured the breakfast room, then the kitchens and low & behold.
Now I needed a light… can’t go to reception in just my towel – the woman there remembers me from the chocolate night (she wasn’t happy, despite my attempts to remove the splatters from the wall and leather upholstery), so I look for smokers… slender show-girls can’t have food, but they can have fags, find reliably ciggy in hand American figure skater Veronica (a porcupine in the show & boy is she pissed at that), who’s taking her tobacco pleasure. She lights my acquired candle and I progress (circumventing reception) carefully back to my room, protecting the flickering flame.
Get to the door and at it’s opening a wind emerges and causes my candle to go out. Damn!
Well… good try.
Check to see if I’d left the window open… nope! That’s odd. No drafts, as with all hermetically sealed such establishments.
Must have been Henry I self joke.

Well so much for a candlelit last evening with some jazz and the cold beer I’ve brought back with me.

But apparently, my plan was good, for there on my desk, next to my camera and my phone and my wallet, where there were none before is a pack of matches – brand El Sol.

Make of it what you will, but I feel a Christmas presence.

Thanks for shedding some light.

I’ve certainly met my match.

Todd
Avalon hotel, Koenig Hutter, near Brunswick, Old Germany.

3SD…

Able to see the numerous birthday wishes as today I have some access to an internet connection… I’m being bad looking, as it’s within the fourteen hours I’m meant to dedicate to work today, This doesn’t include the two ten minute slots I have to eat.

Birthday Ranting & Panting…

Today’s my birthday… there were highs and lows.

Low first:
1) I found out this afternoon, that through ineptitude or intent, Stage Entertainment has screwed up my salary… essentially there is none coming till 24th December, much too late for presents home, so… I’m very sorry, but there won’t be anything from me this Christmas.

When I query what I consider unfair practise, I am reminded to read the small print in their carefully worded contract (my verbal agreement has been fortunately forgotten and it seems that their lawyer/accountant created pages can be interpreted entirely to their benefit). They however, do not need to abide by such, as has been proven by their paying me less than a third of my agreed salary for my good labours in Utrecht.

Fortunately others are helping me out with food and the hotel’s breakfast buffet bar is supplying the rest.

But it does mean that I can’t have a treatment for my put-out-back, as I’d have to pay the chiropractor first, then hope that I can reclaim a portion of it from insurance… on with the painkillers.

2) And then tonight… two shows done and repairs underway for tomorrows Three Show Day (they need to be dealt with the night before, as 3SD’s are mad even when everything’s working), the first bus with cast leaves for the hotel… just me & some crew left. I tell one of the tech guys that I’ve still got work to complete and can he let me know when the second bus is about to leave… “sure Todd” he says clutching a beer in each hand. I shouldn’t have trusted.
Later, I become aware of a peculiar silence beyond the ever present sound of the diesel ice generator, look at the time – ‘there should have been a bus by now?’ Go to the parking lot… it’s empty. Look around the building… only the security guard.
At eleven, the last bus will come according to the notice board… late but oh-well!

23:10… no bus.

“It’s been cancelled as everyone was supposed to be on the last one.”

“Well I bloody wasn’t!”

“Take a taxi… I’ll sort it out says the considerate company manager.”

Great birthday!

Now the Highs:
1) At notes between shows today, the whole cast sang ‘happy birthday’ too me… the twenty Chinese voices made it a different thing – recognisable tune, unknown vocals.

2) Cards were handed, I was handled, hands were clapped.

3) Alice, Olga & Melanie waited.
When my taxi finally drew up to the hotel, there was a welcoming committee. Harald sorted out the driver’s payment (I was too frightened to look at the meter), and gave me chocolates and a bottle of schnapps and next to him in statuesque and beautiful line was Alice, Olga and Melanie, with a bottle of wine and four glasses. “Pop up too your room and change out of your work clothes and we’ll join you in five minutes.”
True to their word, in five minutes there’s a knock on my and there they are with the biggest chocolate torte I’ve ever seen.

The rest I need to tell with pictures…

Wow!

Wow!

The radiator behind is festooned with my hand washed knickers.

The radiator behind is festooned with my hand washed knickers.

Mmmmm!

Mmmmm!

Melanie started it.

Melanie started it, I needed no second invitation.

Oh oh, the demon is awake!

Oh oh, the demon is awake!

And he tastes good!

And he tastes good!

Chocolateers.

Chocolateers.

Le belle dam, sans merci

Le belle dam, sans merci

As Carol joked… “You had a pants birthday!”

The show last night ran over as could have been anticipated… instead of the midnight end we were promised, it’s 01:30 when we start the get-out.

Back at the hotel by 03:00.

Up for the train to Braunschweig (Brunswick) at 06:00.

Stuff croissants into napkin… that’ll have to do.

Taxi-Train-Taxi… work.

The get-in of the mammoths began without me and a little too much enthusiasm costs me dear. Trying to get Manny out of his crate, the lift off the locking bars went wrong and his pelvis strut is now in pieces… that’s two hours of fixing I hadn’t expected. And that doesn’t include the ripped fur.

Two shows today, so prioritise. Make Manny walk, the rest can wait!

Finish bodging repairs with ten minutes to go, no warm up, just earpiece in, back support belt on, two nurofen in and off we jolly well go.

More hours off…

A few hours off, before tonights TV appearance and a hurried departure for the next city… so I again walk the hundred yards from my hotel and am back in a place of history.

P1170126 - Version 2
I am standing at the doors of the Topography of Terror education centre… built on the foundations of the Gestapo’s main headquarters (possibly the most chilling place I’ve ever been), looking North, over one of the last remnants of The Wall, towards the past and present site of Berlin’s most prestigious and important government ministries… from old Kaiser led Prussia, to newly reunited Germany. There’ve been many ripples begun under this small portion of sky and I think – given Germany’s present standing – more yet to come.

P1170134
This must be the saddest playground in the world… it was put here by the Soviet occupational force, in order that there would be no shrine to mark Hitler’s death place. This is geographically where The Fuhrer’s bunker was and apparently where my hat stand’s, is the place where the Russian troops found the half cremated corpses of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun… just married and then joined further in a suicide pact, but unsuccessfully disposed of by Goebbels before he himself committed suicide.

A few hours off…

We are not called till 5pm, so I have daylight hours to see some of Berlin. I was last here twenty years ago… much has changed.

Our hotel is very near Potsdamer Platz, which when I was working on ‘Never Ending Story’ just after The Wall had stopped being an absolute barrier (1961-1989)… this area was still part of the kill zone, now it’s full of glass high-rises with more happening on any and every square metre of open space.

Directly under where the wall had blocked.

Directly under where the wall had blocked.

From the top of the Dom Cathedral I can see a new Berlin, indicative of a new Germany, expressing its success as the dominant economy of Europe.

Rising from the past.

Rising from the past.

Li Kai…

Alice and I popped in to see Li Kai in hospital today.
We saw his X-ray pictures… in the fall off the ball his left ulner snapped where it meets the carpels at his wrist joint, when his co-bear landed on it in our ill prepared run-through… that’s the end of his acrobatic performing career.
But as has been stated, the company can just swop him for another, or ten.
Me too.

He'll get to see his family before me.

He’ll get to see his family before me.