Monday, 30 July 2007

The Little Festival in The Big Garden

I have just arrived in a slightly rainy hannover, Germany where I am to perform five nights a week for three weeks as part of the "Kleines Fest in der Grossen Garten" - "the little festival in the big garden". It's a nice gig. 30 of the finest variety companies in the World each have a little stage in a beautiful ornamental garden, and every night 3000 people come and eat, drink and watch the shows before the night is closed with big-ass fireworks. The tickets sell out before the first night, and this year - according to Harald, the organiser - the demand for tickets was more than double the supply. Makes you feel wanted.

Harald is great. A tall, grey haired bespectacled Hannovian who for most of the year is a big wheel in the local council, but for one month a year, he dons his top hat and runs the festival which he clearly loves very much. Harald's top hat is an important tradition here. At the big meeting the day before the first performance he carefully takes it out of it's big round hatbox, opens it and puts it on and we all cheer. Then at the big party on the last night, he takes it off, collapses it down and puts it away until next year and we all go "Ahhhhh". "For the duration of the festival", he says, "You are all in the hat".

There are lots of people that I know and like here, which makes it all the more pleasant. Henry and Gaby - he's from New York and sounds very much like a slightly caffeinated Woody Allen, and she's Swiss and dances like a lunatic. They play music and juggle and do acrobatics and are very silly. They also have a three year old daughter called Viviana who everybody who ever meets falls in love with, and a newborn son, Dominic. The first thing Gaby said when we met after not seeing each other for a year was that I looked younger and slimmer, which re-endeared me to her immediately.

Scott and Muriel are here, another pan-global couple. He's American and she's Dutch. They do one of the best and funniest magic acts I have ever seen. Now that I think of it, Muriel is kinda nuts too. It seems to be a running theme - variety acts comprising a clean-cut American man and a nutjob silly European woman. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Who else is here? Daniel, a mime artist so good that he can sneeze and make it look as if his head has fallen off. Seriously. Oh, and Jigalov, a Russian clown who scares me deeply.

---

The first day of the festival it rained. I spent most of the afternoon cyling around Hannover trying to find a rainproof jacket and hat that wasn't ugly but was cheap. When I found one, I queued up for ages only to be told that no shops in Hanover take visa. Annoying. Then I thought I'd go to Otto's, the nice restaurant we found last year, for pre-show food, and when I got there I waited ages to be served and then was told that all the things I wanted had run out. Getting grumpy now, and hungy. I ended up at a little kebab shop where the other customers comprised of a young mum and toddler playing and a rain-soaked homeless man sitting in the corner being supplied with free food as he nursed his beer. The woman behind the counter spoke no english but understood me pointing to pictures of pizzas, chips and coca-cola. Although she did ask what size pizza I wanted by gesturing to her (large) breasts, and then the (smaller) breasts of her co-worker. Seemed to work. I ate my food watching the rain outside as they played spanish pop music and the toddler enjoyed sneaking around me giggling, and my mood was cured.

It was still raining when I got to the gardens. The rule is that if it rains heavily enough that shows can't happen, then the night gets cancelled, but if it gets cancelled before 8.30pm then Harald has to refund all the ticket money, so what invariably happens is that however heavy the rain, the announcement isn't made before 8.31pm. Harald isn't stupid. We were halfway through our second show when the announcement to cancel came over the tannoy. The poor audience looked so unhappy and dejected to be told that they had to go home. We mentioned that of course we'd finish the show we had started, and they went nuts. From that point on they loved us like a pair of lost sons.

---

On the second night I let people talk me into staying up at the hotel bar and drinking. I don't really drink much. In fact - thanks to epilepsy - I went pretty much without a drink for about 15 years. Now however, the epilepsy has gone and been replaced with a keen interest in Jack Daniels. The practical upshot of this is that I get drunk really, really easily. I am a cheap date.

We all sat around a table in the warm comfy bar of our hotel and let Patrick, the barman, furnish us all with booze. As we chatted, more and more performers joined us, until at one point I sat back and looked around the bar. There's Henry playing the bar piano and being joined by some Spanish guitarists, as some ballet dancers groove with each other. There's Jackie, who seems to spend the whole gig wandering around in character and bullying booze out of people, talking to Dave, my comedy partner. There's the guy who leads a life-size baby elephant around the park. There's one of the women who becomes such a convincing giraffe that you wouldn't know it wasn't real if you weren't looking really closely. There's Muriel, who I last saw a few hours ago on stage literally tied in knots, before dancing around in a banana suit. There's Gaby, eating her post show chocolate pudding snack, which is, she assures us, "The reason we come to Germany".

---

We went to see the current show at the GOP variety theatre - the venue at which we will make our (hopefully) triumphant return to Hannover in September. It was based around a very well known clown, with quite the reputation. Scott told us a story about him. He was working in a circus and everyone was getting on well except for the escapologist, who seemed to think of himself as god's gift to circus. As if that wasn't bad enough, he also thought of himself as quite the hilarious prankster. Now, in circus, as with most families of performers, prank playing is rife - a creative and silly way to fill the boredom of a long season and keep everyone laughing. I myself have been involved in various episodes, often involving super glue and shoes, whereas Dave prefers the art of the cable-tie, but that's another story. Anyway, if there is one golden rule to playing jokes on each other backstage it is this: Don't mess with the act. Ever.

The escapologist was either unaware of this rule or decided to disobey it. When the pranks he played on the clown fell flat repeatedly, he started messing with the act. Sprinkling powder on the table that the clown did acrobatics on. Stupid and dangerous. The clown decided that revenge needed to be taken.

The escapologist's finale trick was a milk-can escape. In this trick, you are bound, placed inside a milk churn filled with water, the lid of which is padlocked down. He must, obviously, escape from the can.

The clown filled the can with eels.

Now, there's a point in all joke-battles, where you have to admit defeat. You have to suck it up and say "Ok, you glorious bastard, that was funny. You win". This, one would think, would be the perfect time for the escapologist to do this. But he didn't. He carried on playing stupid thoughtless jokes that put people at risk and - worse - made nobody laugh except him.

So the next week, the clown filled the milk can with blue permanent India ink. In went the escapologist, the clock ticked down, the music played, and out he leapt triumphantly. Completely blue from head to foot. For the next two weeks.

Never mess with the act. And never, ever, mess with a clown.

---

So now the festival is over. It went very well. Last night we had the big party where much food and champagne was consumed. Harald, the director, did his traditional long speech and opened with a gag he admitted was stolen from our act. That has to be a good sign. He thanked us all, gave out some roses and then closed up his top hat and put it back in it's hat box for another year. "Ahhh", we all said. They had asked me and my double act partner, Dave, to write and perform something funny to lead into a presentation of gifts for all the festival staff, and we did, and it was a hit. Yay us. Then we ate and drank and chatted into the early hours, performers children sitting on my lap and giggling, strangers telling me I was funny and kissing my head, old friends showing up and hanging out, and new acquaintances quickly becoming better friends. And I sat in the middle of it all, chatting to Dave as I have done for more than twenty years, and agreeing that there were certainly worse ways to make a living.

In the morning we all gather again in the big dining room for one last long lazy breakfast. Every so often someone will come around and hug everyone and then waved goodbye at the door and leave, until there's just a handful of us left. It's sad, but beautiful, this big extended family of people who see each other maybe once or twice a year at a variety venue of street theatre festival. Close, meaningful relationships that lack only the luxury of regular face time. We're all here for three weeks, then we all shoot off in different directions either to home, wherever that is, or to the next gig, wherever that is.

I have a pizza with Henry & Gaby at lunch and during the meal Vivi, their 3 year old daughter, is acting up a little, doing handstands on the sofa and asking to try everyone's food. She's probably over excited, tired, senses that today is a long dull travel day, and will miss the people who are such fun to be with. The truth is that I'm very aware that all those things apply to me too. These friendships mean an awful lot to me - they'd mean less, perhaps, if we were together all the time. The rarity is part of the joy.

We make plans to try to get booked at a couple of the same festivals, and then they're leaving, Gaby turning as she walks out the door and yelling "Happy trails" with a grin.

And here I sit, in the hotel lobby, now so quiet where for the last three weeks it was full of noisy messy performers. The staff are probably glad it's over, but I also think they secretly like their dull businessman's hotel being turned into a bit of a circus for three weeks a year. The taxi will be here soon, and then to the airport, and then back home. And then the sadness of leaving my friends has gone, replaced with the feeling of comfort and warmth that goes with returning to my wife and my house and my cat.

Until the next gig.

Monday, 23 July 2007

Super Magic Hotel Pixies

When I get up in the morning, here in the Dorint hotel, and I go down to have breakfast (Which, by the way, is served to us performers in a separate back room away from the "real" people staying at the hotel, so we don't infect them with our crazy variety act ways), magic hotel pixies come to my room and move everything around.

First things first, I know that they're not real pixies, but poorly-paid German people, but I choose to think of them as pixies as a fun way of dehumanising people in the service industry.

Anyway...

So while I'm downstairs having grilled tomato sandwiches and telling Roy Lee stories to my fellow performers, there is a pixie in my room. The pixie's job, as I understand it, is to make my bed (i.e. fold the duvet into a roll and put it lengthways on my bed, so I have to unroll it to actually use it), replace used towels (thank you), and move all my stuff to slightly different places. Here's the thing: I don't wish to demean these pixies, but I imagine that changing towels and rolling up duvets isn't particularly rewarding work, so it is my proposition that they focus all of their creative energy into the moving things around part.

They key is this: Don't move everything, and don't move the things too far from their original position, but find a place to move them to that will always (always!) make me either puzzled, amused or annoyed.

Also, it's all about grouping. Moving things into groups of objects that don't go together.

Examples, you say? Be my pleasure.

The pixie moved all the things around my sink (cleanser, moisturiser, deodorant, eye gel, toothpaste, toothbrush, shaving gel) all to one tightly formed group to the right of the sink. Seriously, the pixie grouped them as close as they could be. Then, to the left of the sink, on the whole other side, all on their own, is my tub of body shop coconut body butter, and, laid carefully on top of it, facing directly upwards, my razor. I know it's not a big deal, I'm not saying it is, but it's something, and I don't know what.

Still in the bathroom, the pixie took my nail clipper which was on the little shelf to the far left of the sink by my washbag, and put it on the edge of the bath with my exfoliant scrub and shower gel. Wouldn't this scare you a little? IT SCARES ME.

Then into the main room. The pixie has taken my pyjama pants that were on the bed, carefuly folded them up and put them in the little cupboard under the fridge.

My desk has been tidied up and all the laptop cables and similar stuff have been kinda pushed up one end, and at the other end? My bottle of water and my shorts. Together.

I can only assume that a lot of thought has gone into the placing of all of these items. I can't believe for the life of me that any of this happened randomly. The pixies must compete to see who can make the inhabitant of their room, when they return, spend a few wierd-ass minutes going "Where's my..I put it here but...WHAT'S IT DOING OVER THERE?"

I think there must be a blog or perhaps a password-protected pixie-only website where all the pixies upload before and after pictures of their best work, in a fight club-esque way of slowly corrupting the mainstream of..um..where things go.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Choco-Redux

If you haven't read the post below, then read it before this one, or it'll make no sense.

Read it? Ok, good.

I googled. Here's what I found.

(a) I'm spelling it wrong, it's Choco-leibniz.
(b) The headquarters are indeed just behind my hotel here in Hannover. Yay.
(c) According to google translate, "Leibniz" means, um, "Leibniz".
(d) They are over a hundred years old and "the biggest family biscuit enterprise in the World".

There are no suggestions or instructions on the corporate website about the correct way to eat them. I take from this, that I do it right.

Choco Leibnitz

This morning Dave and I realised that our hotel in Hannover seems to be situated right next to the factory that makes Choco-Leibnitz biscuits. Or maybe it's the corporate offices. It's definitely something to do with the Choco-Leibnitz empire. I took us a while to figure this out, which is a little embarrassing as there are signs saying "Leibnitz" everywhere. I suppose I just figured that in Germany "Leibnitz" is a real word that means something like "One way" or "Exit" or "Sausage" or something. Of course if I were so motivated, I could look this up online and see exactly what it means, but I paid for 24 hours of wifi yesterday and used it all up reading about wrestling, so let it go.

I don't know anyone who knows what Choco-Leibnitz is and doesn't like them. In fact, only the other day I saw Jigalov (a Russian clown who scares me deeply) arrive in Hannover and before he had even checked into his hotel, he ran to the supermarket around the corner and returned with a big box of the aforementioned biscuits which he clutched to his chest like a newborn child.

I once won a box of them from a competition on the Choco-Leibnitz website. I answered some easy questions and gave them my address and then, a few weeks later (by which time I had forgotten all about it) a box of my favourite biscuits arrived in the mail. Free biscuits before breakfast! With the exception of my wedding, my mum surviving a road accident, and meeting Monkey, this might well have been one of the highlights of my life.

I have a method for eating them. I eat all the chocolate carefully from around the edges, then use my teeth to prize or scrape the remaining chocolate from the top surface, finally eating the plain biscuit as an afterthought. This is how everyone should eat them, obviously. Most things that are possible to eat this way, I eat this way. If a snack is dipped or covered in something, then I eat that first, then the main body of the snack. If it comprised two or more separate sections, I must eat the sections individually, one at a time. The best thing to do this with is a "fab" ice lolly because you first carefully bite off all the chocolate covered in hundreds and thousands (all in one go for maximum luck), then the white milky stuff that goes half way down (careful not to break the ice lolly part), then then rest. I've always done this. At the age of 38 I'm still not sure if everyone else does this too, or if it's just me. But if I don't do it, I feel that I have done something wrong. I guess if I am to have obsessive compulsive disorder, it's probably good that it's pretty much restricted to snack food products. And the lines in the pavement made by the edges of paving stones on the journey from the tube station to my house (The longer I can walk on an unbroken line, the more successful I'll be), but we all do that, right?

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Adverts

One of my first ever proper gigs was an advert. I was in my late teens, had only been street performing for a few months, and had been recommended to an agent by another performer. I was lucky - pretty much immediately he got me a casting for an advert.

Castings are horrible. They are the auditions at which a director who doesn't know what he wants, working to a script or storyboard that is very often not even close to being the final product, will take a series of quick glances at a never-ending series of performers, each of whom are hoping to be the thing that the director doesn't yet know he is looking for. I have long since instructed all my agents to stop sending me to castings. Here is why. When you arrive, you are given a script and led to a waiting room to sit with all the other actors who are up for the same part. From here it can go one of two ways. Either they are all very very different to you, which makes you think that you're clearly the wrong casting type for this and don't have a snowball's chance in hell. Or, even worse, you slowly realise that they all look just like you, and all those years of telling yourself that you're unique and special were wasted, as you're obviously as generic as a biro. It's a joyously lose-lose situation.

As if that's not enough good reason to avoid the whole casting thing, here's another reason. This happened at a casting I did many years ago for Coleman's Mustard. I swear this happened exactly as written here.

Casting monkey: "Ok, hi, so we're going to put some music on and if you could just dance for us, that'd be great."

Me: "Well, I'm actually not a dancer, I'm more of a physical comedian and juggl.."

"Stayin' Alive" by the BeeGee's begins. I do my best to bust out some 70's disco moves. The music eventually stops

C.M: "Ok, that's great. just great. Now, can we do it again, but this time imagine you're a pig. Ok? Go."

The same music starts again. I'm clueless on how a pig would disco dance, seeing as, y'know, they don't. So I do the same moves, but - and it pains me to remember this - I make little trotters with my hands and - oh god - I oink. After what seems like an eternity, the music stops.

C.M: "Great. Wonderful. Great stuff. Now... do you know who Timothy Spall is?"

I told them I did indeed know of the great British actor Tim Spall - I had seen him on stage in his first ever West End role, was familiar with his TV work and had been lucky enough to meet him a couple of years earlier when he came back stage at a Music Hall show I was doing at the end of the pier theatre in Cromer, Norfolk. So yes, I knew him.

C.M: "He's the voice of the pig. So if we can take another shot at it, this time taking that on board. Ok? aaand.."

Me: "WAIT."

I thought for a second. Is there, I reasoned, a way to convey to these people how ridiculous and unattainable this is? That I cannot fathom how to create the character of a disco dancing pig - who doesn't speak - yet "take on board" that he has a Birmingham accent and a flair for slightly melancholic characters. Is there any way of articulating that this is impossible without making them seem like morons. No, I decided, there isn't. So I just said goodbye and walked out. That was, at my request, my last casting. And I don't regret my decision. Life is way too short to spend in the company of idiots called Chloe and Ben who work in advertising and who's closest brush with talent, art or intellect is when they pretend to know the names that the director of todays masterpiece is clumsily dropping. I realise that I'm generalising here, but hey - that's their casting type.

This is not to say, of course, that my experience actually filming adverts is awful. Quite to the contrary, once they've decided to spend money on you, they treat you like a king. Well, at least a duke. Of adverts.

Anyway, as I mentioned, my new agent set me up with a casting, and it seemed I was too young to know the right amount of disdain to treat these people with, so I aced it and got the part. Flash forward a couple of days and I'm sitting in business class being flown to CineCitta studios in Rome to film an advert for an Italian TV channel, Rai-2. My co-star in the ad is a late middle aged heavily buxom, and also quite heavy, very charming woman. She is to play the showgirl assistant to my Vegas style juggler. The script, part of a long-running series all with the same punchline, has us both on stage, her dancing around as I juggle lots of clubs. I throw the clubs higher and higher until, one by one, the clubs are stolen at the peak of their throw by a mysterious white gloved hand. Finally, with no clubs left to juggle, the music grinds to a clumsy halt and we both shuffle slowly off stage, embarassed. It's genuinely funny, and our performance gets laughs from the crew.

I had no idea of the importance of CineCitta studios, until, while relaxing in my dressing room, I hear some gunshots. I take a hesitant look out in the corridor and hear more gunshots coming from the room next door, which only now do I notice is labelled "Godfather III Special effects". Cool.

I've only been featured in one advert that aired in the UK. Although foreign adverts are good in that nobody sees you making a tit of yourself, British ones pay a lot better.

I was to star as - yes - "The Juggler" in one of a series of adverts for British Gas. In each ad - usually, it has to be said, fronted by minor celebrities - something bizarre would happen that would somehow tie into the final shot of the aforementioned minor celebrity holding up a thumb, upon which would be superimposed a blue flame, and delivering the line "Don't you just love being in control?"

The script to mine sounded like fun. I would be juggling some rings while talking about the latest offer and being watched by a little dog. Then I would stop, hold all the rings in one hand, pull open my jacket with my other hand to reveal a neon sign underlining the offer. Then the dog would jump through the rings. Juggling, special effects, performing dog. What's not to like?

The director was a nice guy, seem to like me, and most of my stuff got filmed pretty quickly. Electric jacket - no problem. Stopping juggling in shot and on cue - easy. Lines - surprisingly smooth. Then we came to the finale. Jumping dog.

All day we'd been thinking it. That dog looks awfully small to be able to jump through a hoop. But no, the woman from the agency for performing animals assured us all, it would be child's play. It is, after all no ordinary dog- it has been trained for showbiz. We took a break and all went outside into the car park to rehearse the jumping dog bit. Probably best, the woman explained, if he learns it first with her holding the hoop, and then with me. Seems fair. She held the hoop in one hand, and the dogs lead in the other. Then, very slowly, as if we wouldn't see, she lowered the hoop until it touched the floor, fed the lead through the hoop and yanked the poor little dog through after it. We all stood slack-jawed.

"There!", she said, turning with a sheepish grin, "Ta-daa!"

Two hours and several dozen expletives from the director later, and there's a new dog and new handler on set. And this one looks like the real deal. Bright eyes, waggly tail. Born for the business like Lena Zavaroni. We try it. I ask the handler what I should do, and she tells me to hold the rings anywhere I like and when I want the dog to jump, "Just give him the eye".

And it really is as simple as that. I stop juggling, hold out the rings, glance at the dog with a "go on" look in my eye, and he jumps, sailing through the rings effortlessly and elegantly, then landing gently and looking up at me with a smile. A pro.

It was this advert that solidified my ambition to not be famous. I understand of course, that not being famous should be a fairly achievable aim for most people, and even more so for jugglers, but that's not the point. Most performers won't admit the desire to be famous. Most will happily admit, like gracious deities, that all they want is to be able to make a living from what they do. Riches, that's all we want, and recognition for our work by our peers perhaps. And an ice cream. But deep down in most performers soul there is a little voice saying, "Yeah, but it'd be cool to be famous, huh?"

Now I'm not going to say for a second that I famous, but one single year, for about a month while my British Gas advert was being shown, I was on TV several times a night. So every so often, people would recognise me in the street. It was very weird and hugely unpleasant. I would be walking through the West End, shopping, and a random man would appear, grinning, in front of me, with his thumb sticking up. Saying, and I'm quoting directly here, "Eh? Eh? EH?" and punching me in the arm playfully with his other hand. Finally he would get around to the denoument: "eh? EH? GAS! INNIT?" To which I would have to smile, agree, shake his hand and mumble "Yes. Gas". This wasn't some isolated incident. This happened often. Much too often.

Don't get me wrong, if someone likes my work, then I'm happy to talk about my wonderfulness for days on end. Only a fool gets tired of that. But this wasn't about my work, it was just about my face being on TV, nothing more. It seemed that what I did on TV wasn't important, it was just important that I was there. Too weird for me.

I got a phone call a few weeks ago from an agent. She'd never called me before for any reason. But she was calling today with the Earth-shatteringly exciting news that there was a casting for a male juggler. I told her no thanks. She genuinely couldn't believe her ears. She thought one of us had mis-heard. An hilarious mistake that we would laugh about in weeks to come. She repeated the news. "No thanks", I politely ventured, "I don't do castings". There was a pause. "What?", she said. "I don't do castings. Thank for thinking of me though, take care..". Now she was annoyed, "What do you mean you don't do castings? Why not?", "Well", I said, "I used to do them, and they made me unhappy, so now I don't. Thanks for thinking of me though". Now she was angry, exasperated and making no attempt to hide it. How dare I, a mere performer, turn down whatever offer of fame and riches she was offering me? "That's ridiculous!", she snapped. "Ok, well thanks, bye", I said, laughing as I hung up the phone.

Two other agents called that day, all for the same casting. None of them had ever got in touch for anything before, so I knew I wasn't burning any bridges that I'd ever have need to use. They all had problems with me turning down a casting, sadly used to performers who jump at every opportunity they're given, regardless of how patronising or ill-judged it is. There are some very good agents out there, and a lot of bad ones, but here's the thing: without performers, agents have nothing, but without agents, performers have an extra 10%.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

SevenSeven

The recent happily failed bombs in the UK got to me thinking about the last time something like that happened.

Sometimes I work in a double act. I like the act, it's a few nice little tricks glued together by 40 minutes of tightly scripted bickering. Fun for all. We were performing at the Lent festival in Maribor, Slovenia - a lovely festival set mainly by a long riverside cluttered with stalls selling freshly burnt comfort food, bars where you can watch jazz musicians while drinking Sovenian beer, and stages featuring goofy old schtickmeisters like me.

That day we had an early show - noon in the worryingly-quiet main town square and against all the odds we had a nice bouncy little show. We were packing our props away when an English family on holiday asked us a question. "Have you heard what happened in London?"

They took us aside and told us what they knew, which wasn't a whole lot at that stage but enough to make my heart sink like a stone. There had been bombs, some on the underground and one, a little later, on a bus. Some people were dead. I felt sick. My head filled with malformed and childish thoughts. Impotent that I wasn't there. I should be there. How dare they do this while my back is turned? That's my town they're fucking with and I'm a part of it, except this week I wasn't.

I called my wife. She was fine, but very very shaken. She walks to work, and had left before news of what was happening had started to surface. She knew, however, that something was wrong. As she walked to work she heard more and more sirens, until that's all she could hear. Then she heard the bus explode. She talked about turning onto the South Bank and not knowing if she would see a part of the London skyline in flames, not knowing what these noises had done to the city.

We didn't have another show until much later and I needed a drink. We walked down by the river where all the bars are, but they were all closed. I was starting to get angry at everything now. Then we found a place with open doors and a girl behind a bar. Promising. As we walked in she apologised and said they weren't open yet, I told her I understood, but "I'm from London, where some crazy things just happened and I would be your friend for ever if you'd let me just sit here with a drink and turn on your TV". "Sure", she said, instantly.

I asked for a Jack Daniels and she turned on BBC news 24 and slid me a very generous double. I thanked her very much. And there we sat for the next couple of hours, watching the news of what they had done to my town with my back turned. Then Ken Livingstone made his speech, which kicked all kinds of ass, and was just what everyone needed to hear. He said, and I'm paraphrasing fairly heavily here, "Is that all you got, Bitch? We're fucking Londoners". He was right, it was great and I toasted him with my second Jack Daniels.

The rest of the week went by quickly, nice shows, lovely audiences. Until the last night.

We were on last - the very last show on the very last day of the festival - a brilliant position to be in. A huge crowd gathered half an hour before the show time, and then we were delayed even further to let the fireworks finish. We struck a deal with one of the nearby beer stalls and traded in all of our staff drinks tokens so we could buy beer for the whole audience to reward them for waiting. This went down very well.

As we were starting the show a middle aged man pushed through the crowd, probably drunk, and walked towards me doing a clownish impression of a person very injured - limping, moaning, covering his eye, trying to hide an arm as if he didn't have one. "I", she shouted happily, "Am from London!"

I stood a couple of feet from him, my eyes boring holes in his. My fist clenched. I just wanted to hurt him. "Not fucking funny", I said. Then I felt my partners hand on my shoulder, "It's ok, come on, lets work", he said. And it was, and we did.

A couple of girls in the front row had a big bottle of "Cockta", the slovenian coca-cola. Oh yes. It tastes predictably foul, so I went off on a riff about how shitty it tastes, and took the bottle and tasted some. She giggled guiltily. I looked at her, looked at the audience, and without a word spoken everyone got it. It wasn't Cockta in the bottle, it was a very strong Scotch and Coke. I took another big taste and thanked her. Then had another taste, the gave some to Dave, then offered some to the audience. Then let her have it back.

24 hours later and I was back in London. First thing I did was get out into the city. I fired up my mp3 player on random shuffle and walked towards my local tube station, as I descended the player threw up the opening riffs of "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns & Roses and I grinned as I got onto the train, still pretty much full of people the way they always are.