As we entered Germany I felt really excited to be in a country again where I knew the language, knew some relatives like Oma and Opa and recognised the landscape and scenery.
Germany is my favourite country; The streets are clean, the houses are modern with little front gardens and there’s snow in winter when it is cold enough.
German motorways usually have 4 lanes and no speed limit. Driving on the motorway with my Opa at 160 kilometres an hour I was a bit anxious that something was going to happen. It felt like we were on a plane racing down the runway about to take off. I wondered what would happen if there was an obstacle and one person had to stop – all the other cars would crash into each other. Maybe a reason why German motorways don’t have a speed limit is because the Germans made so many fast cars. Car manufacturers wanted customers to buy their fast cars so they persuaded the government to not give them a speed limit.
I love service stations and road stops on the motorway. They have a proper buffet with different sections for: entree, salad, drinks, bakery with delicious “Butterbrezeln”, hot food and desserts. The toilets are clean and if you pay 70 cents to get in, your “toilet entry ticket gives you a 50 cent discount of items you can purchase in the shop like ice creams, ice blocks, lollies, chocolate and souvenirs.
We stayed in my mum’s home town Backnang, where we gave holiday workshops of Dancing Wombat and The Ring Bearer.
In the morning when the other Wayfarers gave the younger children the Dancing Wombat workshop, I went to the outdoor swimming pool with my Oma. That swimming pool had three big water slides (blue, yellow and green) and three short slides for the young children. I always loved going to the pool even though it was on cold mornings, especially when on one of the days, Vanessa and Patrick (my cousins) came over and we went down the slides backwards. There were diving boards but they were closed until we asked the lifeguard to open them on the last day I went to the swimming pool. I easily jumped and dived off the 1 metre and jumped off the 3 metre and finally summoned up some courage to jump off the 5 metre diving platform. It was a bit scary, for when I looked down it seemed so far, yet when I jumped I glided through the air for a few seconds and then went SPLASH! Those days at the swimming pool were marvellous but after a few days it got too cold to go there.
Every afternoon I took part in The Ring Bearer workshop for older children, teenagers and adults. The participants were excited to learn something they had never learnt before which made it fun to be part of. We worked hard on scenes like “The Prancing Pony” and “The Old Forest”. The narrations got translated into German so that the participants could be narrators.
In the middle of the workshop we had an afternoon tea break and my Opa brought food for the Wayfarers like biscuits, crackers, fruit and chocolate.
My Opa really had a very large part in organising our stay in Backnang and think he has done a great job.
My mum and I had a wonderful week with my grandparents: my Oma cooked delicious meals every day and always loved being with me. My Opa would do school work with me or show me special places in the Backnang area.
One of my Oma’s delicious baked specialities is “Schwarzwaelder Kirschtorte” (black forest cake). She taught me how to make it and we invited all the Wayfarers to come over and eat it. I had been raving about that cake for a long time and finally the others could feast on what I had been talking about so long.
On our last night we organised a talent night. Initially it was meant to be Wayfarers and hosts but others heard about it and wanted to come too. Everyone wanted to hear a bit about our travels and see some photos too so we set up a slideshow. Finally the night arrived and we all brought a plate of food to share. We looked at the photos (every non-Wayfarer being extremely excited about what we had to tell). Some people performed a little piece of music.
Finally, the day of our departure had come. I was sad to leave my favourite town where I knew very special people but looked forward to coming back a week later on our week off. We said goodbye and finally started our long drive to Solothurn in Switzerland.
It has been quite some time since I wrote a blog actually talking about what Wayfarers have been up to so I apologise! I think the constant hard work has been getting to me and I just haven’t had the extra enthusiasm! Or there has been so many other wonderful things to do that I have got distracted. So here we are in the south of England with very little said about our travels through Europe. Ah well.
Our arrival in England was somewhat dramatic as the ferry that we were booked to travel on wasn’t running due to strike action. Fortunately we discovered this in time to drive to a different port further north in France (to Cherbourg) where we had to book new accommodation but were able to catch a ferry across to Poole on the intended day. So lots of phone calls to the ferry company, hostels, bus companies, and the car and insurance companies later, most of us were safely in England, being greeted by cheerful customs officials interested in what we were doing, though somewhat dubious about the singing that was going on in the queue leading off around the corner… then safely on the newly hired coach, had an enjoyable drive down to the school in Devon and then out to our different billeting families.
Unfortunately this was at the expense of our four drivers, Dave, Gawain, Heather and Evan who after dropping us at the ferry had to drive another 500km or so south to drop off the vans, then had to find another form of transport to get back to the port. They finally made it here last night, three days after the rest of us and with one hour to spare before we started our Ring Bearer performance!
On the bright side, we are in England! And it is so beautiful! We saw more rainbows on our drive down to Devon than I have seen in the last two years combined! Autumn is just starting so it is cold and wet, the trees area starting to turn, but when the clouds part, the sun is beautiful and warm. I like to joke that the weather here is basically a typical winter day in Adelaide. It is our first cold weather for the trip though, so after so many months of warm (and sometimes disgustingly hot) weather, it is nice to go outside in the morning and feel a cold chill in the air. It does mean though, that everyone in the choir is hurriedly getting out (or going and buying) raincoats and warm jumpers, scarfs, gloves etc. and our bags are therefore getting bulkier and heavier!
We are working at the South Devon Steiner School, otherwise known as Hood Manor because it is in an old manor house. It is so nice to be back in English speaking classrooms! To begin with I just love listening to the accents of the children. So fabulously English! (And I am sure they are getting equal amusement out of listening to our Australian accents, although I must say, these are getting less exaggerated in a number of us as we unintentionally start mimicking the accents of those around us.) It is so wonderful to be able to talk to everyone! We speak and they understand! It sounds silly, I know, but it makes such a difference knowing that what you say is being understood by the children, being able to ask a question of the person walking past “could you tell me where to find the photocopier?” Or strike up a conversation with someone on the bus. Not only could the class threes say ‘amphibians’ and ‘mammals’, they knew what they meant!
It is Sunday today, and our day off. But tonight we are having a combined birthday celebration for Kate and Manuka, and are celebrating by having a variety night. Which will be particularly enjoyable now we are finally all together again! Having four people away makes the group feel so much smaller! I think we might all need a bit of time at the beginning to go away and practice the things we thought we might do, but haven’t had time to rehearse! Because as always, we haven’t had any spare time to do such extraneous things as rehearse! It might end up being a bit of a shambles. But shambles or no, it is sure to be lots of fun because it is the first purely leisure time that we have had together in a long time and we Wayfarers just love spending time together! So off I go!
This is a collection of anecdotes from our dress rehearsal for the Ring Bearer performance in the Backnang Burgerhaus. Little snippets of what went on, generally the amusing moments. It was written from back stage though, with many interruptions for me to run onstage and act, so read it as a series of excerpts, a sporadic running commentary, not necessarily linked into a cohesive whole.
I’m sitting backstage in this fabulously huge and professional theatre waiting for our dress rehearsal to begin. Kristin has spent the morning attempting to get some lighting set up and is now up at the back of the theatre in the lighting box playing with very high tech equipment. Rohan and Theo are backstage with me and have just broken into a rendition of ‘To Isengard’ with harmonies and in F major (not minor) which is highly amusing, but they sang a little too loud so have earned themselves shouts from those who are working on stage QUIET BACKSTAGE!
Those who did the workshop with us who are dancing Song of the Elves have come backstage to get an elf dress, so all Wayfarers have got out their different sized robes and are matched them up with the appropriate sized person. “you put in on by first putting the elastic over your head, then you flip the long bit over…” passing on all the tricks of the trade… Kia is organising things and doing it well. Including ensuring that everyone knows where to put the robe after they have finished with it so that those Wayfarers who need them in a later scene don’t have to run around backstage frantically trying to find them! Then a final reminder for how to stand and walk as an elf before heading onstage to practice the dance.
As the rehearsal progresses, we get the same reminders that we seem to need everywhere we go. Keep further to stage left and COME FORWARD! The ‘old forest’ scene is looking and sounding fabulous. This group have come up with a whole lot of very evil tree noises which makes the whole thing so much more effective. Gawain and Will have just run off stage yelling Help! and when offstage, with big grins on their faces, have reverted to amusingly pathetic high pitched calls. The scenes are so familiar now that I only half listen to what is going on, but I am surprised out of my complacency by the sound of a new voice responding to their calls for help. With a German accent. He does a fabulous job and it immediately reminds me of when we performed this in Taiwan. The student there who played Tom Bom was fantastic and his “Bombadil is talking” line was so cool that we still quote it!
The pub scene is always a lot of fun to do. Normally I stand on stage and chat to the Theodore, very animatedly, with broad grins and lots of unrelated hand gestures, about whatever particular thing his gone wrong in our performance so far, but today there are so many more people in the pub that I am not needed and can stand in the wings and watch the new blocking that has gone into the scene.
The next amusing moment comes from Theodore who points out that he and the other black riders, after stabbing Frodo then running away (for no good reason), come back on stage to finish him off, but instead of actually doing it, they then wait patiently a few steps away giving the elves time to gather themselves and finally come on stage and fight them off! But we fixed the timing so it is now all okay!
One of the biggest challenges for us is in this performance is that all the narrations are being done in German. This is particularly hard in the Council of Elrond scene where we have a long narration during which everyone on stage simultaneously freezes and unfreezes about six times. All at specific moments. I walk on as Legolas and stand gravely beside Theo (a random elf), and I find it almost impossible to look at him and not laugh. Particularly when we repeatedly stop the scene to shuffle further downstage, or because Bilbo hesitated too long before singing, or people didn’t go up on their toes at the correct moment. Then I look at Boromir and see that the under tunic for his costume is all bunched up around his ears and he hasn’t noticed. My favourite moment though was watching Matt as Bilbo standing with the most fabulously hopeful look on his face in the moment in the scene where Elrond is choosing those who will travel with Frodo. Priceless.
Then the death of Gandalf. Genevieve is fabulous as the Balrog, she finally has enough space to really jump around and look wild. Gandalf is caught and falls off stage crying “fly you fools!” Then, instead of being horror struck, we all grin widely then burst out laughing because there is Terry, out of view of the audience, but in full view of us, sitting on the floor. A figure wearing a long grey cloak and a pointy hat, with her hands folded neatly in her lap, her legs out straight in front of her, her toes pointing upward, and watching us with a very interested and expectant expression. The complete opposite of the horrifying death which is what we are meant to be picturing as we act out horror and grief.
I’m not sure that our dress rehearsals are particularly professional. Well, that is if the dress rehearsal is meant to be serious like a performance. We use our dress rehearsals to make jokes and do silly things. Or perhaps it is the other way around. We make jokes and laugh a lot to help us to get through the dress rehearsals. This is really the more sensible view, I think, because our rehearsals are usually at the end of an already long day’s teaching and everyone is always tired. Today hasn’t been too bad in the scheme of Ring Bearer days though. Teaching in the morning, then dress rehearsal all afternoon- about a ten hour day. Not too bad really. It will be twelve hours tomorrow with the children’s performance in the morning then this a at night.
There is always an added level of excitement for me when we are performing it with other people. I haven’t really spoken a lot about the wonderful people who did the workshop with us this time. But they did a fabulous job and have been more fully integrated into the play than we have ever managed before. Narrators, small speaking roles, Orcs, elf dance, trees, soloists and instrumentalists. They have really added to the richness of the production. Having the narrations in German (mammoth task as it probably was to translate) certainly made the whole thing more understandable for everyone.
And now the performance has been and gone. It went well! Congrats, all!