Disembarking stiff limbed in Hamburg we were all excited to have arrived – some of us more than others. Camilla couldn’t contain her excitement, embarrassing her cohorts by publicly and unselfconsciously practising her German phrases at full volume and with her trademark pseudo European inflections. Beneath our embarrassment and cool demeanours, we were holding back the urge to sing out “Guten tag, Deutschland!!”.
We were greeted at the airport by the smiling face of Claus, and whisked off to our European base camp in picturesque Tollendorf, riding in the familiarity of our beloved Toyota Previa.
It was great to catch up with the endlessly generous Steffen family once again, although everyone was asking if Lear, Rosalie and that popular princess Matilda would show up from their little Italian holiday. We could only scratch our heads awkwardly and say “umm… we hope they can make it here some time, maybe… Uh… We don’t really know…”, which was, of course, the truth, as the little family had obviously decided to spend their one month pre-tour holiday living in “the here and now” – a spiritual/lifestyle choice which involves ignoring all the emails and Facebook messages from one’s band mates…
In the mean time, I rummaged through our stowed possessions from the previous tour – each item flooding my mind with memories that seemed simultaneously an age ago and just the other week. I re-familiarised myself with my trusty European “kontrabass” and set to work replacing its poorly set bridge. Working with only hand tools for the first time (and doing a splendid job of it, too), I felt like a German master luthier!
Unlike last time, jet lag never really set in in any significant way. Actually, that is not quite true. Eileen has been getting up all chirpy at 8am, which means that her sleeping pattern is out of whack by about 5 hours!
On our first trip to our favourite supermarket chain, Lidl, we all set to work helping Eileen scour the ingredient lists of every product until we discovered possibly the most elusive word in the German language -“glutenfrei”. We didn’t find much gluten free stuff in the end, but we did pick up a sweet little hip flask of Jagermeister from the impulse buy candy section by the counter, next to the Tic Tacs for the bargain price of €1.49! Jagermeister doesn’t have gluten in it, does it?
I have always held the belief that toilet paper squares across the globe and throughout time have been a set size prescribed by God in biblical times. As of this trip, that illusion has been shattered. The German people have obviously put a lot of thought and research into the ideal size for toilet paper squares, and let me tell you, they got it right! In Germany, the land of the generous toilet paper square, no one has to have the dilemma of two squares being not quite enough, and three being overly decadent. I am so impressed that I’m actually considering writing a letter to Tony Abbott urging him to reform the toilet paper standard square size in Australia. It may just be the only good thing he does for the country! There was a picture to go with this segue, but in the interests of good taste, it has been removed.
The long days in Tollendorf are so nice, and actually quite trippy. I haven’t experienced time passing so slowly and pleasantly since that time I took… uh… a stroll… oh nevermind. I didn’t realise I had the winter blues until I teleported to summertime and left it all behind.
In the mean time we received a surprise news flash from the elusive holidaymakers announcing that they would be arriving at lunch time. Before too long they rocked up, not in a dingy old hippy van with a smelly mattress in the back as we were expecting, but a fully blown 7m long “grey nomad” mobile, equipped with a toilet, fridge, stove top and every mod con you could ever dream of, bar an indoor swimming pool! Way to out do us, guys! It felt great to have the crew all together again (including Rosalie and the star of the show, Matilda) and we quickly put our car envy behind us.
We were all so busy that it was down to Jutta to remind us of a certain washboard players birthday…
Out came the old Scrabble board, and in playing we discovered that there is such a thing as a “muntjac” – our new favourite word and Christi’s animal totem.
On our last evening in Tollendorf we put on a little back yard concert for our lovely hosts under the cherry tree. Even Opa was wheeled out to the window where he could watch and listen from his wheelchair. The concert was enjoyed by all and we had an odd and secretly enjoyable feeling of being back in time, when we were still a dinky backyard band a million miles from our rock star gigs of late.
After the concert we lit a fire in a beautifully patterned 44 gallon drum and sat around waiting for the stars to come out – which they never do before midnight at this time of year. The Steffens pulled out some selections from their extensive didge collection and surprised us with their proficiency on this most Aussie of instruments. I was moved by the resonant power of the didge combined with the glowing flames and embers and momentarily dropped my cynicism of an instrument that only plays one note. In fact , I even raised a few eyebrows with my own didgeridoo skills. See, mum, I didn’t waste my youth being a hippy.
After living the easy life in Tollendorf, the time came to pack our trailer and hit the road for our first gig in Aalten, The Netherlands, thus kicking off the tour for real. Watch out!