FISH BLOG

ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME – PART 1 THE ANZIO WAR CEMETERIES

Rehearsals completed with John Beck we were now in the lap of the Gods! I flew to Frankfurt on Thursday night arriving in Karlsruhe and glass of wine in hand by midnight. I couldn’t but help think about the upcoming gig on Thursday in what we had been told was an open air festival in Rome! We’d prepared a 90 minute set which we thought more than enough to deal with a festival headliner slot.

I spent the days leading up to the event trying to sort out the Amazon Germany deliveries which were becoming a frustrating lesson in how to unravel red tape in 3 different languages and finding a way through a maze of automated responses. John Reid was on point duty with Simone and I on regular party calls with him on Google trying to make sense of it all. It was supposed to be easy. It wasn’t!

Baden airport as the clouds bore down

I was flying with Ryanair from Baden airport on Wednesday night. We were still trying to process the delivery up until I left around 7pm. The drive there from Durlach took less than 45 mins. I’d taken a small piece of luggage and my satchel so as not to get in a tussle with Ryanair check in staff. Yatta had booked me a piece of hold luggage which cost around 90 Euros above my ticket. As I was traveling texts started coming in from Yatta telling me that a strike by baggage handlers at Rome airports meant that Ryanair were advising passengers to take carry on luggage only or get another flight. A re think was required. We arrived at the ex military airbase with 2 hours to spare before I flew. As expected there was no one there to advise and when I did eventually find Ryanair staff they knew nothing about any strike.I decided to play safe and go with hand luggage only cross packing essentials like stage clothes, lyric book, laptop, basic toiletries, spare underwear and socks and a shirt taking it all down to a bare minimum before checking the size in the “size guidance” box. It passed! I said farewell to my lady and went through security to the unwelcoming former military surroundings that was airside. I had an hour and a half to kill.

There was only one food and drink outlet and everything else was closed. Not that there was much of anything else anyway! I went for a sandwich and a couple of miniature bottles of wine that managed to fill the paper cup I was given. At 6 Euros a bottle I would be drinking slowly. The one thing Baden airport had going for it was an outside smoking area so I took up a position there and hunkered down with my book. Yatta and the others had already arrived at the hotel after getting lost with their driver. I recognised the mad laughter and my request for a sea view and a jacuzzi added to his hilarity. At least we were all in a good frame of mind to deal with it all. The skies darkened just as the crackly tannoy announced the strike in Rome and “indefinite delays”. There was a storm coming in and I didn’t want to be stuck here for hours or taking off between bolts of lightning. The heavens opened and I bought more wine. Again forward thinking from Yatta had bought me “priority boarding” and a reserved seat, 1A, right at the front with leg room. The skies cleared and I finally got on the plane just after 10. The Italians meeting me knew about the delays so I slumped back into the seat with my book and let it all happen. I have to admit it was one of the better Ryanair experiences although another couple of bottles of wine during the flight dented the wallet but enabled me to catch some zeds on the way down.I woke just as the endless carpet of lights that is Rome appeared in the window.

I was met by Gianluca and our Italian agent Daina and actually surprised them as I was first off and through customs with the plane not even having been designated as landing yet. The drive to the hotel was short and sweet and I arrived to find Robin, John Beck, the FTC and a welcome crowd of Italian fans sitting outside at tables making their way through a carry out. The others had retired so I sat down and joined the waning party for a few glasses to catch up with what had been happening.It was good to meet up with the circus again although it was a strange feeling playing this one off gig after all that had gone on in recent weeks. John Beck was confident and that reassured me as I had been having nightmares for the last few days that contained just about every possible thing that could go wrong. I checked in and headed to bed suitably dosed up on white wine but away from the edge of a potential hangover next morning. Mario and some of the other Italians had offered to take me to Anzio the next day and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity. I declined the thoughtful room service trolley parked in my room that had been left for me by the hotel knowing I was arriving late. If I’d checked in and came up to my 7th floor room instead of being sidetracked by free bevvy downstairs I might have availed myself but I was wary of a warm seafood salad at that time of the night!

I’d been told a few weeks ago that the venue had changed from an open air to an indoor and then that venue had changed because of “health and safety” issues to the club I’d seen the web site pictures of. It looked to all intents and purposes a night club and it looked very shiny! The fact that we had an environment under our control would help but as always any gig in Italy is a step into the big unknown and things don’t always mean what’s said on the proverbial tin! Not only was it now an indoor show but it also wasn’t a festival and we were the only artists on the bill! The 90 minutes we had were going to have to stretch a bit further.

The hotel was a round tower, reminding me of a smaller version of the Capitol records building in LA. It was pretty stylish and modern which meant that it took me about 10 minutes to work out how the lights worked and I still ended up shutting the bathroom door as I couldn’t figure how to switch them off there. The curve of windows had electronic blinds who’s switch I eventually found but they only went halfway up meaning I couldn’t open the windows unless I removed a blind from it’s runners. A previous occupant had obviously had the same idea so I followed his example and opened a window inwards under the partially torn blind. I hit every combination of bedside switches until I was in darkness.

Up at 11am and fruit from the trolley for breakfast. A bottle of still water stolen from a used breakfast tray in the corridor and downstairs for coffee and a band meeting. I re jigged the set-list with the guys, John B confident he could deal with the alterations and add ons. We had a longer soundcheck than anticipated later that afternoon but crew were already at the venue taking equipment down and prepping the hired in gear. I wasn’t needed until around 3.The weather was scorchio!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Map in a room next to the chapel of remembrance at the American cemetery showing the advance through Italy from Sicily

 

 

 

 

 

 

The initial landings at Anzio and Nettuno January 1944

We weren’t actually in Rome but in the town of Aprilia around 35 k South of the city and 15k from Anzio. It had been built along with around 4 other major towns by Mussolini in reclaimed swampland in the late 30’s and along with many other places in the area was destroyed during the bitter and bloody battles that occurred here in 1944 when the allies landed at the Anzio and Nettuno beaches in an attempt to cut off German forces further South who were holding up the allied advance on the Gustav line which took in the bleak beleaguered mountain tops including the infamous Monte Cassino. I’d seen the 1968 Robert Mitchum movie when I was a kid and was aware that it was looked on as a bloody debacle by a lot of British soldiers many of whom blamed bad leadership for the enormous casualties.I’d read books on the Italian campaigns, Kesselring’s redoubtable defence systems, the deadly slopes of Monte Cassino, the river assaults the winter stalemates as the offensives got bogged down in WW1 conditions of entrenchment. The sign on the road to Anzio indicating “Campo de Carne” – “the fields of flesh” where locals say there were more bodies than blades of grass, a small innocuous road sign saying “many thousands of men died here” lost amongst the advertising hoards.

The allies took 43 000 casualties with 7000 dead, the Axis forces 40 000 with 5000 killed in a space of less than 5 months.It was an horrendous place on earth to be in early 1944 with nearly 300 000 troops from both sides committed to battle by the time the allies broke out of the beachhead to meet up with the advancing 5th Army group and take the deserted city of Rome left by the Germans as they moved to consolidate yet another defensive line further North. Debates have raged amongst military historians as to the effectiveness of the Anzio landings. Accusations of flawed conception ,gross ineptitude, bad planning and execution as the allies landed and instead of forging into the surrounding mountains consolidated the beachhead and missed the chance are often raised. So are accusations of glory hunting as American generals turned North to Rome to be captured on movie reels rather than eastwards to block and capture the retreating 10th German Army  who would regroup and hold them up for another year in Northern Italy. It remains a contentious episode.

View to the memorial chapel

One of the men killed at Anzio was Eric Fletcher Waters, company Z of the Royal Fusiliers and probably many people have heard of Anzio through the lyrics of his son Roger Waters in particular “When the Tiger’s Broke Free” from the “Wall” album and movie. It was strange seeing hoardings on the road into town with pictures of Roger on stage welcoming him. I know he had visited the area and dedicated a small monument to his father’s unit earlier this year after discovering from military historians where the company had been left to fight a useless rearguard action against advancing German tanks, the company decimated in the process. I wonder how he felt about it all? His lyrics on the “Wall” and “Final Cut” are testament to his anger, sense of loss and the effect it had on his Life as a young boy and beyond but I couldn’t help thinking that the posters and hoardings welcoming ” a fellow citizen” somehow undermined the solemnity of it all. I wondered how I would feel in that situation where celebrity status is tied with such a traumatic personal event. I’m sure no disrespect was intended but it felt like an intrusion by strangers on something very private. It felt uncomfortable.

 

a lonely flag on the grave of a dead soldier placed by a living relative or aging comrade

The beaches now are edged with hotels and restaurants, the battlefields unrecognisable as buildings were replaced and towns expanded to swallow the surrounding countryside in a concrete sprawl. The American cemetery was not easy to find if you didn’t know where it was. We careered around Nettuno through dusty side streets and hot shadowed back streets till we found our destination and it was something to behold. To give it it’s proper name, the Sicily- Rome American war cemetery, takes in about 77 acres and contains the graves of nearly 8000 American soldiers killed during the Italian conflict with the chapel inscribed with the names of over 3000 missing personnel. It was somber reading the gravestones as I walked alone in the manicured grounds on sun bleached lawns and under the shaded relief of the cypress trees.

I think what struck me the most were the surnames on the gravestones. I recognised Scottish, Irish, English, French, Scandinavian, Polish, German and Jewish family names all serving together under the American flag from across every State of the Union and in every corp.The occasional small American flag or wreath placed at the foot of gravestones reminded me that this wasn’t an old conflict and that the cemetery was visited by people who served in that war. It was a haven of tranquiity in a loud and bustling Nettuno and we all spent some silent time walking in amongst the headstones. We made our way up to the memorial chapel where the missing were inscribed on the wall. I came across a Robert Dick who was from New York and who served with the US Navy. He couldn’t have been family as it was the Campbells from Glasgow on my grandmothers side who moved over to the Chicago area way back in the early 1900’s but just seeing that name, the same as my father’s, carved in the cold marble touched me somewhere deep.We paid our respects and wandered around the building visiting the “map room” where large diagrams on the walls gave a brief overview of the Italian campaign and the Anzio and Nettuno landings.

the bomber’s reach from Foggia airfield complex

One showed the campaign as it moved North and the reach of US bombers from their base in Foggia where the 15th US airforce conducted bombing raids throughout Southern Europe.These were the bombers that conducted raids on Karlsruhe pictures of which I’d found in USAF archives on line. To see the reach across the Balkans, France, Germany and Italy and beyond gave me a shiver when I thought of what they could deliver into the cities and towns of Europe.

 

 

the memorial chapel

We all made our way to the entrance of the cemetery as time was becoming short. The visit to the Anzio museum was sadly missed out and despite goodwill plans to visit it the next day before I left I knew it would have to wait until another time as my journey home was in the other direction. I left there with a far greater understanding of the events but with no real conception of what the men on both sides had suffered and endured.It must have been truly horrific on that beachhead surrounded by mountains bristling with artillery, under constant shell fire, aircraft strafing and bombing raids and with the sea at your back. The conditions must have been horrendous.

 

comrades in arms

We were all very quiet as we left the cemetery all holding our own personal thoughts and all grateful that we have never experienced the horrors of war.

We had one more visit to make on the way back as I wanted to visit one of the small British and Canadian cemeteries known as Beachhead Cemetery. It was completely different from the American memorial. Instead of the long curved ranks of crosses that stood proud from manicured lawns splayed out from the central avenue that hit you with “shock and awe” with the sheer size of it all, the numbers, the scale; the British and Canadian cemetery seemed far more personal.

 

 

The entrance to Beachhead War Cemetery

The entrance felt like going into a park and I was immediately struck by the tenderness of it all. The ranks of graves, about 1500 in all, were arranged in sections and at first I thought they were defined by regiments. On closer look it was mixed units and I found myself paying more attention to the inscriptions than I had done earlier. Maybe it’s because they were British units and I recognised a lot of the regiments involved. Sherwood Foresters, Highland Fusiliers, Gordon Highlanders, Seaforth Highlanders, Royal Artillery, Irish, Scots and Grenadier Guards amongst many others. The ages as always in these places hit me and one grave of a 20 year old Gordon Highlander pierced me as I wandered amongst the graves.The release was welcomed.

I think what made a profound difference were the roses growing at the foot of every headstone and the pergolas brimming with flowering wisterias and dripping with water thrown by sprinklers dousing the lush close clipped lawns.It felt more welcoming and engaging and a genuine place of rest for those interred. The shaded walks and the living flowers providing an overwhelming sense of peace and tranquility.

 

The main memorial at Beachhead Cemetery

 

 

 

 

 

 

the essence of peace and tranquility

Again the Italians in the company, my German friend Sven and I all walked separately taking in our own thoughts. Sven was visibly moved by it all and afterwards we had a long discussion about what had happened here. His grandfather had fought on the Eastern Front and had been captured by the Russians at Stalingrad and didn’t get home from prison camp in Siberia until 1956. He had his own questions and thoughts.My father had thankfully been too young for WW2 and was called up for national service after the war in Kenya and Tanzania. My uncle had been involved in France where he was rescued from the beaches at Dunkirk before being shipped out to Burma to fight the Japanese after invading Madagascar and training in India.His experiences he never discussed and only rare occasional stories with my Dad opened a tiny chink of light on his war. Seeing these names and inscriptions, as with my time at the Somme, really brought it home and I was deeply moved by our visit and grateful for being given the opportunity by my Italian friends for the experience .

The temperature was now hitting 35 degrees and we were running late. I had a soundcheck to negotiate.The journey was relatively quiet as we took stock of our surroundings in a very different light. I thought of getting a photo of the hoarding sporting Roger Waters in rock star pose and decided against it. After all I’d seen that morning it just felt wrong.

for anyone interested in discovering more about the landings and the battles around Anzio and Nettuno you can go to this link

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Shingle

ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME – PART 2 CIRCUS MAXIMUS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

from left – FTC, Gavin, Steve, Fish, John Beck, Robin and Sergeant Vince O’Malley ( Yatta was printing lyrics for me upstairs)

I was now moving into gig mode after a thoughtful and introspective start to the day. I had to stop of at the hotel on the way back to pick up my stage clothes and lyric book which still had to be adjusted to take in the re-jigged set list and the hour of reckoning was approaching. A diddly bop through traffic to the venue in Aprilia and we pulled up at the front door of what was obviously a night club. I was filled in with the details of events leading up to the show. Apparently it was intended to be an outdoor event and then switched to an old theatre. As the booking was for the local town festival they decided to put all the fee in one basket and hire one main band rather than a host of smaller outfits. My name had come up. With that and the unworthiness of the first venue it was suggested we play at Smaila’s night club whose owner was a famous Italian musician,actor and TV presenter Umberto Smaila who hosted the Italian TV show “Colpo Grosso” in the late 80’s infamous for it’s sexual content and featuring scantily clad women ( allegedly the first Italian TV show that had full nudity!). It had the air of a venue fit for a Fellini movie set. All shiny black, loads of glass surfaces , a sparkly tiled floor with a balcony rigged up with dining tables you reached by climbing up a black staircase which in the murk and wearing bi focals is a treacherous ascent! That was where lunch was being served as the backstage area had a faint whiff of sewage! I was ravenous after the earlier exertions and found Gavin Griffiths and Steve Vantsis, who I’d missed the previous night and who had gone to the venue early to set up equipment, munching into the sandwiches with various fillings but mostly, as the Universe dictates, variations around the cheese and ham theme! One question I have always had is why do Italians always cut the crust off sandwiches leaving them as sad, wilting damp tit bits with an appeal for only those people with dentures?

The PA was booming into the cavernous space with sounds reflecting from every surface. The equipment all passed muster and the stage was big enough to give us space to control our own sounds and concise enough to keep us in eye contact with each other, a major factor on our first gig with John Beck where a lot of cuing could be required especially if we went off road! Everyone was smiley and confident and I think John probably got tired of being asked if he was ok! I flipped my lyric book around and gave Yatta the set list to print out. With the addition of a couple of numbers that would normally have been in encore spots I thought we would have it covered.

 

FTC in a Wilderness of Mirrors. One is enough thankyou! 🙂

I’d decided after Mike Varty left and John Beck joined that we’d prepare a set that would be “up” enough to deal with festival spots and amalgamated some of the 2013 setlist with some “newer” material to satisfy those fans that had already seen the old set and prepare us for the full changeover later in the Summer. The new medley I’d concocted was juddery and awkward to play and just didn’t sit right with anyone. It was a bit of a Frankenstein with sections of 3D, Tiki 4, So Fellini sandwiched between the opening and end sections of Shadowplay. In short it clunked rather than flowed and is now completely back on the drawing board! We had to leave another 2 “new” songs out as Robin needed a separately tuned guitar to play them and with luggage restrictions on the flights down and a mistrust over what we could be supplied on the ground we elected to drop them. This wasn’t a gig where we wanted to take chances and the less variables the better.

 

Fish in a Wilderness of Mirrors – I could do with more of them to share a workload! 🙂

Soundcheck went well and Shaun did a great job on my wedges as I was trying to get back to grips with stage sounds again. It had as always run late but we managed to get everything we needed to cover ourselves in most eventualities and left the stage to head back to the hotel feeling reasonably confident. I had a live interview and signing session with fans in a function room downstairs before dinner which was scheduled for an hour. That was never going to happen!  The first question on the inspiration for High Wood took me about 30 minutes to answer as I explained the entire story and captivated the fans who were hearing my English answers and then had the translations from my friend Fabio. I enjoy these “meet and greets” especially when there’s an interview to work around. Questions from the floor allowed me to extrapolate into areas I never get the chance to talk about in formal interviews and I think some people were a bit taken aback when we moved into the subject of my future plans and I responded with an answer I don’t think they really wanted to hear. I declared that I plan to write another album next year which in all probability will be my last one and to follow that up with a tour in 2016 to lead me into a retirement that will allow me time to do other things outside music. The full explanation was met with slight shock but eventual understanding but sometimes it’s hard for people to accept the inevitable. At the moment it’s a cunning plan but I have to admit the appeal for me is growing and I find a new direction in my life more exciting and invigorating the more I think about it ! It will be a huge change and I also have to admit I find the thought quite scary sometimes. The idea is in the air for now so lets see just where it drifts and falls! There’s a lot to be done before now and then and a lot can happen that could change things! Best laid plans of mice and men etc!

 

Fabio, my patient friend and translator in Italian superhero mode! 🙂

The signing and photo session went well and lot’s of happy faces were created. I was being urged to bring it to a close as my pasta dish was on the table in the dining room and the band and crew were already eating. I finally extricated myself clutching a fine bottle of home made liquor ( now in Karlsruhe) a classy red (drunk in Karlsruhe) and an original advertising poster from the Napoli gig 1988 that I’d seen at the artwork exhibition there and which was given to me at the end of the session. As one of my last Marillion shows it seemed quite prophetic given the subject matter during the interview.

Dinner in the hotel restaurant was sublime with everyone raving over the “proper” home made Spaghetti Carbonara! We got the recipe from the waiter and Steve Vantsis was definitely taking notes as it surpassed his own signature dish and he wanted to know the secrets! Steak and salad and a wicked creme brulee did for us and we had an hour to recover before heading to the show. It was the first time I remembered the band and crew sitting down to dinner and no one asked for wine! Photo opportunity for the new line up outside the hotel before we left and last minute discussions on the set.

 

John and I , the flowerpot men!

There were a couple of hundred people outside and inside the venue when we arrived. Enough to make for a decent crowd to dampen the reflected sounds of the room and give me an opportunity to work an atmosphere. It was a perfect environment for us to deal with on John’s debut performance. The last hour dragged, stage clothes donned, John surprising us by appearing in a suit, and then showtime! No back screen projection and no intro the boys entered to the pipes of “Sergeant Mackenzie” to start the show with “Perfume River”. I walked onto a warm reception and took them in with a steely gaze to come to terms with the “animal” I had to deal with. It was without a doubt a friendly one tonight! “Perfume” went down a storm and “Feast” followed to rock it up. John was flawless.

“Script” was next in line and again John weaved his way through the sections decorating them with little touches of his own that raised some smiles with the rest of us. If he’s doing this now what’s it going to be like in 4 months time once he really has got to grips with the material?  “Script” started with a roar of approval and finished with an even bigger one!

 

Gavin Griffiths from the 7th floor elevators

“What Colour is God” pitched in next and we pulled of an in your face version despite the singer forgetting a couple of lines.No one was thrown. An intro to “Crucifix Corner” was short and direct , as were all the intros on the night, and John delivered the opening chords confidently and with a great feel that already I am reacting to. This is one of his favourites in the set and it shows. “The Gathering” rallied as the last chord on “Crucifix” faded and again a faultless execution. This didn’t feel like a band playing for the first time by any means! I was checking my watch to see where we were in the set, still concerned we would be short. We were now going “off piste” and the surging drive of the intro to “Big Wedge” picked the crowd up. It had been out of the set for quite a while but I felt it was the right time to bring it back. There’s a new energy to it and it’s sounding fresh and punchy. John has really got the “brass” together and once we get more used to it and add the bv’s in the coming months it’s going to be special! “All Loved Up” kicked in straight after and again the band rocked out with the audience arms aloft and going for it.

 

Steve Vantsis, Damien impersonation 🙂

I admit to feeling the pace in the heat and was glad “Blind to the Beautiful” was next up so I could catch my breath! John didn’t know this yet so Robin and I had decided to go it alone as we needed the song in the set. It lost nothing from this stripped down arrangement and as always the end cascaded into a sing along and a lovely rhythm that you can’t help but get involved with on or offstage. I decided to move “The Company” into the set to fill it out and we were all surprised just how well it sat in the position I’d given it after “Blind”. I clocked my watch and we were now over the 90 minute marker with the old medley about to be launched!

Needless to say it had a splendid take off and soared to great heights taking us all with it. Again the singer went into a Bulgarian version of the third verse in “Tongues” but apart from that you would not have known that John was playing with us for the first time on stage. It was a powerful and committed version and had everyone out front on their feet singing and clapping with us on the ride! “View from a Hill” ended the medley in style and we left the stage tripping over our smiles!

 

John in his pajamas , garrulous Steve and a contented Robin after show

We had one song left in the box to play! A short intro and “Internal Exile” burst out with intent. A rousing version that carried me off stage for a quick whirl and a dance with the audience as the band jigged and reeled onstage. A perfect end to the evening and we took our bows and the acclaim like victorious gladiators.We’d pulled it off despite all the build up and worries and to deliver this set for me felt like a great achievement considering the effort that had gone into getting us to this point after all the trials and tribulations, the stress and disappointments and all the negatives that had been put in our way in recent months. The band were superb and had put in solid shifts to get us here. No one deserved the accolades more than John Beck who has proved himself a more than worthy member of the troupe and who put in an extraordinary shift to learn the set in such a short time and deliver a near faultless performance on his first gig with the circus. It was fantastic to see a happy unit again with everyone giving John huge hugs and pats on the back knowing we had finally found our man.

 

Happy FTC and Yatta, back on track again!

The wine flowed freely and I caught my breath outside exhausted from the exertions on stage. The one thing I realised was just how unfit I was and note was made to self to get things sorted out in the next 3 months if I am going to deal with the 59 odd shows coming at me at the end of the year! Even the FTC said he could hear me huffing and puffing like an old wolf down the mike and I definitely was feeling the strain. My jeans and shirt were soaked through and dripping wet while my shamag felt like a used kitchen mop!

The set had come in exactly on 2 hours and Yatta was extremely happy. I hadn’t talked that much, Yats counting it at just over 5 minutes “yakking”! We must have got our times wrong somewhere but everyone was relieved we now have a setlist that really works for the upcoming festivals and are developing a decent catalogue of numbers to call on in the future if we need to. Yatta especially was pleased with the running order as he was slightly doubtful pre gig.

 

the limo

Gavin had to leave earlier than anyone else as he had a 6am flight back to the UK for a “Panic Room” gig ( he’s regretting taking so much on now!) so it was big farewell hugs from the rest of us as we waited patiently on the transport. We weren’t that bothered to be honest as the promoter kept bringing out bottles of wine to us as we sat chilling outside, signing autographs and taking photos with Italian fans at the gate and having a great natter with our Company Italy mates all of whom were bowled over with John who by this time had changed out of a very damp suit and had his “pajamas” on! ( alternative stage clothes apparently  )

We all had a laugh when the “transport” did arrive. A definite first to go back to the hotel in a Volkswagen Camper! It was so cool and so Italian !  Steve of course had to get his customary “V’s”  as they drove off. He hates having his photo taken but since borrowing my old Nikon recently he’s discovering what it’s like trying to get shots of the rest of us after so much abuse from him over the years. I reckon I have less than 10 photos of him without the “flying V’s”!

 

Thanks and goodnight from the Raj brothers 🙂

We arrived back to set up a temporary camp at the outside sitting area in the garden and proceeded to celebrate. In all honesty most of us were absolutely knackered both physically and mentally after the show and people stared to fade away. By the time I’d come back down from my room after posting the result and calling my lady only the FTC was left from the circus.

Someone suggested Limoncello and after a couple we were down to just Shaun and I as our last friends put up the white flag and disappeared. We headed to the bar for a last shot and the barman in Wild West fashion put a half empty bottle in front of us telling us to help ourselves as it was the owner’s home made brand. We polished that off and then he came back and stuck another one up. No charge! I recognised the warning singles, threw back my last shot and disappeared up to the elevator to try and work out how to switch the lights off in my room again! On seeing the FTC in the morning I knew I had made the correct decision as he was a slightly yellow colour around the gills!

Final farewells before we struck off to our respective airports, the boys flying to the UK and me heading back to the balcony in Durlach. It was a far happier outfit than the one anticipating the UK tour. There was a sense of “oneness” again and a distinct feeling of confidence that John’s arrival has generated that we can carry on to Poland and the next show and beyond. I am as excited as when Steve agreed to come back and get involved and when Robin rejoined the circus. Together with Gavin I have a great band around me again and it’s only going to get better!

Welcome back to the Circus!

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