Thursday, 23 April 2015

Spargel Everywhere: The Monochrome Set Germany Tour 2015: Part 5 - Hannover & the journey home

Outside Faust, Hannover

I didn't see Val the next day, as we were due to leave at 9am, however, we had an animated exchange of messages via Facebook as I was getting dressed and packed. At one point I thought to send her a picture of my hotel room in complete disarray, by way of apology that I was not able to chat as much as I would like. Val took one look at the scene of devastation and said: 'I will leave you alone.' 

I should mention that by this stage in the tour, my normal standards of personal grooming had long since gone out the window. I hadn't ironed a single garment all week - not that I had an iron with me, but I could have made some kind of half-arsed attempt to borrow one from the hotels - and as a result, all my clothes were irredeemably crumpled aka 'zerknittert'.

I must say I was banking on the darkness of the venues obfuscating the worst of the creases, but the daytime just couldn't be helped. Then already by Frankfurt I had managed to sleep all night in my contact lenses. I was also washing less than my usual two showers a day - partly through lack of opportunity, partly exhaustion-induced apathy - and as a consequence the back of my left hand was a veritable palimpsest of inky venue stamps or 'Stempel'. Moreover, as the photo below shows, I was barely touching my travel-sized bottle of toner. It was simply an exfoliating step too far in my bleary-eyed morning - or evening - state!

Toner on the left, cleanser on the right...

And although I had brought actual shampoo with me, several times I went ahead and chanced those strange, multifunctional, 'one gel fits all' Hair & Body Shampoo dispensers affixed to shower walls. How bad could they be? Oh, and it is ironic that I was so worried on the first day about not having my usual hair 'product' on the trip, when by the last day or two I was leaving my hair to dry on its own rather than blow drying it. Which just a week previously would have felt like leaving the house with no clothes on. So yes, my personal care regime was fatefully on the slide, but I could at least construe this slatternly behaviour as 'rock 'n' roll'.

I don't remember very much about the drive up to Hannover, except that I had a very large piece of chicken at a service station somewhere near Fulda. Though I may even be wrong about that. And as this might have been our last visit to a service station, we all pooled our toilet vouchers and chucked them at Alaska - it costs 70c to use the facilities, of which 50c is redeemable against purchases in the shop or restaurant. He should have been able to buy himself a Wunderbar at the very least! ;)

Oh look - here's one that got away!


On this, the last night, there was no time to go to our respective accommodation - a mix of unspecified 'band flat' and an airport hotel - so we went to the venue and stayed put till the end of the night. This also meant that the notion of being on the guest list rather went by the board, for I wandered unchallenged into the auditorium through a side door. Indeed I realised by the time of the gig in Schorndorf that that old chestnut - 'ich bin mit der Band' (shameless Denglisch for 'I am with the band'!) - would probably have worked just as well at gaining me admittance. I guess you can't very well spend 10 days and several thousand km wodged in a van next to them and not consider that as being 'with'.

Of note at the Hannover venue were the pert-looking 'arrival snacks' in the green room, whose vintage furniture was also reminiscent of the funky cafe in Freiburg. Yes, from the mozzarella and tomato balls on sticks to the sheaves of pretzels in jars, everything seemed to be erect and standing to attention. Yet again, I have signally failed to capture these in a photograph, but here is one of John chilling out in the adjacent 'sitting room'.

My missions that day were to take pictures of the band posing with Alaska and the van - for the former to use on his Facebook page - and to find the drummer a taxi to take him to the hotel he had hastily booked before the gig, with the help of his girlfriend back in England. For he had been around the block enough for the words 'band flat' to strike an ominous note in his mind, and with the benefit of hindsight, his instinct was completely vindicated. Our accommodation was billed as having four bedrooms: one each for Alaska, John, Caryne & Dave and me (being the 'elders' in the band, Bid and Andy were booked into the airport hotel). However, when we finally climbed up the five flights of stairs to the flat, it was quickly apparent that there were in fact four beds, not four bedrooms. Alaska very chivalrously offered to sleep on the couch and give me a bedroom with two double beds in it all to myself. This didn't feel right to me at all, though, a) because Alaska had just driven 600 odd km and worked all night mixing the sound and b) because it was a waste of a bed in the same room.

A very tired Alaska

I initially offered to take the couch myself, though it was in a bit of a thoroughfare, plus there was some talk of a couple of our party staying up late drinking in the very living room where I would be trying to sleep. So when Caryne & Dave kindly offered me the spare bed in their room, I jumped at the chance. After a week on the road together, the time had passed to stand on ceremony or insist on the usual levels of personal space. I actually slept better that night than I had for ages, make of that what you will!

Of particular note in the flat was the idiosyncratic toilet, which had pride of place in the middle of the narrow bathroom. The shower toggled viciously between scalding and freezing cold, but that would be my only complaint, and the whole stay felt like a huge adventure! Alaska surpassed himself by calling out: 'Bathroom's free if anyone wants to know!' at the very moment when I was lying in bed, wondering just that, and he also left cups of perfectly brewed tea outside our door. Not for nothing did we dub him the '5th, 6th and 7th emergency services'...


After a flurry of emotional goodbyes to Alaska at Hannover station, we got on the first of three trains home - or four in my case, if you include the last leg up to Stafford. Bid and I went to fetch drinks for everyone from Starbucks. He had taken to writing people's names on the lids to avoid confusion about whose particular style of coffee - or tea - was whose. I decided to keep mine, amused at the wholly accidental juxtaposition of 'Vanessa' and 'hot contents'.

I am lucky he spelt Vanessa correctly too, mindful of Cheryl Krueger's longstanding battle with a seemingly Protean set of bastardisations of her first name.

Photo stolen from Cheryl's Facebook page

Now I wasn't present at the time, but I heard that the band cookie bucket was finally jettisoned at Cologne Hauptbahnhof. Not in a careless way, mind - oh no. They set it on a podium in the main concourse for maximum ambient promotional value.

We had a quick bite to eat at Brussels station - anyone who has taken the Eurostar there will know exactly what I mean by the 'quiche cafe'. (Also memorable for its giant replica of a zebra.) I ate my slice of chicken, coconut and ginger quiche surreptitiously while Bid went off for a smoke, knowing that he considered anything other than Quiche Lorraine to be a complete travesty.


In what seemed like no time at all, we were at St Pancras, the main parting of the ways, though John and I headed off together to Euston, and stopped for a quick al fresco pint (or G & T in my own case) before it was time for me to catch my train. I would see him and the rest of the band the following Friday in Manchester, so the leaving wasn't as much of a wrench as it might otherwise been. I hopped off the train in Stafford at 10.30pm and went straight to my friend Gillie's 60th birthday party! It was the perfect way to 'come down' from the excitement of the trip, and help me reconnect with my normal life and the great bunch of friends I have in my home town. But would I go on tour again if I was invited? In a heartbeat! Though I would try to remember to cleanse AND tone next time...

Sign in the ladies' toilets at the Hannover venue
NB A number of readers have pointed out the lamentable lack of Spargel in most of these posts. To which I can only say that the punning opportunity with the new CD's title 'Spaces Everywhere' was irresistible. There again, you could argue that this is entirely consistent with the theme of the album, namely that there are spaces everywhere where Spargel ought to be. Be that as it may, I am sorry if any diehard asparagus lovers - like Andy with his foiled pig excursion - felt shortchanged, and will close this series of travelogues with a picture of that noble yet elusive vegetable.

Source: Caspian Blue via Wikimedia Commons

PS Oh, and here is a link to Alaska's company, Pop und die Welt. If anyone reading needs a driver / sound engineer for their tour, he's your man!


Tara said...

Fabulous! Loved hearing the way you became increasingly feral as the tour went on :)

I am with Bid on the quiche front and what a star old Baked Alaska turned out to be.

Great trip all round and I'm glad you could continue the revelry at Gillie's party when you got home. Perfect.

Now I really want to try some of that white spargel...

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

LOL at me becoming more feral towards the end of the tour - that absolutely sums it up, haha. The eyelash curling also didn't make it past Frankfurt or so.

It was a jolly odd quiche-like entity to be perfectly truthful - pushing the envelope of even my own fairly fluid flavour parameters - so he probably does have a point.

White Spargel has to be tried. Wrapped in ham and in a Bechamel sauce is nice.

And well done for managing to get to the end of all these posts - there should be some sort of reader award scheme to recognise unprecedented levels of grit and stamina.

Tara said...

Not at all! Enjoyed every last word.

Vanessa said...

:-) ;-) xxx

Anonymous said...

One should never use those lousy shampoos from dispensers affixed to the wall! I wouldn't be surprised if they were filled with hand soap...

Vanessa said...

Hi Joshua,

You can see how far my standards were slipping, then! ;) I have always assumed they were fundamentally shower gel / hand soap rather than shampoo, tbh.

Poodle said...

That toilet photo is a case study in how not to design a bathroom I think. I'm cracking up that it's in the middle of the floor. Of course it probably seems normal to the locals there I suppose.
You need to go on tour more often. It makes for great reading.

Vanessa said...

Hi Poodle,

It is wonderfully random, isn't it? I can't say I have ever seen a 'free floating' toilet in the middle of the floor before - in Germany or anywhere. ;) I am glad you enjoyed these posts - arguments for going away again are gratefully received!

Ines said...

Finally asparagus! ;)
I'm a lover and I admit to looking for them in each of your posts. :)

Vanessa said...

Hi Ines,

Indeed, and glad you are satisfied at last ;) - though I hope you also caught its cameo appearances in Parts 3 and 4. And at the end of the day, the asparagus was always meant to be more of a pun than an agricultural highlight, hehe.

Anonymous said...

Hiya Bonks,

I'm exhausted just reading about all the travelling and gigging - ah, the glamour of life on the road with a band!
I confess I still haven't got round to listening to the band but I read a bit about them and learned that they initially formed where I was born. It is a small world after all (but not small enough for me to leap at the chance of schlepping around it in a van with a touring band:-)

cheerio, and well done for surviving all the challenges thrown at you,
Anna in Edinburgh

Thinkingmagpie said...

Enjoyed and wasted, that's the way to go! ;)
Really enjoyed reading about your trip, I definitely need a holiday.

Vanessa said...

Hi Anna,

Nice to hear from you! I can't deny the tour was exhausting, but very much a case of 'sleep when you're dead'. That's interesting about your being born when they were formed. I was already a fan back then, hehe. If you are curious, there are a ton of YouTube clips of them - also on this most recent tour - as well as snippets of their proper album recordings on the website. Or, they are playing in Edinburgh in June! I believe Crikey and Susanna Pellinen may be coming along to that gig. But I would never assume they are everybody's musical cup of tea. ;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Yuki,

Yes, that was very much my attitude! It's odd behaviour perhaps for a nearly 56 year old, but the band are the same age at least. ;)