But first: Stuttgart. It being by way of a consolation prize if tonight turns out to be dire!
And once again, I was up before the sun. What sort of idiot voluntarily spends their holiday… yeah, the sort of idiot who spends umpty-hundred quid going to see a band they assumed had split up years ago, on the strength of a greatest-hits album purchased for the bargain price of three whole pounds with a Christmas voucher. (Note to self: find the person who gave me that voucher – ah hell, who am I kidding, this isn’t their fault.)
It was not my fault, however, that a Glasgow gig date was announced right after I paid for all this.
Still, things could be worse! For instance, the Glasgow gig could have been scheduled for before this one. Could you imagine going to see a guy who could sing very well when you were ten but can’t now, spending the evening wincing and knowing damn well you were irretrievably committed to going through it all again Abroad?
It is safe to say that I spent today rather dreading this evening.
However! Live in the moment! I saw nothing at all of Stuttgart last night, so was hoping for the city to be spread before me like a buffet of visual fantasticness this morning – it is mountainous, so I have read, and all up-y-down-y terrace-y delight. Except, not for the knees, which are old and will hurt.
And so it seemed to be – the view from the window of the most cocoony hotel room ever was pleasingly twee, all cheerfully-coloured houses and a wooded hill rising behind them, and the windows glinting gold in the pink sunlight.
(Also, I thought my bathroom is small? This bathroom is a quarter the size, if that. I shall go home and be amazed that I can use the loo without having to practice yoga first!)
So I set out, armed with a very sketchy map. However, I seemed to have chosen well – you take a right, and then a left, and then a right and this takes you straight into the city centre, on foot and everything! I was just congratulating myself on my hotel-choosing prowess (and thanking god that this seems to be one of the few cities with a name on every single street) when I noticed the road ahead charging into a gaping great tunnel in the side of the mountain. And no pavement.
Well, maybe we shall go over the hill!
Which worked, certainly, but left me stranded on a terrace with a beautiful view of the city below, oh hell yes, it looks pretty and interesting and just the sort of place a really broke tourist can mooch about for hours taking bad photographs – but how the hell do I get down there?
By way of an awful lot of stairs, it turned out. Man, even the stairs have street-names. And by this point I was desperately trying to memorise em all, for what are the bets that, when I try to return to my hotel, all hills out of the city look the same? And if I have to spring for a cab I shall have to declare bankruptcy.
Well, the old town centre was lovely and full of things to take photos of, so there was that to take my mind off my impending geographical doom. Although I had no idea what any of them were. Quick, remember you came in via the purple fountains, it might save your life!
And here is a pedestrian street, chock-full of stores with names I recognise from home. And adverts I recognise from home, written in English. Every time, it takes me by surprise. In fact, it’s scarily easy to forget which damn country you’re in, and I am not a frequent tourist.
Well, where there is a pedestrian street, near a castle, there is bound to be a tourist information booth, right? Yes! It’s just a shame that, having wandered all the way along the ‘longest pedestrian shopping street in Europe since 1977’, I finally found a map and sign indicating that the tourist information was right up the other end.
On the plus side, by the time I got there, it was open. And by half past nine, I had already had a free continental breakfast, a stroll through some beautiful scenery, a heart-stopping moment of terror, and I had a tourist pass and voucher for three-days’ travel in my grubby mitts. Score!
I had also been winked at by a cute guy on the tube platform, much to my discombobulation. Hello, wearing jeans and thermals and no make-up here? Ah well, it’s not like he has a limited number of winks at his disposal. Which makes it a bit embarrassing that this has stuck in my mind as a rather flattering memory, once the shock had worn off.
Certainly beats the shit out of being leered at, though.
Now, how to spend the day? The same way I spend every day abroad! I will go to the zoo, I will go to the castle, I will wander the streets, Beast in hand, I will mooch about drinking beer and writing up what is supposed to be a hilarious retelling of my ineptitude and this evening… ah. Yes. A-ha, even.
You may feel absolutely free to laugh; at, not with.
So I got on the tube, feeling rather grateful that at least I wasn’t forced to take a tram. Because, for some reason, I fear trams. Maybe it’s my utter lack of familiarity with them, or maybe it’s cos during one of my early encounters with them, one nearly ran me over; and that was in a city where I had just discovered only an hour previously that Gaudi had died of being run over by a tram.
The tube bundled along merrily and then rose out of the ground and behold, I was on a tram. Lying bastard things, you can’t trust em.
Still. By ten, I was in the zoo. By ten thirty I was menaced by a peacock which literally came right up and put its damn head in my lap, oh Christ do I ever wish I had not read Clive Barker’s Coldheart Canyon*, and I was only saved by a gang of Youths who came to photograph it, oh the humanity. Most embarrassing moment ever, and it was bad enough without the knowledge that I couldn’t speak their language.
Damn peacock gave them the slip and came right back to me, but I had had time to prepare and blew smoke at it until it sulked off.
*(In which a lassie is molested by a peacock-monster, spawned by bored dead movie stars shagging animals. I am not making this up.)
It was a really good zoo, actually. And also a botanic gardens; so once again, I spent my time abroad taking the same damn photos of the same damn species of cacti, the same damn corals, the same damn emerald snakes hanging in bunches like bananas (though this time, one had a frog sat on it) and being really happy about it. Have I even processed any of these photos, from Berlin last year, Stockholm the year before, Oslo the year before that? No! Because I fear they will all look exactly the fecking same and I will have to face an Unpleasant Truth.
Oh well, it’s the Doing, not the Having, I guess. Though, another unpleasant truth be told, I was a little lonely and thought longingly of having a hot bloke to be sharing this experience with. We could hold hands and laugh at stupid stuff and he coulda saved me from the peacock instead!
Then I remembered that most of the people I’ve gone out with would not be walking down the street holding my hand – they’d be walking down the street bitching me out for something. Even if we were doing our best to do what they wanted to do. And I have to admit, there are probably not many people who would want to come all this way to rise at dawn and walk everywhere, and dine at the 7-11 tonight. Assuming I can find one. Nope, this way is best.
Besides, this way, I got to wander up to the elephant enclosure and look at an elephant until it looked at me back and started heading over. Ooh! I thought. Biggest animal on the planet, one of the most intelligent, coming over here to see me. Christ, I hope it can’t get over the moat; I can’t tell if it wants to make friends or pull my head off (and it’s in a zoo, being gawked at. Most big animals want to kill you, but this one might make it personal).
It couldn’t get over the moat; but it did have a damn good try regardless. I was terrified it might fall in and break a leg and have to be put down and it would be My Fault.
Eventually it settled for reaching out and pulling bits of privet out of the undergrowth near me. It kept that eye on me the entire time, and I still had no idea what it was trying to convey. Maybe, Check me out! or maybe, See your head? This is what I would be doing to your head, if I could reach your head.
Nobody else appeared to be interested in it at all, except one wee boy who was rapt, and got a slagging from his mates.
It came on with rain. Damn. Perhaps, I will go back into town and see if anyone will sell me something to eat.
And they did. A big Samuel L Jackson-alike served me a panini and glass of rose and very kindly tried to make me feel at home by making conversation with me in my native tongue. Unfortunately, he thought I was French, and I was too embarrassed to correct him.
Also, for that price, I kinda expected a whole panini.
Ah, once again, travel that is supposed to broaden the mind just turns out to be me showcasing my ignorance. In fact, and possibly due to the nature of this mission, or maybe just cos I’m kinda smarting from the ongoing revelation that I am apparently horrible to live with, I am more tongue-tied than usual. I spent some time wandering the food market, and it was heavenly in there – acres of stalls of cheeses and dozens of kinds of olives and whole hams, and of course I sampled none of it for none of it was labelled or priced and I’d have to admit that I can’t speak the language and probably been openly and rudely floored by the cost. God, there was a woman in the zoo with her grandson, trying to spot a lizard in a tank, and I could see it was up in the corner, so I showed her it and went a really mortifying colour and had to run away till my face calmed down. Maybe, it woulda been worth taking someone with me on this one, though Christ alone knows who.
In fact, it woulda been a good idea, cos the tourist discount vouchers? Turn out to be mostly two-for-ones. Hee. I never encountered that one before. I do not think that was a good bargain, with hindsight.
Perhaps, I shall go up the TV tower; I actually have a small discount for one, for that.
And here I was extremely successful – a mere twenty minutes later, I stepped out of the lift at the top and a gust of wind nearly swept me right over and I suddenly remembered that, when not on planes, I am cripplingly terrified of heights and why in the name of god do I always forget something like that?
The tower was pitching about like a boat in a rough sea, too. Oh god, built in the 1950’s. Of concrete. Oh god, look at the cracks in the concrete. No, don’t look at the cracks in the concrete, look over the edge! No, maybe not that either.
Right, let us never do that again.
I spent some time after that mooching about in the woods near the tower, admiring the splendour of the gilded showers of leaves and being extremely grateful to be alive. There wasn’t another soul in sight and it was wonderful. I think, the tram back to town and a sarnie from a 7-11 or some such, and a nap might be in order. Today is burning through my money like the proverbial, and I’ve been on my feet for… seven hours? Whoa!
Stuttgart does indeed appear to be appealingly twee. Not to mention, clean-cut. I saw seven kids playing seven-kid tabletennis on a terrace, on the way back, and right afterwards, a gang of people in a spotless alley, having a mug-in. As opposed to, a mugging, ha ha. They all looked pretty damn pleased with themselves and well-wrapped-up, so I guess they weren’t homeless (have not seen any sign of anyone homeless, actually, but it would be awesome if they were pleased with themselves) and this whole place is composed of pretty houses and falling leaves and terraces and drinking-fountains and Views. There’s bound to be a seamy underside somewhere, I would assume, but I can’t begin to picture it. I haven’t even clocked a Pub yet.
I could never, ever live here. And I barely go to the pub any more.
When I got back to the hotel, I discovered my hair was full of gilded fallen leaves. Oops.
My sleep was uneasy – I kept waking up and wondering if I had slept in, with A-ha songs in my head too. Ah, subconscious, is this the sign of a new era of cooperation, just because we are a bit lonely and a bit lost-feeling and have nobody else to talk to?
And that’s time to get ready and go. The moment is finally here!
Now, I had picked this hotel partly because it was stonkingly cheap for a single room, and partly because it is across the river from the venue, thus I don’t have to cram about on public transport, miss the last train and get utterly lost and never be seen again. Instead, I can get dolled up, stroll out and take a right, then a right, and that’s kinda it. Like this morning, in fact, when the road went into that mountain instead.
Let us leave some time for contingencies. Perhaps, there won’t be a pedestrian way across the river!
There was. Right, now we have to find the venue. Doubtless it will be hidden and disguised as something else, resulting in panic and running about and smudged makeup and Awful. Or, it could be at the Porsche museum, across town, which would make sense, cos everything says the Porsche Arena is by the Mercedes museum and I am rather suspicious of this.
Or, it could be attached to that hundred-foot red neon sign up ahead, saying PORSCHE ARENA. And under it, A-HA tonight.
Well okay, but now we have to find the right seating section. Which is right by the entrance. Okay, and now we have to find the bar. Ditto. And now we have to find our seat, and there it is and Jesus H, this is all falling into place way too easily, I am being set up for the most colossal disappointment here!
And we have the most amazing view – I’ve never looked down on a gig before. This is actually more like a Concert, even. Crap, I wore jeans. No, everyone else is in jeans. And they’re on, holy hell, here we go, this is worse than bloody bungee-jumping… and we’re going to open with my favourite song. I’m a dead woman. God, if I had brought Rikki, he could shoot the bastard from here if he can’t sing…
He can sing. Thank every god, that was actually a million times better than CD. Ah yes, and on CD an awful lot of these songs make me cry, on my own, in the privacy of my room and didn’t I decide not to wear eye makeup in case of that and didn’t I then forget and put on tonnes?
And after all that lead-up, you would expect an actual gig review, wouldn’t you. But I suck at gig reviews and this wasn’t so much a gig as a transcendental experience; mainly, the experience of having Not blown all that cash for nothing and being utterly blown away instead. Some of the songs I expected, and some I didn’t and they were a lovely surprise, and I drank in every single minute and probably had a really stupid expression on for most of it, but hey, nobody was there to look at me. It was like being drowned, slowly, in a vat of bailey’s over ice; challenging, but blissful. And very hard to describe effectively. And I imagine most of the folks reading this (if there are any) would not have got anywhere near as much out of it as I did, so hey. I wish y’all a gig that great, and salute those of you who’ve had one, because that was damn near as good as watching Stromboli erupt.
And all the in-between-song-bits were done… in English. Hee. Norwegian band, Germany, go figure.
And, come the Glasgow gig, I shall fight my way to the front and mosh (I assume my compatriots are far less civilised than the ones who live in Stuttgart and will mosh to anything). Tonight was exactly what I needed and more than I dreamed of, but I ain’t hearing, ‘We will never see you again as A-ha’ twice without I got bruises to show for it.
In conclusion: I am probably a very sad woman. But an epically happy one, right now!
Oh wait. I promised the powers that be, I’d drink the minibar dry if this went well.