Dawn broke as Penultimate's train sped towards the gaudy metropolis of London town....
Nah, forget it.........
This gig, my friends, is a one off, or a one nighter, as they say in the business. We flew in on the gig day and returned today (I'm typing this on the train home). My journey started with a six o'clock train up to town, then a tube journey across to Paddington station, and then the Heathrow Express. We've played Cologne before in 2016 and it is a big venue for us - 2200 seats (we'd already sold 1800 tickets - or so it said on our itinerary) but this is probably the outer limit of what we can play up to - venue wise. I guess our show starts to lose some of its intimacy in such a big place.
Met up with these three wise monkeys in the departure lounge - we were eight playing this gig: Jonty, Will, Leisa, Richie, Ben, Hester, me and Dave.
Since we are on a group ticket, it was impossible for me to check in online and reserve my usual seat near the toilets. I've discovered that asking at check in for "a seat near the toilets" along with a worried look, usually gets you what you want - this is a conversation no one wants to take further......
As it turned out the plane was at least a third empty, so I was able to knock out a couple of scenes for my next film.
There really is no business like show business.
We met up with Viola (our German tour manager) at the airport - she is now based in Italy and flies in to chaperone us, sell merchandise and speak German - we are all appalling at speaking German (shame on us! - with the honourable exception of Jonty - who is married to a German lass and lives in Hamburg).
Checking in to our hotel
Beautiful view of the station and the famous cathedral behind it and joy of joys, the theatre was within walking distance.
It is difficult to know what to say about the hotel (which shall remain nameless) - on the one hand it was spotlessly clean with friendly and attentive staff - on the other hand its decor is what might be discribed as 'classy' - if you happen to be a Romanian arms dealer - all black surfaces, big furniture and shag carpets - each room (I checked with the other Ukes) had its own jacuzzi.
Arriving at the theatre we bumped into our old friend Andreas, who had come to see us again, along with his partner Sonia, and their next door neighbours. He joked that he was 'stalking us' - this is a fairly droll, as amongst other things, he is a policeman (and a fine guitarist) - he invited us for a drink after the show.
This is what 2200 seats look like - its bloody vast (for us). Viola, who had been talking to the Program director, said that apparently, the theatre is 30 (or so) years old and the auditorium is underground, right under the square in front of the Cathedral (which is pretty bustling with tourists). Due to a design fault, noises in the square (like people skateboarding, walking etc, can be heard directly below). This means that the theatre employs 8/9 people to keep the public away from the centre of the square during concerts - even including ours! This sounds mad - but I dont doubt it.
Talking about stalking, we are being followed around by the fabulous pianist Mitsuko Ushcida, who was rehearsing in the theatre in Dortmund last week. Rolando Villazon, the tenor has a concert here next week.
The concert, when it came was a blinder and I felt we really put the energy across, in particular our version of Bowie's 'Heroes' - which builds from a whisper to a scream - always goes down well as a final encore. The Germans love Bowie (or David Bowlly as I've started to call him - to annoy the pedants) almost as much as the Brits.
This is the lovely Karin, who is a long time reader of this blog - she had very kindly brought me gifts for my girls of two bottles of Eau de Cologne. It suddenly occured to me that this fragrance, which I had always understood to be french, might come from this very city, and so it is - thank you Karin, lovely to see you! (thats my Valentines presents sorted out!) So straight after the signing (we sold a ton of merchandise) we popped over to have a drink with Andreas, as well as old friend Eva, who had bought her customary gift of sweets (thank you!) and had a few beers. Cologne is famous for its beer 'Kolsch' which is served in small glasses - as a Brit, used to large steins of beer in Germany, I've learned to be wary of this beer, as it only takes three or four to suddenly lose all feeling in your legs and slide under the table.
And so after a few drinks, we bid our adieus to our friends and tottered off back to our hotel, where the rest of the Ukes had set up camp in the bordello style bar, and needless to say had a few more drinks.
The next day, since we weren't leaving until midday I had the chance to walk around, and lo and behold, I came upon this big mans shop where I popped in and bought some more trousers. Germany may be many things to many people - but to me it is the land of Beer and Big Style trousers (and currywurst).
Its difficult to describe the feeling when you stand close to one of these medieval masterpieces - they are simply awe inspiring. Thank goodness it survived the bombing during WW2.
I walked back to the hotel and had a cup of coffee with the girls in the lobby, Hester pulled out one of the sugars and gave it to me - a 'tall man' sachet of sugar. I have a suspicion that she may be 'psychic'.
Rich took this photo of me in another 'classy' area of the hotel - I really should be wearing a toga or smoking a pipe.....
So back to the airport we went, and once again the Gods of the skies smiled down on me, while I did some more shots - I came back to my seat just in time to take this photo of the Houses of Parliament from the air.
We're flying back to Germany on Tuesday Campers, I'll see you then.