Alight Fingers Juggling and Circus Skills Workshops  

Balls To The Baltic - Latvia or Bust



You Cannot Beat The Jesters Sense of Timing. Don’t Even Try.

It didn't matter of course. On the grounds that Jonathan was going to surface before me, I hadn't thought to set an alarm. And he overslept. So we turned up ready for the first show of the day with literally one minute to spare. Of course we’d still found a moment to read the local papers in the morning (well, the bits about us anyway). Fortunately, the first show was in the school where we'd done the last show the previous night. That meant we didn't have to haul any of the kit around as we'd left it all there. We literally (and I mean literally, non of this literary literally stuff that just means ‘almost’) just walked in and started the show. Fortunately, The Jesters comedy timing doesn't require the use of a watch, and once again, he had the kids in stitches in a matter of moments.

It was all still getting better and smoother. The only problem we had was that at the beginning of January, all the windows were shut, the heating was on, and we had 120 kids shouting and laughing. The juggling that we do isn't just a case of throwing up three balls and catching them again. It's energetic, and at the end of a forty minute show, I was dehydrating. Jonathan stated afterwards that he was having exactly the same problems. Getting more liquid into us was the easy part. There was also the problem of simple making sure you're getting plenty of oxygen. Doing exercise in a closed space where there are around 130 people  (including the growed ups) all competing for the oxygen means you end up having to breath very, very deeply and that effects your concentration. When you're throwing five balls around in various ways, it really helps to have your concentration in something approximating top shape. There's a very easy answer to this of course. Open a couple of windows and give the air a chance to circulate.

We were doing two shows at this school. We were led away and fed coffee and biscuits in the gap between them, and we asked them to make sure there were some windows open during the second or we were going to dissolve.

So ten minutes into the second show, when we realise that they've closed all the windows again, Jonathan has me in stitches while he's telling one of the teachers off for closing the windows. Bad Teacher! Needless to say, all the kids find this hilarious too, and fortunately, the teacher involved found the whole thing funny or it would have just looked like Jonathan was having an 'artistic moment'. I'm still not convinced he wasn't having an artistic moment, but it made me laugh anyway.

I'd like to take the opportunity here to state that it's not true that the Germans have no sense of humour. They simply hide it quite well. The head master of this school appeared at first meeting to be the most somber individual, but I have rarely seen a man laugh as long or as loud as he did at some of the antics we had his children getting up too. It’s not true that the Germans have no sense of humour. You simply have to torture children if you want to see it.

It was at the end of this show that I experienced the most surreal moment of the entire trip. The show had fortunately gone down brilliantly again, and again we'd ended up doing an encore or two. However I really didn't expect, and don't think I will ever quite understand why we were then swamped by 120 kids all wanting our 'autogramms'.

Maybe it was the fact that we'd been in local papers that morning, or maybe they were planning cheque book duplication in art class that afternoon. I felt a little bit fake whilst signing away. I wanted to explain that I'm not actually famous, I'm just this guy who's come to your school to throw things around and have a bit of a laugh. I also couldn't help thinking that my mates were going to laugh their heads off when I told them about this when I got home. I still couldn't help but find the whole moment in some way or other completely innocent and charming. Jon Otway used to claim to be the least famous, famous person in the world. Seriously Jon, I think I can give you some competition on that one. I might even start using it as a tag line ... "Less famous than Jon Otway". I think it's got a ring to it.

When the throng of adoring fans had dispersed we headed over the road to the local comprehensive. This wasn't the grammar school of yesterday. No shirts and ties here. The uniform was jeans and T shirts, or whatever took their fancy. I couldn't help but smile at the irony as Jonathan walked in sporting full jesters garb, and a fifteen year old lad, dressed in a way that's probably easiest described as traditional 70's punk, i.e. tartan trousers, zips everywhere, spiky hair and half a pack of safety pins in each ear looked at him like he couldn't believe the nerve of the man. To be honest, sometimes I couldn't quite believe the nerve of the man, but still.

They fed us breakfast and more importantly, gave us tea and coffee, and we sat and chatted for twenty minutes while we waited for the allotted time. Bells rang, which I would point out, were far nicer sounding bells than I've ever heard in an English school. Anyone would think they were to notify them about something, and not an alarm ("everybody run, they're letting the kids out!"). Jonathan had a tinkle with their piano as the audience filed in and I found some great bongos to play with. Unfortunately, we then had to stop mucking about with their instruments, and start mucking about doing our show, which all said and done wasn't a complete hardship.

Once again, there were a bunch of people there who could ride unicycles, so we gave one lucky lady out of the audience the chance to break her neck riding the six foot one, whilst of course under constant supervision. Then Jonathan got on the thing and went zooming round the room on it. We changed the juggling slightly as we'd brought in the mini boom box, so that we could have some music. It does make it different. Contact juggling generally has a quite mesmerizing effect anyway, but it adds something when you add the right piece of music. We were working from an MP3 player, so I couldn't use any of my usual music which was all on CD. Prepared as we ever were, I asked Jonathan to pick something 'appropriate' out while I got the bits and pieces together being as he had a better idea what was on the MP3 player. He picked Marillion, 'Script for a Jesters Tear'. It's a great track, and although I haven't listened to it for a marillion years I know it quite well from years back. It was one of those albums that just about everyone had at the time. I must confess that when it got to the line about "Yet another emotional suicide" I was suddenly scanning ahead wondering just how 'appropriate' this was going to be. On reflection, I'm sure they've all heard a lot worse. For the club juggling later I used The Killers 'Mr Brightside', which was obviously a good choice on the grounds that they were clapping before I'd thrown a single club. Needless to say, amongst the sporadic outbreaks of artistic integrity there was the usual medley of mayhem. I'm really glad to say that our last show in Germany went down as well as all the others, and after the "Zugabe" we were presented with gifts, including a little bouquet of flowers to add a little colour and warmth to the van when it all got very cold as we headed up to Latvia. There were a more autograph hunters as we packed everything back into the van, which was still making me laugh, but it gave me a chance to practice a little more German :

"kann ich dein autogramm haben"

"ja kannst du mein autogramm haben"

Probably not quite as useful as directions to the hotel, but heh.

And then we headed back to Clive and Kirstens place for lunch and a chat. Aiden had obviously worked out when he was onto a good thing and had sheets and sheets of paper for Jonathan and myself to sign. As Jonathan coated a sheet of paper with his signature he joked that once Aiden had ten of Jonathans signatures, he could swap them for one of mine. I'd like to add that when you've got a hundred of mine, you can swap them for an Otway.



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