Amazingly generously, I was invited to a birthday party over the weekend by a member of the theatre staff I'd never even met. I do appreciate my dear mezzo friend for engineering the invitation; any chance to get to know my colleagues better (and to have a bash at conversational German) is gratefully pounced on. I suspect that when things get busier for me in terms of rehearsals and performances, there will as always be more opportunities to socialise, but just for the moment I'm wandering around slightly like a lost soul. Very strange! As I've always sung freelance before, I'm used to leaping into high-intensity encounters, working with colleagues virtually around the clock, from the start - so this is slightly disorientating. I've been having a few thoughts about the difference between this Fest contract and my freelance life, which I dare say will get aired once they've been properly digested!
However back to the main event. I was invited for 3 p.m. and arranged to meet my friend by the theatre at 2.30 so we could get lost en route together. I had to resort to a rather pathetic text to her asking what was normal to bring to birthday parties - wine? chocolate? flowers? We plumped for a gorgeous orchid and a box of chocolates which amused us because the name, Pralinés des Dames, translates as Ladies' Pralines, and we thought a ladies-only box of chocs was an eminently suitable birthday present!
Well I had a lovely time! Utterly different from my usual experience of birthday parties in England, which tend more towards the bacchanal, with everyone dressed up and sparkling, drink flowing freely and strangers engaging in heated discussion (although I will admit that this could just be the circles I move in...). Nope, this was a hugely civilised affair; there were only a few guests, we were offered a choice of guest slippers upon entering (luckily there was an orange pair to match the flower in my hair; despite bike-friendly dressing (more on which at some point!) a diva has her limits). We sat around the table, and the birthday girl served lovely cakes (if there's one area where the Germans rule supreme, cooking-wise, it's cakes), whipped cream and coffee. Lovely contributions were made by the hostess's children (I now know the German for that twirly stick thing majorettes chuck around - ein Majorettenstab - pity I've no idea what they're called in English!). Conversation flowed happily - I appear to have some very simpatico colleagues, who listened gently to my mangled contributions and rescued me when I got stuck down a vocabulary dead-end (note to self: stick to simpler anecdotes in the near future - save the one about Daddy getting caught by the police scraping roadkill into a plastic bag at 3 a.m. for a more confidently German-speaking future). The only slightly surreal moment was turning around at one point to find the hostess in full Harry Potter get-up - floor-length cloak and wand. (Checked my coffee - definitely alcohol-free; eh, how nice that people have such enthusiasms! I also learned the word for wand, being der Stab - no majorettes this time, but connections definitely starting to be made!).
I came away very much appreciating the time I'd had and thinking, yes, I could definitely get into this German lark. One advantage of German parties to remember - you don't need to eat a thing for the rest of the day!!