Thursday, 2 September 2010

100 not out!!!
Good lord. According to the counter on this thing, this is my centenary post. Extraordinary. Who'd have thought I had so much to say? And with so little substance or logic?

Anyway, it's quite timely, as another season is beginning here at the opera house, and that means I am now beginning my second year of the Fest contract. An interesting time for me to reflect upon the past year and what I've learned along the way.

First, however, a quote which seems appropriate. Kierkegaard.

                  "To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself."

Too damned right. Much of what I've done in the last year has involved screwing my courage to the sticking place, gulping and just going for it. I have been terrified more times than I can count, and in more ways than you probably imagine (I'm quite practised at covering up my fear in public!). But every time I overcome one of those nasty little moments, I feel a little triumph, and my goodness I have been surfing on quite a steep learning curve... Various disjointed observations follow!
  • I'm in the right place for me at the moment. I LOVE performing, even in a small role or a role not particularly suited to my voice. Walking out on that stage is a never-ending thrill, and I am immensely grateful to have the opportunity to live out the dream I've been chasing for so long.

  • You CAN buy lamb in Germany if you try hard enough. Turkish supermarkets are your best bet.  (My GOD I wish I'd known this when I first arrived!)

  • Germany is great in lots of unexpected ways. Welcoming and Mediterranean climate, for one thing, and wonderful sense of humour (seriously! I have never laughed as much in rehearsals as I have here). Although I have to admit that most things were "unexpected", because I had frankly no idea of what life would be like here! My mind was a complete blank when it came to preconceptions of "German life". I really don't know why; I happily hold weird and unfounded notions of life in other cultures.

  • Ibuprofen gel really does work upon aching shoulder muscles. Absolutely no idea why my entire (medical) family automatically assumed it wouldn't, but there you go.

  • It IS possible to beat the cashier at the supermarket (i.e. stick all your purchases in your bag before they fall off the end of the counter because they're being whizzed through at such a rate); however this takes cunning, legerdemain and above all practice. But ohhhh, the joy, the JOY of outwitting them!

  • The health insurance system here WORKS! No disrespect meant to all those I know who work so hard in the poor old NHS, but having gone somewhat through the wringer healthwise, I am tremendously grateful for the efficiency over here.

  • It is technically possible to file all one's paperwork without actually reading any of it. This is however inadvisable.

  • Contrary to all my snobbish oenophile expectations, German red wine can be glorious. SPĂ„TBURGUNDER!!! Hooray. However I still get in arguments with waiters in bars about what they reckon are dry whites and I judge to be medium sweet at best...

  • Amazing how you can whittle down what you actually need when it comes to living space and furniture. I will however go on record as being rather pleased that I now have a bed. And that guests no longer have to sit on the floor.

  • Having friends who are happy to visit you even if they have to sit on the floor is a complete sanity-saver and an immense blessing!

  • They say you get used to anything, and it is indeed true, but ohhhh, the longing for properly-salted butter never really goes away...

  • The German language, whilst strenuously resisting easy conquest, can be wrestled to the floor and sat on within a year if you really try. I'm not what I would call fluent yet, but I'm happy to natter away to anyone auf Deutsch and even understand most (most) of what they say to me...

  • When faced with a pack of suicidal rabbits whilst cycling along a river path late at night, it is probably advisable not to have been indulging in Spätburgunder by the very large glass. Falling off so slowly is embarrassing and makes the rabbits stare.

  • If you like your curries hotter than "a chili was once waved over this (probably)", tell the chef in the Thai restaurant in no uncertain terms that you are not German.

  • Voices CAN be reworked from scratch and polished into something even better. Yep, even those whose throats have unexpectedly been cut. Not saying it happens without quite a bit of blood, sweat and tears, but it's amazing where perseverence and a stubborn refusal to give up can get you.  (Some of the blood, incidentally, I found I had fished back from the hospital in one of those intravenous tubes, and stored in the fridge; something to do, as I remember, with a desire to make a "statement" necklace.  Good drugs, those were.)
So there we are.  I never thought I had it in me to write such nonsense, or indeed, having written it, to foist it upon an unsuspecting public.  To those who've been following this, apologies for the flightiness and thanks so much for sticking with me for the ride.  It's ridiculously therapeutic translating one's experiences into fodder fit to publish, and I hope you had a few giggles along the way.  I have every intention of continuing to bore you for the foreseeable future at least; the eagle-eyed may have noticed that I changed the name of the blog, however.  This should make bugger-all difference on a practical level (I hope!) but I have now come to the point where I no longer feel so "abroad". 

Dear god.  One hundred posts.  BOTTOMS UP!!!

PS the photo is of the windows in one of the glasshouses in the Palmengarten in Frankfurt, taken a couple of weeks ago when watching (to be honest, nearly missing, the place was such a photographer's delight) a friend starring in an opera put on there.  Something about the idea of reflections and thorns rather appealed!


  1. Well, I can't believe either, that I have read every 100 of them! Your entertaining style and wit made it seem like I only read about 25. Keep 'em coming.

  2. So happy to hear that the voice is on its way to polished and gleaming again after its temporary state of recovery. This is wonderful news indeed! I too, enjoy your musings. I don't get over here to read as regularly as I should and tend to gobble it up in large chunks, but it's always entertaining (and the writing style is alarmingly familiar at times - do we have to attribute this only to our similar education, or are you SURE we weren't separated at birth?!)

  3. Yay for 100!! Yay for many more to come!! And, even more yays for furnishings in the flat!!! Now to save for the visit!!!

  4. Ha! I recognized the photo right away - one of my favorite places to go and smell "home." And it seems we reflected on Autumn on the same day. Just goes to show that we're all the same somehow. Well, you certainly have lost your footing momentarily a few times this year, but it seems like you're headed for solid (if not cushioned) ground. Happy sitting, sipping and singing! -cg.

  5. My God I hope you didn't stab anyone when you screwed your courage to the sticking place, sooner or later that might catch up with you.

    Also: Properly Salted Butter. Find a friend with an electric mixer (or if you're really going off the deep end, buy at least a little handheld one). Buy a pint of heavy cream. Put it in the mixer bowl with a pinch of salt (really, a pinch). Whisk whisk whisk until it turns to solid butter (what happens when you overmix your whipped cream). Hey presto. Salted butter.

  6. Anonymous10:35 am

    As far as Thai food goes, tell them "Thai scharf." They'll get the message!