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Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Fragments from backstage

We're all a couple of weeks into the thing now and well into the "Well oiled machine" portion of the gig, which comes between the "Oooh this is all new and fun" part and the "I've forgotten what London smells like" part. Here is what's been going on:

Roma the trapeze artist is, to my knowledge, the only performer to actually bother taking advantage of the cheap rates at the local gym for performers. She goes every day. She bounds backstage grinning and telling me that she is "Fit like a sports shoe". "Like an old, smelly sports shoe", adds her partner Sven. I like Roma a lot. "Hello Roma", I say, every evening. "Hello London", she says back.

Roma has a dog called Nanu. It's hard not to like Nanu. Especially when she spends most of her time trying to get someone - anyone - to throw her squeaky plastic French bread dog toy. She's very good at catching it in her mouth, and when she has made what she knows to be a particularly skillful catch will look at you with shiny eyes and squeak the French bread in her mouth over and over. Being a juggler, I have worked on several tricks with Nanu. She can catch the French bread from under the leg, behind the back, from out of a juggle, from a nose balance (my nose) and from a foot flick up. I keep telling Dave that if I can get Nanu to wear a tux and a radio mic, then he's replaced.

I have been warming to Sergei and Natalia, the duo from the Ukraine. They both speak very little English and she is clearly a spectacular lunatic - talking at me in Ukrainian loudly and happily, well aware that I have no earthly idea what she's on about, and happy for me to speak pretend Ukrainian back to her before laughing uproariously and slapping me on the arm. Sergei has been learning English by watching us perform. Consequently, the only phrases he can speak to me are lines from my show, which is very strange. I'll be standing backstage and he'll sidle shyly up to me and say "Day after day, week after week, year after year" and then smile hopefully, "Yes?", and I'll say "Yes!" and grin, and he'll walk away satisfied. I have a plan to learn some Ukrainian and suddenly surprise them.

Tonight we cycled back home and stopped off, as we often do, at the little kiosk on the corner of the street we live on. It's a great shop, selling all the things you might need late at night - these being mainly booze and snacks. Yesterday they called me a taxi to take my wife, who was visiting, back to the airport, and we were both a bit sad as she left. Kati, the woman who runs the shop talks to me tonight and tells me how she saw us crying and was so sad for us, and talked to her husband about it and cried herself a little bit. Then she looks a bit sheepish and asks us if we'd like to come and have a glass of champagne with her as it's her birthday. Of course we would. So we all hung out with her and her two friends Gundy and Anna and drank and chatted. "It must be hard being away from your wife for so long", Kati says. I tell her how it's pretty much the only bad side to what I do. "But", she says, "If there was no bad side then it would be perfect, and perfect is boring". Turns out the lady who runs the kiosk is quite the philosopher.

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