I was recently granted a place on the Mouthy Poets international spoken word tour. Well, when I say international I mean we went all over Nottinghamshire; from London to Worksop, and ended up in Braunschweig Germany. So yes, technically I was carried in between nations.
At the very end of the Germany tour stop we were asked to describe how we felt about the trip, before arriving and having done it, using an object. So, here’s my object for you. Imagine a hoover, right, you know like a VAX or something – the upright kind. Now you know when you’re hovering around the bed or the sofa there’s always a receipt isn’t there? Like without fail there’s always some sort of receipt that gets sucked into the base of the hoover, with the brushes and beaters on the roller, and thrashes and flaps itself around in raucous tantrum – right? Well before I got to Germany, I imagined I was the terrified little receipt, with this huge VAX coming at me about to thrash me around. I was never smart enough at French in school to be able to learn German so I knew nothing, my appetite is ashamedly English, and the prospect of outfit planning for a week in advance was mammoth.
Off the plane and I was a definite Brit abroad, a tired Brit, but nonetheless, arms out legs out lapping up the sun. After, let me think – what was it? Something like two taxis, three trains and a bendy bus we finally found Anna and Merle, the head LowenMaul and her intern from the Straatstheatre, where our work would be based all week. They took us to a gorgeous little bar & restaurant that kind of doubled as a for sale-charity shop-art shop-knitting club-quirky hole in the wall. We met a few more of the LowenMaul members, all of whom were beyond lovely, and then were sent off to stay with our retrospective new families. This is where I met the German halves of my soul… Sorry, is that too dramatic? But really though.
I was staying with Laura, another Mouthy poet, and with Merle and her mum and dad Anja and Uwe. Anja is a magician and Uwe is a biologist who specializes in bats! Bats! Like fruit bats, the little cute ones, and Merle showed us a video of them feeding a little bat with a cast on its wing, and he was called shredder because he ate it all up! And Merle had a pet bearded dragon called Nepomuk. Why? Because there is a story in Germany of a little dragon called Nepomuk who couldn’t breathe fire! Why else? And I held him and his belly was soft and squidgy like a cat’s, nothing like a dragon’s at all!
We spent the week nights together, talking and laughing and telling each other about our jobs, and our homes, and showing each other our favourite music, and drinking German beer, and eating Anja’s amazing home-made jam, and she even sneezed a doughnut out of her nose. Seriously, a whole doughnut. I have fallen completely in love with them. We still talk over WhatsApp to this very day, and I miss them, like I’m actually heartbroken.
Between working, we were taken all around Braunschweig and shown some amazing sites, there was a church that still had a cannon ball wedged in the side of it from the war. It hadn’t hit hard enough to smash the wall through, so now it just kind of sulks there, poking out like a zit, forever shamed. I love it. We ate Thai and Chinese and Italian and tried all sorts of German treats. We even went on a German night out which was absolute carnage! I felt like I was in Eurovision. By then I’d learnt a few things in German, like ‘please’, ‘thank you’, ‘you’re welcome’, ‘please can I have’, ‘where is the toilet’, ‘glittery dog’ – ‘GLITZER HUND’ – which I shouted around the club all night with great pride. We went to see a German poetry slam too, where fellow mouthy poet Joshua Judson performed a whole poem of his own, translated completely into German, and he didn’t get a word wrong! It was difficult for the likes of me and a few others though, who really didn’t know much German at all, so we just enjoyed the way the German poets performed and acted, and had fun trying to spot words like ‘and’ in their sentences.
I suppose on seeing the slam the realization that we would have to perform to an audience who might not understand us really sank in. In every rehearsal all of us were trying to pronunciate as best we could, and I used gesture more than I ever would back home – I almost felt panto! On the night though, it couldn’t have gone better. We were a charge of nerves, and both LowenMaul and Mouthy Poets alike bounced off each other and I really think we made a debut to be proud of. The audience laughed and cheered and sighed and sat in stunned silence in all the places we’d hoped, and it was probably the most rewarding show out of all of the tour stops I’ve done. On the second night, my German family – whose last name by the way translates in English to the Churchill’s – came to watch us. Standing on that stage and seeing Anja, Merle and Uwe looking up proudly at me was one of those movie moments that you wish you could bottle. It didn’t feel like I’d only known these people for a week, it felt like they were mine and I was there’s and that it had always been that way. My Mum, Sister and Dad.
On looking back at the trip, everything I saw and experienced, the show and everyone I met, I feel like I’ve witnessed something I could never find the right words for. Imagine if you went to Platform 9¾’s and you ran at it, and you actually came out into Hogwarts Station. Or imagine if all those times you jumped off a chair as a child trying to fly actually culminated in you becoming Superman. Or imagine if all those outfits you’ve pinned on pinterest actually did appear in your wardrobe. It feels like that. And I’ve realized that that receipt wedged in the hoover isn’t thrashing and flapping itself around in raucous tantrum at all, it’s raving, celebrating in the breeding ground of fear, because that’s where the best things come from.