So, after a hearty full Belgian breakfast – which is pretty much the same as a full English breakfast except with toy sausages and salad (who eats salad for breakfast??) – I checked in to the rather imaginatively named Hotel Theatre.
Now I confess that I haven’t conducted extensive research but I am guessing that its name comes from the fact that it is next door to the theatre?
I don’t know. Call it a hunch.
Anyway, it has to be said that, its proximity to the theatre was pretty much its only saving grace. Other than that, it was a little like staying in your local council offices. No charm, no character and certainly no frills.
Oh, the staff were certainly very friendly. Especially when I told them that the room I had just been checked in to was yet to be made and was strewn with wet towels. And very especially when at checkout they charged me €2.50 for a sodding Mars bar from the minibar!!
I, of all people, am happy to take it on the chin when it comes to being royally fleeced on minibar items. Since time immemorial it has been a routine of mine to ransack the mini bar of anything even remotely chocolate based almost the instant I enter the room.
Toblerone, Mars bar, M&Ms, even those horrible wafery ones with the Kinder egg stuff inside them – none are safe once Thirkell has dumped his case on that funny foldaway thingy.
But €2.50? For a Mars bar? In a hotel that was last painted in 1963? Come off it!
However, as I say the major advantage (and I imagine the reason why we were there in the first place) was that you could get from the hotel to the theatre and back without setting foot outside so it wasn’t all bad I suppose.
Over the years I have worked in Antwerp many, many times – mainly doing the Diamond Awards which was always at the Velodrome on the outskirts of town, and so I have never really had the chance to explore.
This time though, as we were pretty central, I was able to do a little sightseeing. What a lovely city!
Of course, the fact that it was a beautiful sunny day helped but I did enjoy wandering around the market and poking around the shops.
After a good Belgian lunch – which was pretty much the same as an English lunch except horrible – Mick and I met up with a very old friend from the days of our youth back in the North East of England.
Paul Flush was one of the pre-eminent local keyboard players of his era in the North East and I hadn't seen him since Adam was a lad so it was very nice to catch up with him, have a beer and get the low down on the life of an ex-pat in Belgium. Reunion over, we said our goodbyes and Mick & I split to our traditional pre-show routines. I hadn't had a bath in hours!!
Show time was 9.15 so there was plenty of time to relax, read and go wrinkly before then.
The venue was a fairly plain and nondescript place but the crowd were far from plain and nondescript.
Although the show didn’t match the killer one in Paris the night before, the audience were totally up for it and I think they all had a great time.
All, that is, apart from a guy sitting in the front row who sat there with a face like a Jimmy Saville impersonator. Not a smile, not a clap, not a movement. We had to hold a mirror to his mouth a couple of times!
Ah well, you can’t please everyone I suppose.
After the show we were breaking from our usual routine of travelling overnight and staying in the illustrious Hotel Theatre for the night.
I decided to have an early night and hit the hay around 12.30. However, the best laid plans………
In a somewhat surreal turn of events, I (and several others in the band) were woken at 3.00am by the sound of a trumpet, tuba and clarinet playing at full volume outside.
At first I thought it was a good old fashioned nightmare but it swiftly became apparent that, no. It was really happening!
A band of lunatics was really playing in the streets of Antwerp.
At 3.00 am.
This dreadful cacophony continued until 5.00, yes 5.00am and in the interim my alarm was changed several times from “enough time for a bath and a couple of chapters” to “how quickly can I pack my things and get to the bus?” (whilst still allowing enough time to be ripped off en route – €2.50 for a Mars bar indeed!!)
Not to worry though. Next day was a day off in beautiful Cologne so I would be able to rest and recuperate once we got there.
The journey was livened up somewhat by the creation of what will be the game sensation of 2015. You mark my words! The original conception of “Wheel of Brie” was by Terry but, as the game wore on (and on!), more rules were added as and when required.
All that is needed to play is one circular tub of President Brie, a minimum of 3 EXTREMELY bored people and LOTS of time!
We arrived at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Cologne around 3.00pm having lost the will to live and arranged to rendezvous at 4.00 for a trip into town.
Unfortunately the bed monster got me and at 4.00 I was still smashing out ZZZs. Luckily there was a second wave at 5.00 which I managed to make.
A beautiful sunny half hour walk brought us to Cologne Cathedral where 80s Dave, Terry and I had a hearty German meal – which is pretty much the same as a hearty English meal except German – a few beers and then we headed back to the hotel for a relatively early night.
Maybe a quick bath first though………