Tag Archives: Waiting

Giochi Senza Frontiere

This week I’ve been making videos for a band I used to go on tour with until a few years ago. We used to head off to northern Italy most years for a week or 2, playing gigs to a few thousand Italians in Bologna, Parma and other towns that we Brits mainly know because of the specific type of food we eat that supposedly came from there*. The band plays Welsh folk rock, is called Here Be Dragons and is run by my mate Mike.

When Here Be Dragons go on tour, Mike (being Welsh) always brings this little foam filled rugby ball along to chuck around, it works as a combined team building exercise and time filler whilst waiting for things to happen, which is, apart from sitting in a van, mostly what one does on tour. You wait for venues to open, wait for promoters to arrive, wait for sound engineers to turn up, wait for sound checks to start, wait for audiences to come, wait to be given keys for the accommodation, wait for taxis, wait for planes…

Once upon the end of a tour, having unusually had a decent nights sleep and not had to catch the plane at an hour in the low single digits, we were all packed and hanging around outside the hotel for the van to pick us up and take us to the airport. Out came the foam filled rugby ball. Thus we had it in hand as we entered the departure lounge.

We were gently chucking it around while we waited for our luggage to be checked in, as we queued to have our passports looked at, being silly, laughing, getting looks. The instrument cases, going in the cabin to avoid being destroyed by the baggage handlers, gave away our status as musicians so people accepted our playfulness. Big kids.

After all the usual walking down corridors, getting on and off escalators and travelators, we were directed in to a big glass room with plastic airport seating along the sides and a back to back row down the middle. Around a hundred people of various nationalities all waiting together for our winged metal tube to arrive. The band waited as we had been waiting for the last two weeks: we threw the ball back and forth.

Then the plane was delayed. Everyone was getting bored. Except us. We were getting more adventurous and spreading out, moving further away from each other as we got more confident of our aim.

It started with the occasional missed catch, when the ball would roll gently to some stranger’s feet and they would pick it up and throw it back to the big kids… a couple of throws later one of us would pass it to them deliberately. Passengers losing interest in their books or phones watched the fun going on, and if any of them caught our eye we would lob it to them too.

Language, culture and age barriers all melted away like morning mist. Soon they weren’t just throwing back to us anymore, they were looking out for anyone who might be a willing recipient, bringing other people they had never met or spoken to in to the game. Then that became the thing to do and it was obvious that throwers were trying to find a pass receiver who had not taken part previously, hunting for a hopeful face on the far side of the room. Soon, I am fairly sure, all but one person had caught and chucked the ball at least once… All but one man sitting in the central block who was, almost pointedly, reading his pink Financial Times, held high in front of his face. The ball was passed to a young lad sitting nearly opposite. The lad looked around and realised what I have just told you. The whole room seemed to hold it’s breath as he took aim and launched the ball directly in to the paper.

Thankfully, paper man found the incident amusing and we all laughed, able to breathe again. Maybe it was his lad, though I’m not at all certain. Our jet finally arrived, an hour and a half late, but unusually after such a delay, everyone boarded with a smile.

…here’s to living happily ever after, until the next adventure.

* A sauce that goes on pasta and thinly sliced pig respectively, in case you were wondering

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Filed under Touring, performance

To Stay and Tarry a While

Good things come to those who wait is not an aphorism I have much time for. I’m not at all sure why random items of a positive leaning should find their way to someone palely loitering rather than the person who is actively searching. My suspicion is that those who wait are inclined to consider whatever turns up to break the monotony a “good thing” regardless of it’s intrinsic value. Years of touring have meant hours of hanging around for venues to open, sound engineers to show up, meals to come, and the quality of the eventual arrival bore no relationship to the length of time spent on standby.

In my youth I basically used to rush from one thing to another at the last minute. As a result I never had to wait for anything unless someone else was late. These days I try and save my brinksmanship for less absolute, unforgiving and simple challenges than being on time. I’d much rather keep on everyone’s good side, arrive early and have a chance to breathe before I’m officially required to do anything, or if possible get ahead of the game with a little pre-emptive preparation. When I do have to wait for things, trains, appointments, I find I quite enjoy the experience. I always have a yarn to learn, a book of new tales I can dive in to, a show to plan or list to write. Even when I don’t have these things to hand I find there is a freedom in waiting. For a change one has nothing else to do… Nothing else one should be doing… Total liberty to do no other thing. Even if the train is late I find this state can persist: worrying, fretting, pacing will not make it come any sooner. Nothing we do will make any difference, we will be exactly the same amount of late so we may as well continue to enjoy the peace of absent expectation and not be wound up when we do finally get where we are going. Relax. All decisions, all control are out of our hands until after whatever we are awaiting has caught up to us. 

What has this got to do with folk tales I hear you ask? Of course I came to this attitude through encountering folk tale characters who have to bide their time for one thing or another. Often it is a trap that the protagonist has set and they are sitting tight until the antagonist or love interest ambles unwittingly in to it. In other stories it can be be a bearer of great knowledge, a marvellous creature or some similar wonder that our principal has to kick their heels for. 

In the written story, since there is no activity to report between the arrival at the point of pausing and the re-comencement of action on the appearance of the awaited being, it tends to pass as quickly as a full stop and a space. Sometimes maybe a paragraph gap.

When I am telling a tale I try to get inside it. It is my job after all to make my audience, you as it might be, feel the events of the tale as if they are real. In attempting to get to the emotional content, the essence of those un-detailed lingerings, I had to imagine myself in to a much different world. People knew how to wait in the old days. No mobile phone; no iPod; no book even. No clock ticking. No radio playing from a nearby shop; no adverts or announcements to break the silence… Only the world continuing to turn around them. 

I sometimes see if I can make an audience join the leading player in their anticipation, explore how long modern people, kids especially, can maintain attention when nothing is happening. It is not long. Nowadays we get fretful if we are forced to hang around five minutes for a bus. And maybe that is part of the problem, it’s possible modern waits are too short!

Waiting for someone in pre-industrial times could take hours or even days, long enough to make a fire; darn a sock; sew a button; watch the birds; Whittle a stick; climb a tree; sew the button again; have a conversation with the sock… Some of these might sound a bit like “doing things”, but they are not your primary activity: what you are “doing” is waiting, these other things are just time fillers, there is no obligation to do them at all and… they all become much easier.

Hidden between the words “ … sat down to wait.” and the beginning of the next sentence is a lost art: Don’t worry about the thing that is coming, good or otherwise, enjoy the wait.

…here’s to living happily ever after, until the next adventure. 

The Travelling Talesman  www.thetravellingtalesman.co.uk


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