Thursday, 26 May 2011

Newspaper interviews, land mines and Big Ben

The morning of our last gig in Croatia saw me attempting to check out of the hotel in English with a receptionist who was rather indignantly concentrating on talking in Croatian. How dare he? it's only Zagreb! We eventually agreed that we would wait for Nino to get there. He was due at 11am and I settled myself in possibly the comfiest chair I have ever sat in and waited for the hairy former war correspondent, who was his usual punctual self and arrived thirty five minutes late. Check out completed, we made the ten minute walk to the other hotel where we (the comedians) were to be interviewed by someone from the country's premier national newspaper. Settling down with mineral water and espresso I was immediately enchanted by our interviewer and probably over-exerted myself in the interview. Nick and Sully seemed content to take a bit of a back seat and it did feel a bit like it was my day in the (very bright) sunshine. To be honest I was on a bit of a high after the Varasdin gig anyway and hadn't had anyone to talk to since being isolated in my own private hote hell (It wasn't that bad but I am something of a drama queen) so it was no surprise I was a right old chatterbox. Interview finished, her accomplice sprang to life, pulled his camera out of a bag and began motioning and waving a little too frantically for my liking. We then had an enforced photo shoot on a wall, by some bushes and eventually half way up a tree. It went on for what seemed like an age and eventually he was dragged off us by Luca and Nino who needed to get moving. Osijek (Our final gig) was a long way off and nobody wanted to be late. It had sold out within four hours of tickets going on sale, the locals loved the English and the theatre was, by all accounts, the closest thing to an English comedy club on the tour so far.

We said our goodbyes, our interviewer shook hands with Sully and Nick but I abandoned formalities and gave her a kiss on both cheeks, Croatian style. She smiled at me and said "You charmer". I like Croatia.

Filip picked us up roughly where he was supposed to and we set off, heading off on the long drive to the young Nation's  most Easterly city. We were this time accompanied by a Zagreb comedian responsible for setting up a nascent circuit in the city. He's already doing OK for himself and was a mine of useful information about the areas we were travelling through, pointing out battle grounds and land marks but also explaining how the younger generation of Croatians bore little or no ill feeling to their Serbian neighbours and he envisaged a future only of peace. The way these nations have recovered from the "Civil" war of the late 80s and early 90s is staggering, really, but testament to a fine proud nation and I am all the better from having seen it at first hand.

We stopped for gas and a toilet break. I walked to the bathrooms where an old man said "That will be two Kunas". I toyed with the idea of just walking into the fields for a piss but then remembered my guide's words. Most of them were still full of land mines. I paid the two Kunas gladly.

On arrival in Osijek we went directly to the City's oldest restaurant where we were treated to the most famous dish in Slavonia. Not sure what to expect, I should have been ready for meat in bread.

The Osijek shop of meat. Really great place, actually. I recommend it should you be that way.

They love their meat and they love it in bread. We had beef noodle soup to start. I never witnessed a vegetable but there was a piece of lettuce on the meat plate which I cannot think was anything more than a token gesture, or had indeed been put there by mistake. We got driven to the hotel we were staying in and told we had an hour to relax. 

I spent my time quickly surfing the net with my excellent T-mobile dongle, checking my emails and facebook via the T-Mobile Croatia network. We were then driven to the theatre, sound checked and settled down to a beer. The young audience seemed to all appear at once, the gig filled to capacity and before I knew it I was on stage. It was my worse gig of the four. I had hoped for a big finish, to get better as the tour went on but I was just a bit flat. The audience were great (Of course) but I forgot a couple of bits and could also feel my voice going a little towards the end - undoubtedly a bi-product of one too many late nights drinking and shouting. I'm over-dramatising though. The gig was fine. I just wished I could have done a little better. We went into the break and I settled in to a conversation with Nino's friends from Belgrade (One of which has now also, rather like Nino, relocated to London). I am now more informed for talking to them. The Zagrebbian (I'm not sure that is actually a word but I'm having it) went on in the middle and had a fantastic gig. Nick went on last and also had his best night of thr whole tour. Sully had also had a great night and it had been another brilliant show. We hung around until they through us out and then we went eating and drinking in the town's main drag. First we went to "Surfin' Fries" and then everything got a bit ridiculously English. We toyed with the idea fo going in The Old Bridge Inn but settled instead for drinks down the road in "Big Ben". I liked Big Ben. A lot. Here are a few reasons why.

It is called "Big Ben".
There was a guy acoustically rocking out Croatian style.
Shots were only 8 Kunas each (a pound)
There were a number of TV screens dotted around the bar showing ads for soft porn on a loop.
People kept smiling at me.
It was packed but no-one was getting angry over "you spilt my pint" incidents, even though they were clearly occurring.

We toasted the end of the tour in fine style, I reflected on a great few days, got to the point where I was telling Filip he was "Like a brother to me"...

Filip & I indulging in awkward man love.
...and then we went home to get a few hours kip before the awful prospect of a 7.30am departure. I had a feeling that Friday would be 25 hours long.

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