Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I've never been on a coach trip to Bavaria before, and as the day approached I did start to wonder if this might be one of those precious omissions best not remedied. "Ignorance of GroƟwallstadt is like a delicate exotic fruit: touch it and the bloom is gone," Oscar Wilde might have opined, and I'd have agreed.
But I'd have been wrong.
Thirty-eight members of the City of Bath male choir, plus a dozen of us WAGs and a driver with a penchant for appalling jokes, all survived the trip with remarkable good humour, despite a collision between two tankers on the German motorway adding another 7 hours to our lengthy confinement. And the bits in between - the walks and explorations, the hospitality, and above all the singing - were simply superb.
A lads' trip to a region renowned for beer-drinking was never going to be a scout cubs' picnic, but singing really was paramount: in castle vaults and town squares or beside the river at night, always with an energy which superceded mere collective excellence. 'Zestful' is a good word.
Stunning autumn sunshine helped too, and fascinating unexpected gems of local culture - an apple fair in Miltenberg, a falconry display at Cochem.
Our main stop was in Miltenberg, where the gaudy colours and pointy roofs make the old town look like a children's pop-up book and history, bizarrely, doesn't seem to exist beyond medieval times... don't anyone mention Fawlty Towers here. Despite this sense of important evasions and relentless monoculturalism, we're all made welcome at the concert in GroƟwallstadt which is the focus of this trip, and the evening ends with conviviality and dancing.
Best bit? The uncliquey cameraderie of the trip, and the enjoyment of meeting so many diverse personalities with one thing in common: the passion to sing their socks off.

So maybe that's the secret of a successful Choir trip: take 3 score good-humoured men with zest, great voices, and lots of socks.

Heart-cockles-warming corner: arriving home to a message from Karen Mcleod whose debut novel "In Search of the Missing Eyelash" has been published by Cape with high praise and several translations. Karen is charming enough to attribute me with giving her 'good intelligent advice' during her first steps on the 'long, strange and sometimes arduous journey' that extended her opening line ("I woke up in a foreign armpit") and won her this year's Betty Trask award and - though Karen says it's taken a few months to sink in - the right to call herself an author. You go for it, girl.

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