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This was my first time at DFDF, Lissa having traded-off going to this whilst I wrangled the kids against my going to FC whilst she did.  Plus it was the first time we’ve had both kids in Germany at an age above toddler level, so they were both really excited about the idea of flying in the aeroplane and then a weekend in a hotel with swimming pool and lots of unrationed DS-time!  Alex had even enthusiastically packed a German dictionary on the alas-didn’t-turn-out-to-be-quite-that-easy-in-practice theory it would let him chat with the German kids.

The flight out … well the good news was that it all went smoothly, no traffic jams, no horrendous security queues, no huge ash clouds over Northern Germany (which had been quite a serious worry when they'd closed Hamburg airport a couple of days before!).  The bad news was it meant getting up at 5am, even with staying over at David & Marilisa’s to cut the journey time, and I don’t think we ever then quite caught up on the sleep deficit, this being a filkcon and all!

So car to Stansted, plane to Hanover, train to Hanover Hauptbahnhof (and enough of a stopover to get some rolls and rather yummy apple-turnovers from a bakery) and then two more local trains out to Bad Salzdetfurth, meeting up with John and Barbara on the train.  And then a shortish walk to the con hotel.

First impression of the con hotel was just how much up and down it seemed to involve!  (The block with the programme rooms in is someway downslope from the block with the accommodation and bar in, albeit connected by a corridor.)  In fact, I think during the con I went up and down more stairs than at Freusburg which I wouldn’t previously have thought possible!  Okay, in part this was because we tried to be virtuous and use the stairs instead of the lift anytime we had the energy, but it was quite fun to look out of the window at the end of our (3rd floor) landing and see just how far “down” it was to the programme areas!

Having the whole family with us we’d been lucky enough to get one of the suites.  And were duly boggled on opening the door to see our “room” was on two floors, a ground floor with kitchen, lounge, dining area and balcony, and a first floor with the bedrooms and bathroom, the two connected by our very own ironwork spiral staircase!  How cool Is that!  (Though memo to anyone getting them next time - check that the upper door is locked!  They have doors to the hotel landings on each level, gave us keys for the lower door but we found the upper door was completely unlocked and had to go back to ask them to lock it for us!)

We unpacked and then actually had a reasonably lazy afternoon having arrived before most people except the committee (who were far too busy to be able to chat and socialise!).  Rika/Mike/Keris arrived mid-afternoon by car with the kit – which very usefully for me with my guitar and songbooks so I didn’t have to lug them on the plane or trains – a much appreciated help!

Over the previous month or so we’d had 5 days of band rehearsals for Rika's GoH spots.  Which had, I think, kind of started with ideas of a band set and a more acoustic set as at Teutonic, but as we steadily kept adding songs this kind of morphed into two band sets with occasional Rika solo songs interspersed.  (Not to mention a couple of songs being added *after* we finished rehearsing, but that’s another story!)  Which for me were a reasonably varied mix with IIRC 4 on guitar, 2 on djembe and 11 or so on keyboard.  And managing on that last to use at least 12 different keyboard patches!  Piano, stringy pad, wave noises, wind noises, Hammond organ, bagpipes (!), deep synth, “Fremen” chimey synth, brass, horn, choir, soprano vox and accordion.  Ah, I do love my (now reasonably ancient!)  Korg X5D – it almost always has a voice which “works” to round off an arrangement!

First impressions of the main programme room were a) ooh, cool, a real stage, and b) ooh, what nice acoustics the empty room has!  But soon we were piling up said stage with kit, probably far more kit than poor Volke had ever envisaged for a relaxa-con!  Whilst poor Keris was finding the compulsory thing that had been left behind - the stand for his upright bass!

Opening ceremony and remarks ... took rather too long.  If not longer.  Okay, having the courtesy to do it in 2 languages doesn't help, but my advice would be to try for a bit more conciseness and less chatty rambling next time, and if not before to start doing so once already overrunning the slot.  That said, that really is about the only micro-gripe I have for the committee who generally did an excellent and much-appreciated job - thanks, people!

Smac's set was fun, and we in Rika's set surely appreciated his chopping it short to give us more setup/soundcheck time (albeit still never enough!).  Then into Rika's first set which seemed to go pretty well.  And I loved doing Sun and Shadow as a duet with Rika, even if Mike's fingers didn't appreciate the rather chromatic chording!  Grief in Little Pieces with a second differently-capo'd guitar was also a lot of fun.  And Take It Back worked a lot better than on its last outing at Teutonic (but then it had been a complete car-crash on my part then, not least because I couldn't hear a thing I was playing!).

Was amused on Saturday when Silke asked me if I was one of those English people who secretly understood German and could listen in on their unsuspecting conversations!  (It was said in genuine jest/curiosity, not accusingly, I hasten to add)  I said, no, I had 4 years of German from school but despite all the Filkcontinentals since that was still 30+ years ago and I can barely gather occasional words from actual German conversation.  Asking why she asked, she said she'd noticed I was singing along with Rika in German without any apparent problem.  Ah, said I, speaking it is much much easier than understanding it!  (In fact, I didn't entirely understand the words I was singing, but pronouncing them is much easier!)

I think it was also Friday night that during conversations with a slightly merry Katy - who did, honest to goodness, say to our table in the bar "Is anyone having a *hic* second drink?"  - someone suggested we try the hotel's bowling alley (Kegelbahn).  Which is a genuine little - two lane - 9 pin bowling alley a few doors away from the bar available free to guests.  And much fun and silliness resulted, with IIRC Lissa just edging out Sib in the playoff for first place, myself probably claiming best style (if not best effectiveness as too many of them still ended in the gutters!) and Mike only missing out on scoring zero with every ball with his very last shot!

Saturday had what is apparently a DFDF tradition, namely the Aquapella harmony workshop in the hotel swimming pool.  Very silly, very sociable (much ball-hurling and splashing) and a lot of fun.

Last Filkcontinental, Eva and I had had a brief try at doing a filk I'd written of one her songs - "Matter of Delaying".  (Yes, I'd taken a serious song about attitudes to our mortality and turned it into a song about airport delays.  Which may say something about my attitude to risks of mortality, both in terms of filking an Eva song and in trying to actually be able to sing it, but I digress!)  Only she'd concluded she needed to practice-up the piano part a lot more before we performed it.  But now she had, and for good measure had drafted Crystal in to sing the harmony lines, so we had a few practice run-throughs and decided, yes, we were good to go for the main concert.  And it went well, and there was much amusement and a wonderful "You're a bad bad man" floating back from (my wife in) the audience at one particularly atrocious line!

The kids were meanwhile having a mixed time.  Amy seemed to be totally thriving in the company of Aileen (spelling?), the total lack of language barrier suggesting strongly just how little kids of that age are actually paying attention to what other kids are saying anyway!  Worlds of their own, indeed.  But Alex was finding it much harder, though I think with Sabine's help he and the others did eventually devise a pigeon form of communication within their DS games largely comprising the likes of "Go", "Stop", "Spring!", "Fire!" and the like.  Both kids were also struggling with the food being - amazingly this is actually possible - even less willing to eat novel foreign foods than I am!

So we took them bowling at the Kegelbahn.  Alex started off as Captain Doom-and-gloom-I'm-useless but eventually got enough hang of it to flip into Captain I-Want-To-Do-This-More-and-More.  Whilst Amy simply bowled the ball 2-handed from between her legs at, ooh, about glacier speed, but thereby achieved a far lower percentage of gutter-balls than I think any of the rest of us did!  And Lissa won again, poot!

Okay, that's enough for a Part One.  More another day, maybe!
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May 2012


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