MY ROLLER-COASTER OF A RIDE TO AND IN BEIRUT!
I’d hardly had chance to recover from my Kuwait trip (see previous blog below) when I was off on my travels again, this time to Beirut! Except that I almost wasn’t…
Jessie and I were heading off to Beirut for two days performing our roller skating act at a street festival – but when I tried to check in at Heathrow (Jessie was flying separately from Berlin), I was told that unfortunately BA had overbooked the flight and I didn’t have a seat. They have a pecking order for who gets turned away, apparently, based on when you booked your ticket, how much you paid for it etc.
As ever, this was a last minute booking – I hadn’t even received the contract until the day before - so I was on the reserve list. And if I didn’t get a seat I would be given £400 or so in cash, a hotel and all meals until the next available flight…the same time the next day! Oh dear…NOT an option.
Fortunately, someone up there was looking out for me. After phoning my agent, I went back to the same lady at the check-in desk and asked if I could be flown elsewhere to connect with a different flight to Beirut. It could be done, but unfortunately not until my original flight had taken off and they knew for sure that I wasn’t on it.
Not brilliant news, but it did mean she re-checked my ticket. She put in my details to the computer and suddenly exclaimed: “Oh you’ve got a seat now!” The relief was indescribable. “It’s a middle seat, though…” “I don’t care!!! Just get me on the plane!!!”
And there I was. And five hours later we landed in Beirut.
Then came the chaos of the actual event (“It’s a street festival – it’s meant to be chaos.” Really?!?).
It turned out to be an ice cream festival. Yummy!! Unfortunately, this also meant melting ice cream on the floor and sticky children. Due to an oversight and a lack of reading any technical riders, there was carpet on the stage. I mean, who puts carpet down when you’re paying a ton of money to fly roller skaters in from 3,000 miles away?!? …The Lebanese :D
So we ended up doing mostly walkabout. And what an experience! Most of the time was spent posing for photos. And not just for children, adults as well.
We managed to do a few tricks here and there but it was so busy. It was also 38 degrees and we were in direct sunlight. We had several baths in our own sweat that weekend, I can tell you. And some of the audience did, too. They were so eager to stand as close as possible, and with our wings/arms up, there were a lot of heads in armpits. Nice.
So we did a lot of people watching from the inside. It’s an odd thing being the centre of attention but being invisible. Its all about the photo and if we dared not stand still for one moment…well, watch out! Er, we were on roller skates – it’s soooo hard to stand still!
And if there’s one thing I came to appreciate the Brits for while we were in Beirut, it’s their natural instinct to queue. In Lebanon it’s not so popular. People pushed their way to the front - fully grown men pushing in front of little children to get their picture taken with us.
It’s an odd thing being a roaming entertainer. No-one thinks of you having a reaction to them, because you are there to entertain them. But we are still people and we still see what’s going on. Memo to all audiences: we see you pushing your way through, grabbing us, getting so close to us that you almost knock us off our skates.
But then there are the kids. So cute! In Beirut, two in particular followed us round and laughed and giggled. Sheer delight.
During the last set we managed to clear enough space to do a bit of an act. And how enjoyable that was! A bit of a shock to the system, but great. That’s what we had gone there to do – to show the people of Lebanon our skating skills.
And to eat some of that delicious ice cream, of course!