11 July, Germany – ‘All Over The Place – Europe, Part 2’
I like Germany. I’ve been here 3 times now and I find the Germans to be as badly dressed and socially awkward as the British, so I feel at home, but the whole country feels more tolerant, less money grabbing and they seem to embrace the future a bit more than we do. Everything’s just a bit, dare I say it, better.
They’ve even managed to top us in the arena of mud based sports. A few years back I took part in the Maldon mud race in Kent for Blue Peter – a 400m sprint along a mud bank that was one of the most horrific experiences of my life. It was like wading through treacle and I had my first ever asthma attack. So my heart didn’t exactly leap when I was told that I would be competing in the “Mud Olympics” today. But as we headed off from our hotel on the outskirts of Hamburg this morning I needn’t have worried.
Once we got to the site alongside the River Elbe it became clear pretty quickly that the mud was going to be a lot sloppier, and there were also no running events scheduled. Instead the 41 teams taking part would be “mud sledging” and playing football, volleyball and handball. We milled about interviewing enthusiastic and slightly drunk Germans in varying degrees of fancy dress before the opening ceremony kicked in and Naomi and I were introduced to our teams – The Mudslingers and The Mucky Pups. A sizeable crowd of people gathered around on the steep grassy bank to cheer and welcome us as a band on a festival style stage cranked out covers (our soundman Nat has resigned himself over the years working on this show that PAs and music will follow us everywhere we go).
Once we’d taped our shoes to our feet we were slopping around in the mud as our teams went head to head in a warm up football match. I have absolutely no idea who won in all the confusion – once the players and ball are cover in liquid mud a game of football becomes a bit hard to follow. Let’s say it was a draw.
A very patient fireman was standing with a constantly flowing hose to clean up competitors between games, but Naomi and I decided to stay dirty for comic effect as we moved on to the mud sledging. The specially made wooden sledges were surprisingly agile on the mud, and I think we were both surprised that we managed to stay unstuck in our relay race to decide who the winner of today’s main event would be. In the end I pipped it by a whisker and celebrated by throwing myself into the mud. Well, it wasn’t like I could get any messier.