The forum turned out to be highly useful for spotting events around Munich. I was able to attend several meet-ups, join a choir, go to an open-air book fair along the River Isar and get restaurant recommendations. I also went to the gorgeous though peculiarly-named Englischer Garten, which has beautiful lakes for rowing, beer gardens, a massive Chinese Tower in which a brass band plays on Sundays, restaurants, monuments and a Grecian-style temple affording a breathtaking view over Munich, among other things, and not the slightest bit English. It is absolutely enormous. Every time I went there, I feared I would forget which direction I’d come from and still be there several years later, utterly lost, living in a tent made out of my coat and some branches, and spit-roasting squirrels to survive. It is a must-see, especially when the first autumn leaves are crisp underfoot and everything is rich with colour. Another sight not to be missed is the lovely Schloss Nymphenburg, which has several beautiful miniature outhouses scattered around the grounds.
Scrolling through the forum’s events page one day, one post in particular leapt out at me- an ‘Open Mic’ evening at a English-language bookshop, The Munich Readery. I tried my hardest to ignore it, but a little voice persisted, getting steadily louder, just like your alarm seems to at stupid-o'-clock in the morning until you throw the clock at the wall. This one said: “You know that it’s long been a dream of yours to read your poetry out to an audience, and now here’s your chance handed to you on a plate.” And (here goes my street cred- what street cred?- oh, never mind) it was true. I assumed the facial expression of one ascending the scaffold to hang, picked up my mobile and rallied a troop for moral support- friends who wouldn’t let me chicken out, and would physically drag me in there if need be.
If that seems a tad dramatic to you, let me explain further. Imagine being stood before a large window, on the other side of which is a crowd of strangers with magnifying glasses, torches, binoculars and telescopes, all pointing directly at you. Imagine, if you will, being naked under this relentless scrutiny. Not nice, is it?
That, ladies and gentlemen, is how I feel and have always felt every time I have been asked to share my literary works in person, even if it’s just with a bored class who isn’t paying the slightest attention anyway, or a friend on the bus. WIthout the veil of internet anonymity to hide behind, the silent scrutiny, the feeling of being judged is terrifying. With every word I read aloud I feel as though I am warding off an impending army of lions in tanks with a sheet of tinfoil. This was no different.
The days rolled around with startling rapidity until we were sat in neat rows between bookshelves, and the American couple who owned the store opened up the (metaphorical) stage. I leaned back in my chair, affecting nonchalance, and silently wailed Why am I doing this to myself?
A couple of old dears read lengthy, sweetly-accented accounts of their summer holidays and getting to grips with Skype (a pair of German guys next to me sniggered into the science-fiction.) A nervous-looking student rather like myself read some gloomy but atmospheric poems. A flamboyant actor/writer barked out a few line-long poems which were more like the punchlines to jokes and festooned the baffled audience with leaflets advertising his next play. Then I looked all around to see if I could possibly put it off any longer, but I couldn’t. It was my turn. I perched on the desk at the front and read to my shoes (I don’t think they appreciated it all that much.) I did get some great feedback at the meet and greet afterwards though, so I suppose I did something right.
Plus there were crackers. Everybody loves crackers.
Me and my Musketeers (grammatically incorrect for alliterative effect) befriended the sniggering Germans and exited with them, into the dark, damp and slightly blurry night.
Blurry? Yes, the snow had finally begun to fall- worth mentioning, because I would barely see the pavement again during my remaining time in Munich. We went to an Irish bar to ward off the sudden chill. Ah, multiculturalism.