STEVE HOGARTH'S DIARY
Saturday 20th November, 1995 ~ Liepzeig/Kunowice/Poznan

   Woke up slowly and called Paul at 11.00, to check what time we were leaving today.  He said 12.30 and recommended the room service breakfast.  I took his advice and called to see if I was too late.  "No problem!" they said and sure enough, there was a chap knocking on my door as soon as I'd showered.  I couldn't let him in though.  Someone had locked me in as I slept!  I hunted around for my room key, shouting "just commen" in my best German accent.

Paul was right - breakfast was most enjoyable...  a pleasant surprise, considering I'm in the east of Germany.  I packed and arrived downstairs at 12.15 where I checked out.  The smell of sewage seemed to have departed from the hotel reception area, this morning.  Perhaps I'd got just used to it.  To my delight, it had just started snowing outside - big feathery flakes - as I made my way alone across the road to Liepzeig railway Station, in search of coffee and a place to push the buttons of my pocket sequencer.

I entered the station forecourt amid temporary visions of wartime Germany (nothing much will have changed to the fabric of the building since then) and found a bakers shop inside the station, with a coffee bar inside.  I sipped coffee and arranged cellos on my headphones until 1.00 when I had arranged to meet up with the chaps on platform 4.  When I got to the platform there was a train standing but no Paul Lewis and no Marillion.  According to the board, the train was leaving in three minutes, to a destination I couldn't pronounce and had never heard of.  I seemed to recall a departure time of 1.20 so I didn't know whether to assume that I'd got the departure time wrong - in which case I was about to miss the train that everyone else was already aboard, or that I'd got it right - in which case the worst thing I could do would be to climb alone onto the wrong train, going God-knows where.  Sod's law says I would do the wrong thing, but as the last minute ticked away I spied Paul at the far end of the train and jumped aboard.

It was a very nice train. We were travelling first-class, in a clean, spacious and empty compartment as I spent the first few minutes chatting to Paul, who said he was in the process of taking his bags back off the train, when he saw me on the platform.  The rest of the boys seemed unconcerned, but mildly amused that I'd almost missed the train.  Twenty years of touring teaches you to look after number one and if anyone else has a crisis, well... enjoy it!  It spices up the day... and it will all get sorted out eventually.  Little did I know, as we sped through the East German countryside - through little stations where uniformed women in red berets could briefly be glimpsed - that I was later to spice up the day once again...  I continued programming my sequencer, oblivious to all around me, in my headphones until we changed trains for the first time in a place called something like "Catspiss".

We found a café on the platform and ordered up curry wurst, fries and beer which we took with us and ate in our new train - the connecting train to Frankfurt Oder where we must change again for the train across the border into Poland.  As we sat munching and quaffing in the train, Paul was overtaken by a moment of clairvoyance:  "You didn't put your passport in that suitcase that you sent overnight with the crew, did you?" he said.  I felt the colour fade away from my cheeks as I realised that, indeed I had.  "...and your credit cards?" he said.  I winced and nodded.  Oh well!  We'll just have to worry about it when we get to the border.

When we arrived at Frankfurt (no, the other one) we had a 40 minute wait for the connection, so we left the station and found a café over the road where I had a coffee and played Pete what I'd been up to in the headphones.  He seemed impressed, but I don't know whether by the arrangement or the machine.

We returned to the chilly platform to await the 5.00 train to Poznan.  Frankfurt Oder is right next to the Polish border, so Paul and I decided to make a plan of action with regard to my absent passport and the necessary excuses and theatre, as soon as we sat down on the train.  "Don't worry Paul!  I'm good at acting." I said as we climbed aboard.  After that, everything got a bit tricky...

Before we had managed to sit down, we were stuck in the corridor as uniformed passport officers checked all passports.  I made a show of searching around in my bags, knowing already that it was in Poznan with the crew.  When I was asked for my passport I tried to explain, but no one spoke English and I only succeeded in communicating that I had no passport.  The train was stopped at Kunowice, (pronounced Ku-no-vich-a) the home of the border police and I was taken off the train in the company of about twelve uniformed officers - all armed.  Paul only had time to give me his cellphone and some additional money before I was gone.  I watched the train containing my alibi, my band and lifeline to the outside world, pull away from the platform and disappear into a massive, barren, and suddenly very alien land.

It was 5.00 pm, already dark, and bitterly cold.  Oh dear.  I thought, "Well, here comes an entry for the diary!" as I was marched across the railway lines and into a chilly railside building block, up a flight of stairs and told, via sign language, to sit on a wooden slatted bench in a reception room.

The room was bare and linoleum floored, with one radiator which was enough to prevent it freezing, but not enough to keep it warm, and a wrought iron fence and locked gate to prevent me leaving.  There was one of those old coffee tables with the screw-in legs on which was a large ashtray containing thirty or so cigarette butts.  This was the only item of furniture apart from the bench on which I was seated.  There was a notice board on the wall with what might have been public safety notices on it, but everything was in Polish and so I wasn't sure.  A sign on the wall said "Graniczna Placowca Kontrolna Strazy Granicznej w KUNOWICACH" (I wrote it down).  Two young soldiers were posted to watch over me.

A man with a Lech Walesa moustache questioned me in extremely broken English.  I told him that I was the singer with a band called Marillion.  He seemed to know of the band and began a heated exchange of words with the officer who had pulled me off the train.  I was asked if I had any proof of identification - credit cards or anything. I had absolutely nothing - my credit cards were also in Poznan in my suitcase. I didn't even have a photograph of myself with the band.  I was asked where the band will be staying in Poznan, but I didn't know that either, so there was really very little they could do to help me.

I decided all I could do was sit it out and trust in Paul to get me out of there.  The train wasn't to arrive in Posnan until 7.30 so the earliest he could do anything would be in another three hours.  The soldiers and the passport officials kept coming and going, asking me for my autograph.  "It's for my daughter, Andrea" said Lech Walesa.  There were two young soldiers posted to keep an eye on me.  The guard seemed to change about once an hour.  They too asked me via sign language and broken English for my autograph - "To Sebastian, please" ...or "To Piotr".

Every so often, there was the noise of footsteps trudging up the stairs and more uniformed officials would arrive to rattle the metal gate next to me so that they would be let in to the office block behind.  They would disappear and a murmur of conversation would ensue from the back room: "murmur, murmur. Marillion. murmur, murmur. vocalista" followed by heads being craned around the doorway to discretely have a look at the famous zoo animal.  I settled down to arranging a musical idea on the QY20 pocket sequencer.  I was trying to re-work an old pre-Marillion song called "Victoria Station" about a girl on a train.  It will now be forever "Kunovicha Station" in my mind...

After a couple of hours, around 7.30pm, the attitude of the officials seemed to thaw and become more friendly.  Sebastian, a young border guard who I recognised from the train, was interested in the sequencer and asked to hear my song.  I gave him the headphones and he grinned in awe at the rich arrangement of sounds coming, improbably, from the little box.  He told me slowly and painstakingly that they had spoken to "the big boss" and "Everything will be OK!", that there was another train at 22.00 hours (still another three hours) and that I should be able to go to Poznan.  It wasn't much of a relief really - Paul hadn't called and I couldn't get his mobile to work.  If I ever got to Poznan, I didn't know where to go when I arrived.

I still felt totally cut off from the English speaking world... and from the free world.  I had asked to use the telephone to call England - Sue would know the hotel phone numbers - but I was told that this was not possible with the office telephone system.  The cold was beginning to seep into my knees and my backside had fallen victim to the wooden slats.  I got up and paced around a little, but it didn't seem to help.

At 9.00 a plump bespectacled official ran into the room and excitedly beckoned me inside to a warm office where the phone was off the hook.  I picked it up to hear Paul, who sounded even more pleased to hear my voice than I was to hear his.  He apologised for the delay in contacting me - they had been trying to find out where I was being held.  He said that the good news was that I hadn't been deported back to Germany in which case there would have been very little he could have done from inside Poland to help, and of course, I couldn't have got out of Germany either... Paul said the border guards had agreed to accept a fax of my passport details and that this would arrive shortly.  I would be free to leave on the next train.  The one thing he'd managed to do, in the panic on the train, was give me my ticket to Poznan, so at least I had ticket!

The bad news was that the next train wasn't until 11.00 - another two hours!  He said I would arrive in Poznan, at 2.00 in the morning, where I would be met at the station by the promoter's rep.  Both Paul and the border guards told me that the late train has a reputation for robberies and that under no circumstances should I go to sleep, or play with my expensive gadgets and that I must keep my luggage close to me - NOT on the luggage racks!  I thanked Paul for his efforts and returned to my bench feeling, for the first time in four hours, that I had returned to the known world... but that I wasn't home and dry yet...

The official in the specs invited me into an empty room with a TV.  This seemed to be where the soldiers (who had now departed) hang out when off duty.  The James Bond movie, "Thunderball" was on TV, dubbed into Polish so I couldn't really follow what little plot there might be.  I returned to my headphones and cuddled up to the room's only radiator while explosions, car chases and shower and bedroom scenes accompanied my efforts to write a bassline for "Kunovice Station".  At 10.00 my sequencer batteries gave out, so I returned to an hour of staring at the clock - a pointless exercise - it had been stuck at 8.45, probably for many years.  James Bond had waved goodbye and sailed off into the sunset in a dinghy with a beautiful, submissive young woman on a peerless Carribbean sea, as usual.

Clinging to the radiator here in the guardroom, I pondered what he would have done and decided he'd have been out of the train window and up onto the roof for a scrap, instead of meekly clinging to a radiator to stave off frostbite.  Miss Poland would have shown up by now with a whip.. or tea and biscuits. Everyone had asked for my autograph but no one had offered me so much as a glass of water in six hours.  I thought of Brian Keenan and John McCarthy and consoled myself that at least no one had made any amorous advances, or given me a kicking. Apart from the first half hour, I had been treated as well as could be expected.  I was, after all, an illegal alien.

As 11.00pm slowly approached, I became increasingly nervous that they might forget about me and I might miss the train.  The thought of sleeping on the table at Kunovice was not an enchanting one.  I asked to go to the toilet, so that the two remaining officials ('Specs' and his colleague) would be reminded of me and I could freshen up a little.  At 11.00 I was told that the train was not until 11.30 - They had mistranslated the time!

I returned to my radiator-rubbing for one last, long, half hour.  At 11.20 a civilian girl appeared in my room.  She was dressed up for a Saturday night out.  I don't know where she might have come from but they weren't happy about her papers and officials began questioning her.  She must have wondered who the hell was the popstar in the Gaultier jacket trying to have sex with the radiator?  They were still questioning her when I was escorted away at 11.30.

I went with 'Specs' back down the concrete stairs, out of the block, into the bitter cold Polish November midnight, over the railway lines and up onto the public platform.  John Le Carre would have been proud of me.  (The Spaz Who Came In From The Cold.)  The train was already approaching the platform.  A uniformed guard climbed down and 'specs' had a long chat with him.  He must have told him to be nice to me, because I was escorted by him onto the train and he was most courteous and pleasant, showing me to an empty compartment (which was blissfully warm) and wishing me good luck, whilst shaking my hand and smiling almost apologetically.

I settled down, revelling in the comfort of an upholstered train seat and the warmth.  Heaven.  My fears about being mugged never materialised.  I was joined later by a chap carrying a sattellite dish(?) who seemed civilised enough, and uninterested in me.  I ignored all the advice and drifted in and out of sleep until, three hours later, we arrived at Poznan.

Paul and two promoters assistants greeted me on the platform.  They seemed very relieved to see me.  I was hugged and bundled into a car and taken to the Novotel (I knew it was the Novotel!) where I shared a beer with Paul before going to bed.  Bloody Hell!
 

[ Back to h's Diary Index ]



go back to h's index page