And that pretty much sums it up – 9.00 am to 7.00 pm, straight through with no breaks! There is a phenomenal stream of people coming through the exhibits. One woman asks if we are to be a regular feature in Strasbourg – ‘the children need something like this, something to do, to gain their interest.’ More teachers ask for details of the activities. The second projector produced has no more effect than the first; the projector screen looks unused and lonely, and Eric and I decide to go for Plan B. I design a poster, and he translates it, we stick pieces of A4 together and I draw it out, and together we stick it up on the screen. It explains the rationale behind what we are doing on the stand, the theory behind ‘Simple Science’. My paper stag stands atop the wooden booth at the front of the stand, inviting explanation.
Outside, the Saturday morning school groups are head-to-head building stags. Security Man David shakes his head, and grins. Gradually the school groups give way to families, all ages involved in serious stag creation. Elegantly clad ladies crouch, sticky tape in hand, as their children get down to the serious business of rolling lengths of newsprint. I’ve wrecked my thumbnail taking staples out of papers, and today have brought my nail clippers to take up the duty. At home, I’d have had my penknife, but there are some things that just won’t pass airport security!
The herd grows bigger. Even Bill Oddie and Simon King haven’t got this many beasts in their AutumnWatch programme. Fortunately, ours are silent, although their makers aren’t; constant chatter and laughter mark the place outside the tent beside the monument. One teenage girl remarks that it’s the first time she’s had fun in this place. It’s not all children. Adult groups take part too; some serious paper engineering resulting in fine, upstanding creations with multiple-branching antlers – here, Lucy presents one of the finest of the morning.
And so it goes on, all day. Our French improves, more in desperation than by skill, and every so often we check our newly-produced lists of ‘words we need’ with Eric and/or Delphine. By the time 7.00 pm rolls around, we’re shattered, and head back to our hotel. I realise I haven’t mentioned this so far – not having had much time to think beyond paper and photographs.
It’s very nice, the Kleber Hotel, just off the square beside the crossing of the two tram lines. Each room is individually ‘themed’, and named as well as numbered – a blessing to the confused visitor. My room overlooks the tram station, at Homme du Fer (named after the first train), and is decorated in grape colours – fresh green and deep aubergine-purple. There is a flat screen TV – it’s taken me until now to find the French-speaking stations, to try and find a weather forecast. I’m surprised at how warm it is, 20C on the first day, and it stays pretty much the same throughout, although mornings are slightly cooler and misty. The heat means I leave the windows open, and all night long, if I wake, I can hear the soft rumble of the trams as they cross the junction below.
They blow their horns to warn of their approach, but seem to suspend this in the small hours – not for a lack of people, for the streets seem constantly busy – starting again at around 6.00 am. Liz is less fortunate – her room is near what is probably an air-conditioning plant, and is constantly noisy. Lucy has a room with two double beds, and we threaten her with being the venue for an all-night party on the last night.
We head for the Tête du Lard again for dinner. Tomorrow is the last day of the festival, and we work from 2.00 until 6.00 pm, and then do the final clear up – a short day, and an opportunity for a little sightseeing in the morning. Or for a lie in!