Vienna – May 1st, 1997
We rolled in about 1am and crawled out of the BPB… a little on the wearyside. When we looked up, there were dark holes between the grey lumps of sky… blue, I said. The pavement was dry, too. Hopeful, we slept. Next morning, looking out, there were indeed bits of blue peaking through lightening grey, and the day felt warm. At Niki’s home, I indulged myself in a fabulous bathtub for an hour and then looked outside again… more and more blue sky! OK. The GREAT FREE CORKY! SHOW was on for Vienna! A couple of hours later it was clear that this day was SPRINGTIME IN VIENNA… and welcome not only to us. The day before, and for days before that, the weather had been miserable, cold and wet. This day turned out so warm that we were all a bit sunburned by the end. Nice.
Niki & I had to rush off for an early radio interview… which turned out to be anything but a story about Corky… so we missed the arrival of the BPB at the Parliament of Austria, our venue. That meant we missed the scene of the Vienna police blocking traffic in both directions during peak rush hour while the BPB manoeuvred and settled into its place for the day, off the roadway but definitely visible in front of the great marble & stone edifice of Austria’s Parliament. When we arrived, sections of the GREAT BANNER TO FREE CORKY! were already being strung out, over the walls of the approaches to Parliament, between and around classic monuments and sculptures, and along both sides of a long fence that had been specially erected at the edge of the roadway. Lord knows how many people in cars, on trams, in horse drawn carriages & on foot passed our site that day, but there were a LOT, and they couldn’t help seeing/hearing Corky and the clamour for her FREEDOM. Soon, classes of school kids started to arrive, and the scene developed into something like a FREE CORKY! FESTIVAL, with a long lineup of little kids waiting to have orcas painted on their cheeks, someone lying down on a cot nearby, patiently waiting for their clay mask to dry, the sound of orcas calling all around, more sections of the GREAT BANNER being trundled off across the road and tied to the great fence that surrounds the park opposite Parliament. Soon, familiar themes emerged… HANSON ISLAND FOR CORKY, a little further on… DENMAN ISLAND WANTS CORKY TO COME HOME, a bit further still… CORKY FREI,… then BORN FREE,… and the bright, alternately red and black, squares carrying the message from Argentina: FREE CORKY FREE CORKY FREE CORKY. Eventually, the GREAT BANNER stretched around the corner and out of sight. At one point I walked along the long line of the BANNER sections that were up, and was again struck by seeing so many great patches for the first time, and was again struck by the knowledge that altogether, this creation of (mostly) children from around the world is a truly wondrous work of art.
Niki and I took off for another radio show at 1pm, this one live, on Blue Danube Radio, and it was altogether great fun, with a great host who went out of his way to publicise what we were doing. I don’t know if it was because of that appeal for kids to come down to Parliament, but when we got back the scene was even more crowded with kids. I’m sure this was at least in part because Austrian children contributed more patches to CORKY’S GREAT>BANNER than those of any other country. Anyway, the day rolled on, and on. We made speeches, a KIDS CHOIR FOR CORKY sang, clowns and jugglers paraded about, gathering little clusters of kids here and there, fax messages were made & send to Anheuser Busch, more clusters of kids, gathered around the poster display, had Corky’s story explained to them by their teachers, and a children’s television star, Ingrid Riegler, fabulously popular with Austrian kids, held every one of them, with her teddy bear, in the palm of her hand while she sang songs they all knew. GREAT.
Somewhere in there a few sprinkles fell, possibly as a reminder of how fortunate we’d been, but mostly as Spring moments to be followed by more sunshine on this gorgeous day full of pink and white blossoms all around and a vast sense of hope for Corky. But eventually, when we were about done for the day, serious black clouds scudded across the sky and more than a few sprinkles fell. It began to rain, and a cold wind blew again as we cleaned up the last bits of gum & candy wrapper, leaving scraps of popcorn for the birds. All done, we climbed back into the cocoon of our BPB, and collapsed…. HAPPY.
Now, as the sun is setting on the day after… which began a tad wintry in lovely Vienna… we’re rolling through the green green landscape of Switzerland headed for the next stop along CORKY’S FREEDOM TRAIL…. ZURICH.
cheers, & the very best of FREE CORKY! wishes to you all,