Life before aka

Review without a Ball

This text is a nostalgic walk down memory lane. We have started this write-up mainly for ourselves, so we would remember what has been and how our lives have changed during the past few years. For change they did. Boy did they change!

Maybe some of you are interested to join our little stroll and get a glimpse into what our fan years have been like so far. Why, you may ask, should we bother to write all that down? Because with huge steps we are heading towards Justy's tenth anniversary and so much has changed since this first e-mail exchange when we “met”. It's been quite a ride! Hop in, hold tightly and find out how two (admittedly mad) German girls became more accustomed with the geography of Britain than with the German whereabouts of places and rivers, how we thank the forces that be for the invention of the internet, for route planners and sat navs (most of the time anyways), how our holiday activities started to slowly drift away from sightseeing and tended more and more towards windy, narrow alleyways and backstreets, how over the years we started working almost the same hours at home that we did at, well, work, how we met the most wonderful people at the most unusual places (i.e. windy, narrow alleyways and backstreets) and how our lives have become so much more exciting, diverse and colourful because of all the fun we had these past 10 years . My gosh, TEN Years! Who would have thought that a throwaway comment on needing a website to put all the lovely photos on would lead to….all of this!?

What we hope to achieve is a collection of memory-highlights. They might point you to pages you have not seen before or photos you never knew were there.

How it all began:

Just imagining that there were times when we (Julia and Kerstin) have not been webmasters of a website that was and is dedicated to Michael Ball seems really difficult. It's even more difficult to imagine there was a time, when this name (Michael Ball) would not have meant anything to us and what is even less imaginable is: There was a time we did not even know each other. Actually we have met or rather seen Michael Ball 8 months before getting to know each other.

Before there was

Should you want to know, how both of us discovered Mr. Michael Ball and how we eventually managed to meet each other, there is just one thing you have to do: Go and read our FAQs .

So now you know why we started working at the website in the first place in March 2000. Back then we were both absolute beginners. The internet was still a rather new thing and nothing much compared to today. We used Microsoft Frontpage to build our first attempt (which was foolproof and worked very much like Word). 25 Megabytes of web space (Imagine that! The size of a video clip!), lots of big and brilliant ideas and no clue about web design whatsoever.

The best of these brilliant schemes? * Irony mode on * undoubtedly the name: * Irony mode off * The idea behind it? We fell for Michael Ball and no one over here knew him or had even heard of him. We felt like being part of a secret organisation, an inner circle, just like the mafia. See the clever thing we did there?

But once you get asked for the pronunciation of the name and the meaning behind it, you just know, the concept is not working and have to change it. Unfortunately, however, we were stuck with it for two full years until our contract ended. So we had to stick with it and had an awful lot of time to come up with a better name!

Building the Site

But we digress. So there was the plan to build a website and against many odds (fan friends who said why bother? etc) we set off to work: we gathered all the information, photos and lyrics we could lay our hands on to build the very first version of our very own Michael Ball website. We only wanted one place where we could find all the information one would need about MB and if possible all the pics you can get. Let's face it, and we still stick with this motto from 2000: There is no such thing as too many photos!

27 June 2000 – Michael's 38 th and Balliosi's 1st Birthday:

Weeks and weeks of hard work, lots of sweat and massive panic were over. The website was there, waiting for its launch – and we were so scared. We had done our best, but we also knew there were far better and much more professional sites out there (Pat and Rina's site comes to mind, which was fabulously designed! simply stunning), but we mentioned it on the fan club forum and on one or two other forums and just hoped the fans would bear with us.

Unfortunately we never did screenshots of the very first versions of the pages as that simply never crossed our minds. Naïve as we were we probably didn't think we would change the site much after it was first created and only add bits and pieces as time goes by. Somehow we now wish we did (some of you may remember the bright blue background…with a pattern! –But we hope you don't.). The mere memory makes us cringe.

By the time the site was launched our first trip to the UK was already well-planned. The booking of tickets still went through phone lines and as Kerstin was the only one able to phone all the venues it was a nightmare. The seats we ended up with….. well, let's better not mention them. As we were still in the “Oh my god, I will be in the same room with him!”-stage of fandom, that was fine with us. Very Olympic we were. After ten years of doing this we are more of the “The first seven rows or we'll pass”-variety. As we said, things changed.

Café de Paris

Then some time in August 2000, the fan club announced Michael would be doing a one off club concert that was going to be filmed for a later DVD release at the Café de Paris, London. All members could apply for two tickets per person. Guess what we did and guess what happened? We managed to get tickets for the show! There was just one minor problem to solve: Transport. The concert would take place in less than a week and we had no idea how to get there. By Train? Ferry? Plane? We finally opted for the dear old (and long gone) Buzz Airline. The tickets that would cost each of us a whopping 600 DM (roughly 200 Pounds). I still remember Sabine (a pro when it comes to planes) telling us how flying could not get any cheaper. Little did we know by then that Buzz was only the beginning of the low cost carriers. Actually, today you would not even pay as much to fly with British Airways. As we are frequent fliers you can imagine just how happy we were about the invention of low cost airlines.

You can read all about our mad travel adventures (the first of many, many mad moments) and the magical evening that made all of it very well worth it in our review. It has to be said though that the Café de Paris holds many firsts for us: first night without hotel room in London, first time meeting of Gill and Maureen, Pat and Stella, first stage door, first concert as friends, first DVD recording, first near-jet lag back at work….You name it.

[So one Tuesday morning, Kerstin went to work, left at noon to get to Dusseldorf airport to get her dear Buzz flight in time! And minutes after landing we were re-united and discovered England for the very first time together. Julia was the pro and therefore we got into London and to Leicester Square within moments. After an appropriate 2 minutes of just standing and taking in the views of Leicester Square we started something we did not know was the beginning of a big new habit. Search for a crappy back door, wait around, feel stupid. A whole new life we knew nothing about!

It was so weird. We were not alone there, but we did not know anyone until finally Pat, Stella and gang appeared. Thank heavens. We met on the internet before, but never in the flesh. After the first hellos and a bit more waiting around the ugly door finally opened and we were led inside. Everything was dark and narrow and you really had to watch your step. Moments later we were seated, just next to the tiny stage. Excitement rose and we could not believe we were going to see him, really soon. This just could not be true, but it had to be and it was. You can read all about it on the review we wrote then!

To be continued ...


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