Today’s missive may be remarkably short, as for most of the day I did nothing, saw nothing and spoke to no one. That is another kind of luxury.
I wake around 6 and write for a while before having a shower and then going to breakfast. When one is on the Executive Level on the 8th floor at The Crowne Plaza you do nothing as sordid as actually join other guests for breakfast. Oh, no, no, no: the lounge is laid out for a lovely private continental affair and you are fussed over by the concierge on duty.
I have a glass of grapefruit juice, some cereal with sliced banana and other fruits piled up onto it, followed by a plate of pastries and a specially warmed croissant. It is all very relaxing.
After I’ve finished I return to my room and start to do a little work. Emails are starting to come in from the UK about 2014 of which a few need answers. Also I need to do a little line revision as tomorrow I will be performing one of my other shows. A Christmas Carol is now so ingrained in my mind that I need to create some space in there for ‘A Child’s Journey With Dickens’. I work away for an hour or so and then go back to the computer and while I am working various friends pop up on social network sites.
One such friend is Sandy, who for the past 4 years has worked on the marketing side of my events here in Nashua. This year sadly she is not involved but is getting in touch to see if I would like to have a bite of lunch. It sounds like a great idea and we agree to meet up at around midday.
The rest of the morning is spent in my room, watching TV, playing online backgammon, reading and generally resting. As I have only been in the room for one night, I turn down the offer to have it refettled by housekeeping and just ask that the supply of coffee be replenished.
Noon approaches and I go the main hotel foyer and wait for Sandy to arrive. I step outside. Although the air feels warm, the scene before me suggests otherwise. The sky is clear and the light crisp. Huge banks of snow create beautiful shapes and blue shadows fall across them. 4 ducks swim in a pond surrounded on all side by white cliffs and I think back to the little white and green rubber duck from Sandyhook Elementary School, which I was photographed with. Since I met the Wagners from Newtown the first anniversary of the shooting has passed. It must be an awful time of the year for everyone there and my thoughts go out to them.
Sandy arrives and we swish onto the freeway and towards Manchester for lunch. Sandy has become a good friend over the years and it is always nice to meet up. We talk about the tour and the blog as we drive. In no time we are arriving in Manchester, which is a stunning mill town, the sort of which Dickens would have loved to inspect.
Now, all of the old mills have been taken over by businesses or by the University here but the fact that they are still standing means that the imposing look of the City has been preserved and it is not just another strip-malled, sprawling example of retail America.
Sandy has booked a table at Cottons, which is a really nice restaurant and obviously doing well. There is a happy buzz of conversation inside. We order and continue to chat about this and that. Sandy has made a major career decision during the last year partly inspired by my brother’s book, ‘Sea Change’ and is very excited by the prospect of the future.
Lunch finished we have coffees before leaving Cottons. Sandy offers to take my picture in front of the restaurant and we spot some amazing ice formations on bushes and ivy around the door. I spend a little time increasing my stock of winter wonderland photographs from this tour until it is time to get back to the car.
Back to Nashua, exchange goodbye hugs and it is back to my room. I decide to try and nap this afternoon. I get beneath the covers and very soon am dozing.
As evening approaches I realise that I am going to have to do some work and get up and start bustling about. I spend a little more time on ‘A Child’s Journey’ before getting things together for tonight’s show. Hat, scarf, cane, business cards, etc: all of the paraphernalia of my trip.
At 5.00pm I go to the Hunt Room restaurant where I will be performing later. Jill Gage is there making final arrangements. Jill and her husband Jody own Fortin Gage Florist and gift shop. I have been performing in Nashua for five years and it is always a fun place to be. Jill and Jody work hard and play hard!
Jill tells me that a gentleman in the store had been asking about the shows and, quite seriously, had enquired if any investigations had been made as to my genuine familial connections to Charles Dickens. Maybe in future years a DNA test will be required before contracts are signed.
What with the gentleman in Williamsburg bemoaning my lack of Britishness and now this, I am beginning to doubt my own identity.
The show is to be performed with a dinner and as yet the decision has not been made as to whether it should be between courses, or straight through.
Despite my feelings about breaking the show up into little chunks, actually here it is the correct thing to do. The Hunt Room is curiously dead acoustically and doesn’t have theatre lighting, so to watch the show for an hour’s stretch is difficult. I run through the menu with Steve from the hotel and we settle on our evening’s schedule. When everything is sorted I go back to my room for a little more down time during which I read the terrible news from London about the collapse of a ceiling in the Apollo Theatre during a packed evening show. I hope that the injuries are minor and that there isn’t anybody I know involved.
Back in the Hunt Room am 6.30 and the guests are arriving and settling themselves at their tables. I am sharing with Jill and Jody and one of their loyal employees Darcy. We are joined by other friends and business people from Nashua.
At 7.00pm Jill welcomes everyone and the show begins. The Hunt Room is unique among my venues in that there is a hotel swimming pool right beneath it and for the first part of the show I am accompanied by shouts and laughter from below, which makes it a little awkward to capture the atmosphere of Victorian London. The gentle aroma of chlorine doesn’t help.
At the end of each section the food is served speedily and efficiently. We eat delicious duck confit and a salad with sweet peppers and apple. We are making good time and the evening is running smoothly, although there is a slight hiatus during the main course when two plates are accidentally dropped in the kitchen and the guests have to wait for replacements to be brought.
During the gap in the proceedings the table next to us are entertained as one of their number leads a class in making hand puppets out of their napkins.
Main course complete and into the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, which is dramatic and intense, although there is much laughter as Old Joe wipes his running nose on his hand and looks for a suitable audience member to clean it on.
Once dessert is down I get up to finish the story and, despite the room’s shortcomings, get a very nice ovation. I finish the evening with a toast to Christmas and we can all relax now. There is a signing table and lots of books etc for sale, but very few people avail themselves of the opportunity, so almost before I know it, I am off duty.
It is strange that in such a small room the effort needed to project the piece is so much higher than in a larger, acoustically sound, auditorium. I can certainly feel that I have worked hard tonight and suddenly all of the down time that I have enjoyed during the day is very, very welcome.
Jill, Jody, Darcy and I move to the bar, along with our fellow table companions Mark and Paula, where we have a nice wind down session.
Tomorrow will be a busy day and, as I have a 7.00am start for a live radio interview, I need to get back to my room. We all say goodnight and I make way back to 828 where once again I fall asleep instantly.