I am now sat at Logan International airport in Boston, waiting to board BA flight 212 to Heathrow. I have had a lazy and touristy day in Portsmouth, including a visit to the spectacularly bonkers Pickwicks Mercantile store that stocks an eclectic range of gifts and apparel. I posed for photographs with the staff and with a bust of the great man himself.
The success of yesterday’s shows was backed up by a wonderful article in the local paper as well as second hand reports from the girls behind the desk at the Hilton Garden Inn, from guests who had been in the audience. All very gratifying indeed.
Although my flight doesn’t leave until almost 6pm, I made up my mind to leave Portsmouth early and drift down Route 1 rather than taking the Interstate. It was a lovely drive, through small New England towns. I was particularly looking forward to Hamptons Falls, which sounded as if it would give me some exciting photo opportunities. Hamptons Falls must sit in the flattest piece of land in New England, so any falls that exist must be very small.
The route is lined with small antique stores, often it seems in private back yards, and car repair shops, similarly located. There is a splendid lack of corporate food outlets and instead there are plenty of diners, looking as if they’ve been lifted straight from an episode of Happy Days. As I drove I could imagine the queues and tailbacks on the Interstate and was very glad that I took this route.
As I approached Boston I reset the SatNav and let it take me through the suburbs to Logan. I’d expected the airport to be very busy but actually I checked in and cleared security in good time which brings me to this metal and vinyl chair.
It is time to reflect: It has been a marvellous tour. If you have followed me all the way through you may think that I have painted a rosy picture of my time here and edited the bad stuff out but that is not true. On the whole I have written what I have seen and felt. It has been fun, it has been successful and it has been very satisfying.
The biggest change this year has been the blog. I have never written one before and, I’m ashamed to admit, I have never read one either so I don’t know if there is a right or wrong way to do it. I have just sat down first thing in the morning and recorded my thoughts from the day before. Of course there has been a degree of repetition within it and that has been intentional. I wanted to capture the spirit of life on the road and a part of that is doing the same things over and over, such as the shows themselves and the signing sessions, not to mention the ironing and laundry.
The blog has had one huge benefit for me personally: it has made me look at things much more closely than I have done in the past. For instance I am sure that I would never normally have noticed that I was driving on the Sergeant Robert Kimberling Freeway on my way to Omaha. However with open eyes and an enquiring mind I remembered his name and later learned of his tragic story.
I am so grateful to everyone who has read the blog and for your very kind comments about it. I will certainly repeat the exercise next year.
What other memories? Of course meeting the Wagners from Newtown Connecticut. The boy in the signing line telling me that my head was REALLY shiny, the girl in Wilton admitting that she thought I was saying ‘spinach’ rather than ‘spirit’.
There was the luxury of my hotels in Chicago, Atlantic City and Williamsburg. There were hotel rooms with nowhere to plug an iron in. There was my sparrow at the Borgata. There was my Jeep. Oh, there are so many memories.
There were hundreds of kind, generous and hospitable people, some who gave me gifts, some who checked me into hotels, some who told me how much the show had meant to them. There were a whole range of technical experts who made me look and sound good as well as the individuals who actually organised, promoted and staged my events. To all of these people I offer my sincere and heartfelt thanks.
But the biggest thanks are reserved for a very special group: Bob Byers and Lisa Porter at Byers Choice spend the entire year making the arrangements that make the trip so problem free. The sheer logistics of taking all of the requests and finding dates to suit everyone, whilst maintaining a sensible and not too exhausting travel schedule, is a major feat.
During the tour Lisa is bombarded with requests for interviews and has to find packets of time when I am in a hotel or can get to a telephone. She checks in on me, makes sure all is well and follows up on all of the requests that I make of her. As Don Tirabassi in Portsmouth told me, she ‘is a real diamond’.
Bob took on the role of managing my trips 5 years ago and is as supportive and enthusiastic an agent as I could ever wish for. He puts up with my demands (hopefully not too many), cheerfully and patiently. The entire Byers Family are a good bunch of people and I feel fortunate to count them among my closest friends.
I have saved my biggest thank you until last. To Liz. Thank you so much for supporting me in my career and putting up with my weeks of absence every year. You are a very special person indeed and I love you so much.
And that is where the 2013 tour finishes. My flight is boarding and tomorrow morning I will be back in England to celebrate Christmas at home.
I shall leave you with this line from A Christmas Carol:
‘I will honour Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year.’
A Very Merry Christmas to you all.
Gerald Dickens 2013