Breakfast this morning is good. I don’t mean the waffle, the ham, the potatoes and coffee, fine as they undoubtedly are; I mean the general ambience.

One of the nicest parts about staying in the same hotel that I perform in, is that I get to bump into the audience and this can be very gratifying.

As I sit in the overflow breakfast room (aka The Enchanted Forest Ballroom) lots of people make a point of coming up to me and saying how much they have enjoyed the show last night.

The stage and set is still in place and it is very strange looking at it, trying to recall how it felt to be striding across it in front of the audience; trying to remember the feelings, and the reactions.  It is almost as if it was someone else up there.

Breakfast takes longer this morning, thanks to all of the conversations and It is a very happy G that makes his way back to his room.

The main part of the morning is taken up with two regular features of life on the road: rehearsing and laundry. Even during my few days here I have created a large pile of washing and The Inn at Christmas Place is one of those excellent hotels with a guest laundrette. It would be foolish not to make the most of the facilities before moving on.

After a few trips up and down the lift to get the correct change, I leave a load tumbling away and return to my room , where I get down to some sorely need rehearsal.

In a few days time I am due to perform my PG Wodehouse golfing show, Top Hole! in Riverside California and it has been a few months since I last did it. Top Hole! is a fairly new part of my repertoire and hasn’t locked itself into my memory, as A Christmas Carol has.  It needs work.

Progress is steady, if unspectacular as I pace up and down muttering Wodehouse’s wonderful language to myself.

After an hour or so I go back to the laundry and get the load into the drier and then come back to the room where I start the process of raising the hem on my new show trousers. I finish one side, but time is running on.  I pack the iron away, thinking that I must remember to do the other leg soon, or I shall look very odd!

My first commitment today is a signing session in the store across the street. The Incredible Christmas Place is a huge expanse of glitter, light, fake snow, trees, angels, ornaments and collectibles.  For 365 days a year Christmas is alive and well at The Incredible Christmas Place.

I am due to meet Kristy there at 12. And walk across the busy freeway in full costume, greeted by car horns and waving hands. Nobody seems to be surprised that a Victorian gent is out for a stroll, they just seem happy that it he is.

Once inside the wonderland I am taken to my post for the next three hours and settle in.  Kristy has provided pens and water for me (I know the water is for me, because she has written ‘Gerald’ on the cup)

My Water

My Water

In some venues a signing session can be very intense with a long line waiting for me as I arrive and an intense hour or so, head down making sure that every book is signed. Here at The Incredible Christmas Place it is different.  There is no line formed and people just stop by, as they shop, meaning we can talk for much longer which is always good.

There is a steady stream of people, including lots of the staff at the store. Kristy had made sure that as many staff as possible had seen the show so that they can all be part of the marketing push next year.  It was a clever thing to do and judging by the reaction from those who were there, will pay off handsomely.

L-R: Kristy, Yvonne from Incredible Christmas Place and me

L-R: Kristy, Yvonne from Incredible Christmas Place and me

During lulls I chat with Kristy about this and that. She tells me that when she watched the show last night (even with Cghhs), she thought it was the best she’d seen during my five years here.  Her colleague Debbie had agreed with her.  Hmmm, interesting:  perhaps the reigning in of the show to protect my chest benefited the performance.  I tuck that little bit of information away.

Ebenezer....I'm watching you!

Ebenezer….I’m watching you!

More guests drift up and I sign a lot of books and have a lot of pictures taken.

One gentleman stands at the desk, looks from me, to the sign advertising the event and back to me again:

‘Are you Gerald Dickens?’

‘Yes, that’s me’

‘Wow, when my wife hears about this, she will pee her pants!’

I can offer no comment on that.

As 3 0’clock comes I sign a few more books for members of staff and then make my way back to the hotel, where I change into civvies.

I have decided to go for a late lunch/early supper today and walk to an Italian restaurant near to the hotel. Of course at 3.30 it is very quiet and I eat a simple grilled chicken dish with vegetables: Nothing heavy, nothing dairy (bad for the throat), nothing rich.

For the afternoon I should rehearse again, but actually I decide to rest my voice, my body, everything.  I pull the curtains, turn the lights off and get into bed where I doze for two hours or so.

Luxury.

At 6.30 I slowly start to get up and have a cold harsh shower to really bring me back to life. I eat some fruit, drink water and start to get back into costume for the 8 0’clock show.

When I get down to the first floor there is a goodly stream of people arriving and I chat to a few of them as well as they make their way into the room.

There are other hotel guests about too, some of whom saw the show yesterday: so all in all it is a very positive build up to the performance.

As 8.0’clcok nears, Kristy, Dwight and I go through the well drilled routine of handing out the presents to the package holders (a longer process tonight) and as the glockenspiel clock strikes the hour I walk onto the stage to a generous round of applause.

What a wonderful show. I can’t say any more than that really (although I will!)

The audience are superb tonight, so responsive and they pick up on every little part of the performance. They laugh and, oh, they cry.  The sobs that accompany Bob Cratchit’s are heartbreaking in themselves.

Little Bob’s grief is not interrupted by the strains of Rudolph tonight but as I say the line: ‘As they stood together in the open space the clock struck twelve……’, the mellow chimes striking the hour pierce the silence. It is an extraordinary moment and the timing couldn’t have been better if I were to travel with a full production team.

The first skirmishes of the tour have been very successful here in Pigeon Forge and I hope that I can maintain this standard of shows as the tour progresses. I am definitely pleased with the tweaks to the script.

The ‘Cghhs’ of yesterday are still present but certainly not as intrusive today. I fear than I may have over-stated my condition in yesterday’s blog as I seem to have received a constant stream of messages with medical advice!  Honestly, it’s not that awful, just slightly irritating.

The signing and photo session is great and lots of people who have seen me on multiple occasions echo Kristy’s comments about this being my best. That is such a heartening thing to hear so early in the tour.

Maybe it is just me, but actors as a rule generally are very insecure, fragile creatures. Each year, as I get older, I fear that the best years are behind me and the show suddenly won’t work any more, but these two days have driven any such thoughts from me head. It’s 2014 and I am still here!

I return to my room too elated to sleep yet, so get changed and make my last visit to Josh and Jennie and the team in The Mellow Mushroom where I indulge in a large slice of their Key Lime Pie.

There is a slight chill in the air tonight and there are the first drops of rainfall as I walk back to the Inn.  It is refreshing.

Back in my room there are emails and tweets to be answered but now the adrenaline is draining away and drowsiness takes over. I’m under the covers in no time and drifting off to sleep.

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