Although I don’t have a show until this afternoon, my first commitment of the day is to be interviewed live on morning radio. I am meeting Jill at 7.40, so I am able to get an early breakfast in at the hotel restaurant.
The drive into downtown Nashua is a quick one and in no time we are pulling up outside the building that houses WSMN 1590.
The morning host is George Russell and he interviewed me last year as well. George and his wife came to the show last night, so I am keen to find out what he thought.
When I was here twelve months ago (eleven if we are being pedantic), I wrote in my blog about the sparsity of the studios and how George is a ‘character’. Apparently he read my blog and dissected it the next morning on air. So this year I am going to be very careful.
In all seriousness George is an amazing broadcaster. For all his manic and loud presentation style his is an incredibly intelligent man, who has the respect not only of his listeners but also of the Nashua business community. This is borne out by the fact that also sat around the table is the editor of the local newspaper and a State Senator.
George is so kind about the show and goes to great lengths to encourage people to come out and see it, either this afternoon or evening.
We move on from my performance, and talk about the Poppy art installation at The Tower of London. A listener had sent him a photograph of the dry moat filled with almost a million ceramic poppies, each of which represents a lost soul from the Great War. I have not visited it but Liz made a decision on Sunday to go to London and see it, she said it is a remarkably impressive and moving work of art.
The interview lasts for about twenty minutes and George sends me on my way with three packets of his specially blended coffee and a firm, friendly handshake.
In the lift at the hotel I am joined by a businessman, presumably here for a meeting or conference. I give him a ‘good morning’ sort of a nod. He shuffles a bit, apparently feeling that he needs to say something, and is searching for an ice breaking opening gambit.
‘Have you ever been in a hotel where the elevator buttons do not match?’
He is right, the button panel on one side of the door is arranged:
4 5 6 7
B 1 2 3
And on the other side:
6 7 8
3 4 5
B 1 2
OK, it is not the most ground breaking moment of my tour, but it is one of those quirky little things that move a day beyond the mundane.
In my room I begin to run through Doctor Marigold a few times. It is a piece I perform often in England, so I am very familiar with it, but there are a few twists and turns in the script that can catch out the unwary and unprepared.
The story is about a market salesman, so I gather as many little articles from my bag that can be scattered around on the set, as if they were his goods.
The drive into Nashua is busier now. My destination is a senior centre and a lot of the cars around me have occupants that (how can I say this politely?), look as if they may be coming to my show.
As it turns out I am right, everyone seems to be making for the senior centre and the car park is packed to capacity. Five or six cars are circling like birds of prey.
New Hampshire is a hunting state and that tradition is paying off for the locals. A few people are coming out of the centre (having been playing Bridge I subsequently discover), and the eagle eyed track them, stalk them and hover over them as they get into the cars ready to leave. The strike when it takes place is swift and clinical and another parking space has gone.
I spot a suitable quarry and am pleased when I beat three other hunters to my space.
The room in which I will perform has been laid out with about two hundred chairs and as the time moves on they are almost all filled. I don’t have a stage but I find a wooden bench that I can stand on to represent Marigold’s cart from which he sells his goods.
The audience is mainly elderly from all over Nashua but there are many others too who have seen my shows elsewhere and are keen to find out what this unknown work of Dickens is all about.
At 12 o’clock Jill gets up to announce me and I give a short introduction to the piece. As I talk, I remove my frock coat, cravat and cufflinks, leaving me in rolled up shirt sleeves and a waistcoat. By the time I finish the intro I am Doctor Marigold and launch into the story.
It is a really fun show. The proximity of the audience gives it the feel of a crowded fairground and they laugh and cry with me as the story runs through its many highs and lows. There are sobs as I speak the final lines.
At the end they stand and applaud and I have introduced 175 more people to my favourite little story.
I do a short signing session, but most of the audience have to get back onto buses to take them home.
One family, who have come to my performances in Nashua every year, and who have become good friends and supporters, kindly invite me to join them for lunch. Sadly I have to decline: this afternoon is one of the last days I have to rehearse and perfect Top Hole, before I perform it in Riverside on Saturday.
Back at the hotel I get into the lift and am of course now fascinated by the arrangement of the buttons. I change, order a salad from room service and get straight down to rehearsal for a couple of hours.
After a brief nap I shower and get ready for the evening show here in the hotel. To be honest I am not looking forward to it and am worried about it.
Apart from the big ballroom show, Jill likes to sell a dinner show, in which I perform each chapter of the story between the courses of the meal.
This year, maybe because I am here very early in the season, maybe because there is a huge Rotary Club banquet tonight, maybe because the format has run its course, the ticket sales are very low: only 25.
I have a horrible feeling that the evening will be a real damp squib.
As I walk towards the lift I see that other rooms have dry cleaning hanging on the doors. Mine has not appeared and I am worried that I will not have one of my frock coats, and most of my shirts for the trip to California. I find myself rehearsing what I will say to the front desk:
‘I am leaving for Logan airport tomorrow morning at 5.30 and I must have my clothes before I leave: what are you going to do about it?’
Bloodlust up I stop at the desk: ‘Yes sir, your dry cleaning is here, would you like it now?’
I feel rather silly.
At the Hunt Room, where the dinner is held, Jill and Jody are setting up the room. I talk with the hotel staff about the running of the evening’s events. The show requires the service and the performance to dovetail smoothly if it is to work
At 6pm the guests begin to arrive.
Within the space of thirty minutes my attitude towards to the evening changes completely, almost everyone is coming to the event for the first time, there is no jaded: ‘we are only here to support Jill and Jody, but wish we didn’t have to be’ attitude. Everyone is excited.
The four tables are grouped around the stage and the feel of the room is very intimate and positive as I start the show.
Against all of my prior fears everything goes very well. The audience enjoy themselves, the hotel staff are efficient with their service and an event, which can sometimes drag, is superbly choreographed by all involved.
We are finished by 9.30 and everyone goes away happy.
Before going to my room to change I stop by the front desk and sheepishly collect my dry cleaning.
I change and meet Jill and Jody for a quick farewell drink in the bar. We chat for a while but are all tired.
In August this year Jill made a trip to Florida to see her mother, as a result of which an emergency relocation was called for. For the last few weeks both Jill and Jody have been busy settling her in and dealing with all of the care and financial issues that have arisen.
With the two days events finished Jill is ready to drop. For my part I have to get up at 4.45 in the morning to beat the traffic into Boston.
It is certainly time for bed.