And so I am at Liberty International Airport, Newark; waiting at terminal B, gate 53, for Virgin Atlantic flight VS2 to take me home.

Bethlehem

I sleep through to a decent time this morning and am able to write the blog before going to the lobby for my breakfast.  No buffet here and I chose a lovely traditional plate of eggs and bacon, followed by toast and marmalade.  No pancakes or waffles this morning: I must be ready to go home.

When I have eaten I ask at the front desk to see if there is a possibility of a late check out.  My flight doesn’t leave until eight pm, so strictly speaking I don’t need to be on the road until three.  Brittney is on duty and after much peering at computer screens she announces that I can stay in the room until one thirty, which is helpful.

This morning I want to get out and have a walk so I take to the streets as soon as I am ready.  The immediate neighbourhood is familiar to me, but I have decided to walk over the bridge which crosses the river and railway, and make my way to the abandoned Steel Stacks in the south side of the city.

It is a brisk morning and the chilled air is lovely.  I take large lungfulls and I wish I were doing my last show right now as my throat feels tip top again.

Steel used to be the main industry in Bethlehem and there have been works here since 1857.  The company finally went bankrupt and closed its operations in 1995.  Now, standing as a monument to a lost age, are a series of towering rusting, disintegrating and  macabre buildings.

Although there is a visitor centre here, no attempt has been made to pretty the site up and quite rightly so.  You can almost imagine the hellish heat and deafening noise as the steel molten helped to shape an era of heavy engineering.

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Ironically right opposite the steelworks is an ice rink.

The new industry in town is the Sands Casino, which has taken over part of the steelworks, but it was not visible from the direction I approached.

Having had a brief look around and taken a few photographs, I walk back to the historic downtown area of Bethlehem, which is definitely suffering at the hands of the casino.

My walk has taken up two hours and I now spend two more in the hotel room.  I take the opportunity to actually commit my script of A Christmas Carol to paper, ready for the theatre shows I will be performing in England in a few days time.

At one thirty I take my bags and say goodbye to hotel life for a short while.  I bid a particularly wistful farewell to my last Keurig coffee maker, and my half finished packets of biscuits.

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As I am still a little early I have decided to drive to Newark via Staten Island, which isn’t too far from the airport.

Many years ago I used to perform at a cultural centre on the island and one year I was shown a view which at the time I find profoundly moving.  I have decided to return to the same spot

My journey takes two and a half hours, and the traffic is heavy as I near New York City.  My route actually takes me passed the airport, and I consider just driving straight there, but it is still so early and I will get bored stiff.

I have rather vaguely set my Satnav for ‘Staten island, but I don’t really know where I am going.  I am guided by nothing more than the Freedom Tower on Manhattan:  Which is most appropriate.

I eventually arrive at the north end of the Island, close to the ferry terminal and in front of me Manhattan is spread out, lit by a golden setting sun.

The last time that I stood on this spot was in November 2001.  I had looked across the water and for the first time the enormity of what had occurred just two months earlier really struck me.  The New York Skyline was incomplete.

Today, in the golden glow, the City stands proudly there, the skyline is complete once more and I am very glad I that I have come back to this spot to see it.

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The sun is setting and it is time to drive back to Newark, where I go through the whole rigmarole of returning the car, getting to the terminal, checking in, removing shoes, watch, belt and coat, clearing security and putting them all back on again.

My gate is not busy yet, as there is still almost two hours before boarding starts, so I get my laptop out and begin to write.

The Tour

I have been on the road for almost six weeks and performed in twenty cities.  During that time I have delivered five different shows and stood in front of an audience fifty times.

It has on the whole been extremely successful.  I believe that the show is as good as it has ever been (although I know some audience members will miss my coat flying into the audience).  Of course I have added a few bits in, which mainly have been culled from my two act version.

The audiences responses have been quite amazing throughout and it has been very moving when people have shaken me by the hand afterwards and said: ‘your great great grandfather would be so proud of you’.  That means a great deal

Health wise I have had a very trouble free time.  My voice started to give out slightly during the last couple of days, but I blame that on solely on my choice of cheese-filled ravioli in Burlington.

I am slightly concerned that I am sweating so much during the show and may take some advice to see if there is anything I can, or should do, to help that before I return next year.

I have had no travel troubles (apart from grumpy SatNav units) and my bags have always appeared on carousels, even after tight connections in major airports.

I have had no difficulties with the weather, despite my worries of heavy snow in Massachusetts.  In fact the whole tour has been rather un-seasonal from that point of view.

People

What makes a trip like this are the people I meet and sadly I can’t name everyone who has made sure that I have venues to perform in, people to perform to, and beds to sleep in. I thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart.

Of course a very special mention must go to Bob and Pam Byers who are not only my professional colleagues but genuine and dear friends.  Working with Byers Choice has been such a turning point in my life and they represent me with a generosity that most actors can only dream of.

I was particularly delighted to see Gary Vaillancourt this year after he scared everyone by having a major heart attack in the spring.  To see him and Judi in California was a real treat.

Bob Watford.  Do you remember Bob: The Hertz car agent who befriended me on a cold morning at Kansas City airport and drove me to the terminal building, while telling me all about his life? That was a very special memory, which I will cherish.

But the most important person is Liz.  I abandon her for six weeks, and send her accounts of sleeping in the Queen’s suite at Williamsburg, while she has to work and run the house at home.  She is such a tower of strength and supports me so completely.  I could never do what I do if it wasn’t for her.

It has been lovely to relax before shows listening to her CD this year.  I am biased, but she makes a piano sing like few others can.

And on that note, it is time to close up the laptop and board my plane.

I am not signing off for good, for between the seventeenth and the twenty third of December I will be playing in some very exciting venues in the UK.  The tour continues, and I shall be keeping you up to date with my adventures in the old country.

Thank you to everyone who has attended my shows and followed this blog: quite literally, it could not happen without you.

 

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