It All Starts Here

Welcome to the start of another American tour. Yes, it is that time of the year again, and for the next forty days or so I will be on the road criss-crossing the United States, performing A Christmas Carol and a few other bits and pieces in theatres, libraries, schools, hotels and at festivals.

There will be many old familiar faces as well as some new venues along the way. There will be lots of airports, lots of rental cars, lots of breakfasts and lots of ironing boards.  Above all else there will be some remarkable people and communities to tell you about.

And it all started early on a wet November morning:

Thursday 5 November

Our alarm is set for the ungodly hour of 5am, as my flight to Boston is an early one and Liz needs to get back to work by 8.30. Sometimes it is easier for me to take a bus to the airport, but as this is the start of such a long separation we want to be together for as long as possible.

One would have thought that saying goodbye would become easier over the years, but somehow the opposite seems true, and we stand at the drop off zone at Heathrow for a long time, not wanting to let go of each other.

In the end we know that we must say good bye and I unload my cases from the car, and watch as Liz drives away back to Abingdon, before heading to the Delta Airlines check-in desk.

This year I have at last managed to find a carry-on case that is small enough to put in an overhead locker, but large enough to take a spare costume, as well as various other essentials of my trade. This means that for the first time in many years I am able to check only one bag, which should make life much easier.

As seems to be the way these days, all of the passport and security checks run smoothly and I am soon in the warren that is the Terminal Three Duty Free Shop. The shop is a clever design, in that as soon as you have put your shoes and belt back on after security screening, you are in the very heart of the store, and at first sight there seems to be no logical exit.  It is as of you have been condemned to purgatory, to circulate for all eternity among the never ending shelves of perfume, spirits, wine, cigarettes and luridly branded watches.

Eventually I find a way out and check the departures video screens. DL62 is to board very early, over an hour before the departure time, so I do not have long to wait before making my way to gate 29, where, by the looks of things, a small group of passengers are gathered.

Sure enough there are plenty of empty seats on the plane, so everyone can spread themselves out nicely.

Compared to Liz and my adventures travelling to Zanzibar this is not a long flight, and the weather over North East America is bright and clear, giving some wonderful views.

We begin our descent into Boston and the New England coast is lined with the most beautiful fall colours that you can imagine. It has obviously been a wonderful autumn here.

When I first looked at the itinerary for the trip I was slightly worried about today, as there was a rather a tight layover in Boston before my onward flight, but as we have landed almost an hour early my bags and I have plenty of time to go through the formalities of entry to the United States of America.

At Boston’s Logan Airport there is a moment of anticipation as you come into the immigration hall. Often in the past the queue has wound this way and that, filling the entire room.  On those occasions I have had to resign myself to standing in line for an hour or so, shuffling forward every now and then.

Today, however there are only ten people standing in front of me, so it should be a breeze. Sadly there is only one officer on duty, so actually the whole experience takes about the same amount of time as usual.

Once I have been officially allowed in to the country and have had my bags cleared by customs, I have time for a bite of lunch before boarding my next flight, which will take me west to Columbus, Ohio.

The plane is a tiny jet, and if I screw up my eyes and imagine very carefully, it is almost as if I am in a private corporate plane. Ah, dreams.

After an hour or so we make our final approach into Columbus Airport, swoop in low over a golf course (that must make putting difficult), and touch down.

Columbust Airport is small, and I soon have my case and am making my way to pick up the first rental car of the trip: a rather nondescript Chevvy Cruz. I set the SatNav to take me to Cambridge and I am on the road.

The journey is about an hour and a half, and I realise that this will mean a VERY early start on Sunday, as my flight leaves Columbus at 7am, and I will need to drop the car off and get checked in and, and, and….let’s just worry about that when the time comes.

I now have 67 miles before the next exit, so I spend the time going through the lines of A Christmas Carol, ready for my first show on Saturday evening; just making sure that everything is firmly placed.

The line learning passes the time nicely and soon I am pulling into the car park of a most glorious Victorian home, which has been turned into the Colonel Taylor Inn.

The house is already decorated for Christmas, and there are Dickens novels scattered here and there to make me feel at home. The rooms are large with high ceilings and the hallway is filled with ornately carved woodwork.   A staircase curls to the upper floors, and demands a flowing evening gown to sweep down it as the lady of the house makes her entrance.

Colonel Taylor was actually a Civil War Captain but was well renowned in the city of Cambridge and he entertained three different Presidents here.

It is only 6.30, but in my world that is 11.30, and I am feeling the effects of a long day. I have a coffee in my room and unpack a few things, before getting into the car and driving to Forums Restaurant on the outskirts of the town.

My server is Taylor and noticing my accent she asks where I am from, I tell her that I have just flown in from the UK and am in town to perform at the Dickens Village Festival at the weekend. ‘Oh, wow, you are the one man show guy – I heard about you on the radio!’

I have a delicious fillet of grilled salmon with a baked potato, before driving back to the Inn.

I put the TV on, but fade fast and soon am tucked up in my Victorian bed, ready to sleep.

PS

As you read this it will be my brother Ian’s 60th birthday.  Sadly I won’t be able to join him for the celebrations, but I would like to take this opportunity to say ‘Happy Birthday’.

Ian is, and always has been, an inspiration. He has succeeded in everything that he has turned his hand to, from his meteoric career at Olympus Cameras to his various hell-raising adventures.  He has slid down the Cresta Run at breakneck speed and has flown in Tiger Moth biplanes.  He has freefall sky dived and taken his 1970s MG Midget to the harsh terrains of the Arctic Circle.

He has met many great people, including a veritable who’s who of Grand Prix stars (James Hunt, Ayrton Senna and Damon Hill to name but three).

Whilst living the high-flying, expense-account-life of a leading marketing executive he realised that corporate life at the cutting edge was no longer for him, and took the incredibly brave decision to get out before he burnt out. He negotiated a redundancy package that allowed him to spend a year competing in the Clipper round the world yacht race – an experience that he recounted in his book Sea Change.

He has the most wonderful family and is an amazing father and doting grandfather.

So Ian, I am sorry that we can’t be there with you on Saturday, but have a wonderful time and enjoy the love of our family.

Happy Birthday!

Big Bro Ian

Big Bro Ian

Links:

Colonel Taylor Inn: www.coltaylorinnbb.com

Sea Change: http://www.amazon.com/Sea-Change-Ian-Dickens/dp/1844546411

Gerald Dickens tour dates: http://www.geralddickens.com/events.htm

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