Sunday, November 22
I am awake and up much earlier than I need to be this morning and there is hardly any repacking to be done, so I decide to have a coffee in bed before get going. But where is the coffee machine? Those cheeky folk at the airport Marriott have hidden it: It’s not in the bathroom and it’s not in the armoire. It’s not by the bed and it it’s not on the desk. Oh, of course, silly me, it is on the top shelf of the wardrobe.
I finish the packing, and have a shower before leaving the room at around 6.15. It is still too early for breakfast and I am just thinking about waiting until 6.30 when the girl behind the front desk asks if I’m taking the shuttle bus to the airport, as it is about to leave. I may as well, so join an American Airlines flight crew for the short ride.
Check-in, bag-drop and security are all very quiet, so I am at the gate early. Today has the potential to be very awkward: I am flying from Greensboro to Atlanta and then from Atlanta to Kansas City, but the layover is very tight. According to my ticket I am due to arrive in at Atlanta at 9.46 and boarding for the next flight commences at 9.48.
As I sit at the gate I become aware that an earlier flight to Atlanta is boarding, which may have been a safer bet.
I use the hour I have to write the blog post and eat a breakfast sandwich from Dunkin’ Donuts. I finish writing just as the boarding is announced, so the corrections and photographs will have to wait until I have time later in the day.
We take off on time, which bodes well for the connection, and rise into the bright blue sky. This tour resolutely refuses to become Christmassy!
The flight is smooth, unlike the landing which is one of the roughest I’ve had for a long time. The plane hits the runway hard before bouncing back into the air, at the same time lurching over to one side, which makes the second impact uneven which in turn slews the plane sideways. It is all finished in a moment, but it is a scary moment.
The good news (apart from surviving) is that we have arrived thirty minutes early, so the pressure is off. The news gets even better when I discover that Kansas City flight is departing from the same terminal (a rare event: perhaps I should buy a state lottery ticket today).
Thanks to all of the good fortune I have plenty of time to finish the blog, before the flight is called.
Another two hours pass and we begin to make our slow descent into the Kansas City airport. The sun is glinting off streams and rivers, making them look like a giant snail trails across the landscape. The flight path takes us over the Kansas City Speedway, before we fly parallel to the airport and the clover leaf arrangement of its three terminals.
The second landing is a vast improvement on the first and in no time I am waiting for my bags to be delivered.
Time is still tight, as I have to drive straight to the venue for my show today, it is a distance of over seventy miles, and I will only get there about an hour before the performance is due to start. I don’t like days like this: there is too much stress involved, and I have very little opportunity to relax properly before the show.
I get on the road and head towards Chillicothe, Missouri. At first the route takes me along some rural roads and the terrain is not unlike Pennsylvania, with gentle rolling hills dotted with barns, silos and farmhouses. Soon, however I am on I36, heading north east and the road stretches way out in front of me, a lesson in perfect perspective. The horizon is low and the sky dominates the scene, a brush of cirrus cloud breaking the blue.
There seems to be an inordinate amount of road kill, with the mutilated bodies of deer littering the highway.
The journey seems never ending, although there is some relief near Carrollton, when the road bends gently to the right and then to the left again. It is the first time that I have used the steering wheel in over an hour!
At last the sat nav tells me to leave the highway and I am soon in the wide, quiet streets of Chillicothe. It looks like an old frontier town, and it is easy to picture the saloons and livery stables, where diners and real estate offices are now.
The Livingston County Library is in a truly magnificent Victorian building, five or six stories high. The car park is at the rear and is dominated by a huge mural depicting a bookcase stocked with classic novels. I pull in, and study the art work, and see works by many authors, but where is Dickens? He must be represented somewhere: And then I see that I have pulled into park immediately beneath Oliver Twist. It seems to be a good omen.
I get my suitcases out of the car (of course I haven’t been able to gather my costume together as I normally would), and haul them into the building where I am greeted by Robin, the director of the library and Jean, who first saw me perform and has put today’s show together.
We get into a lift and ride to the third floor, where I will be performing. The room is huge, and was originally built as a courtroom, complete with a public gallery above. As befits its original status it is an impressive space with lots of polished woodwork. Robin and her team have dressed the stage with entirely appropriate period furniture, including one of the most remarkable iron hat stands that I have ever seen.
A microphone system has been set up, but even as we chat I can tell that the acoustics in the room are superb. Considering that most of the troubles that I run into on tour stem from microphone systems, I ask if we can do a sound check without it. It sounds wonderful, and I do not need to strain, so we decide to do the show without artificial enhancement.
There is now forty five minutes to go, and the audience are already gathering downstairs, so I go to my dressing room, where my cases are spread out on a table. I get changed and then try to sit for a moment and gather my thoughts. There is a little plate of crackers in the room and I nibble on some of those, in lieu of the lunch that I haven’t had time to have today. The effects of my Dunkin Donuts breakfast sandwich wore off a long time ago.
Soon the courtroom is full and there is an expectant buzz of conversation. The tolling of a church bell somewhere nearby heralds 3 o’clock and Robin gets onto the stage to welcome the guests.
With a round of applause I take to the stage and begin (there is no musical effect here, so I start with the ‘I have endeavoured in this ghostly little book to raise the ghost of an idea….’ preface from the first edition.)
The audience are great and vocal, and so attentive. Everything works well today, and I even discover that I am not getting nearly as hot and damp as during previous shows, which is a bonus.
When I finish and the ovation has died down, Robin invites me back to the stage to take some questions, and there follows a very jolly thirty minutes or so banter with the audience, before I sign a few programmes and pose for a few photographs.
I am tired now and ready to get to my hotel. The truth is that I could do with a day off, but I don’t get one of those (by which I mean a completely free day, with no travel or other commitments) until December 8, so for now I must just relax as and when I can.
I get everything back into my cases and say goodbye and thank you to Robin and Jean, before loading up the car and setting the sat nav for the hotel. It is a journey of eighty minutes, back towards Kansas City.
The instructions tell me to take the I36 west, and I know I am heading in the right direction, because in front of me the sky is bathed in a beautiful sunset.
The drive is difficult, as I am struggling to stay awake. I open the car windows and listen to the radio, all the time scanning the dark edges of the road for stray deer.
Eventually I reach the city limits of Liberty, and I pull into the car park of the Hampton Inn, Church Road, where I will be staying until Thursday. It is a familiar hotel to me, and I was last here as recently as October. I check in and go to my room.
It is 7.30 now and I could really do with something to eat. In one of Liz’s emails from home she mentioned that she had a thick juicy steak on Saturday night, and that sounds like a great idea, so I go to the nearby Longhorn steak house nearby. I just wish she was with me right now, although she will be flying out to join me for the final week of the trip, which will be amazing.
I have a delicious tender ribeye, with baked potato, but no dessert. I am back in my room by 9, and feel completely drained as I lay on the bed. I have quite an early start in the morning, with two TV interviews, before I even get to the performances, so I hope that I sleep well tonight.
Livingston County Library: http://livingstoncountylibrary.org/