Wednesday November 25
As today is the nearest thing to a completely free day that I have for a while, I intend to make the most of it.
After writing, exercising and coffee I have breakfast and contemplate my morning. Of course there is laundry to be done, but I have no paper money to exchange into quarters, so my first job is to find an ATM.
The Hampton Inn is in the heart of a major shopping area, with open air malls spread all around, so there is no shortage of choice. My first stop is Kohl’s clothing store where I chose some new shirts to replace those that have fallen by the wayside. At the cash register I go to sign for the purchase, and have to restrain myself from asking the assistant her name, before scrawling ‘To Stacey, With best wishes, Gerald Charles Dickens, 2015. Flourish flourish flourish…..’
Next to Kohl’s there is a Target which has an ATM and I am able to replenish my cash reserves, before returning to the hotel.
With a load of laundry languidly circulating in the machine, I take the opportunity of using the hotel swimming pool and Jacuzzi. I complete about one hundred lengths of the pool (I know, it sounds terribly impressive, doesn’t it – until I tell you that it is a very small pool, and it only takes me about three strokes to get from end to end). In the hot tub I allow the jet to play on my lower back and as I relax in the hot water I can almost convince myself that this is a necessity for my future well-being.
The rest of the morning and early afternoon is spent in the room being extremely lazy. My slothfulness is rewarded today when a ‘ping’ from the computer alerts me to the fact that Liz is online, and has sent me an instant message via Facebook. We chat for a while and she has managed to get the crumbling infrastructure of our home sorted out successfully. The days before I see her in Delaware are passing quickly now, and neither of us can wait
Another online alert is via Twitter -which I only use spasmodically – directing me to a blog written by a lady called Erica Williams who attended last night’s performance with her family. It is fascinating to ‘experience’ my show from an audience member’s perspective.
At lunchtime I plan to grab something at Panera Bread, but the queue is almost out of the door, so I ruin my recent healthy lifestyle by dining at Burger King, where I have a crispy chicken sandwich.
After lunch I spend a little time rehearsing – running through Doctor Marigold, which I will be performing in a few days time. With lines suitably refreshed I then decide to empty my suitcase and re-fold all of the costume shirts, which have become disheveled during my travels. This way everything will be ready for packing tomorrow morning.
Kimberly is due to pick me up at 3.45, so after a short nap I shower and get ready for what should be a fun and relaxing evening.
Mid Continent have launched a friends of the library scheme called Library Lovers, and tonight they are hosting a special reception to reward the first members, as well as encouraging others to join. The venue is the Belvoir Winery on the outskirts of Liberty.
We drive up an impressive driveway towards an equally impressive house, built on a slight hill. The house was built in the late 1880s as an orphanage belonging to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. The Odd Fellowship was a sort of Masonic fraternity, with its own rituals and beliefs. Throughout the USA the fellowship built asylums for mentally ill adults, as well as orphanages such as the one in Liberty.
Although this building was privately purchased by the winery a few years ago, they are very proud of the heritage, and memorabilia from The Odd Fellows is displayed throughout the building.
The Library event (I think I can safely say ‘our’ event, after all I have been working with the library for twenty years) is being held in a beautiful room in one wing of the house. As we arrive, Diana and Rebecca from Mid Continent are busily decorating the room with sprigs of fresh fir. Diana (whose baby this is), shakes me by the hand, apologizing that she is ‘a bit sappy’.
Kimberly and I spend a little time looking around the house and exhibits, which include the skeleton of George, a member (fairly obviously deceased) of the Fellowship who left his body to medical science and whose remains were then used in one of the fraternity’s rituals.
Various members of the public are starting to arrive, so I change into my costume before going back to our room to meet and greet.
Doug and his son Collin (who were at Woodneath two days ago) arrive, as does Don and many other familiar faces.
A pianist is playing and suddenly my thoughts go rushing back to England again as she starts to play Traumerei from Robert Shumann’s Kinderszenen suite of pieces. Liz and I have a show based on Kinderzsenen and hearing Traumerei makes me home-sick once more.
As the event is an exclusive one for the Library Lovers it is a small gathering of around fifty people. There is a buffet serving delicious-looking mini lamb chops, asparagus, cheeses, dips and vegetables. Samples of Belvoir’s wine are being sipped and there is a sense of general contentment within the room.
I chat for a while to Steve Potter, who is the director of the library service and who I have known for many years, until it is time to start the evening’s entertainment.
At 6pm Steve calls the room to order and talks for a while about the Library Lovers scheme, before introducing me and handing the floor over.
I am once again talking about my background, before describing the creation of A Christmas Carol and as many of the guests have seen the show multiple times, I am hoping that they will be interested. I am not very good at being myself, and standing on the floor surrounded by people makes me very nervous (put me on a stage in front of a thousand and I am in heaven – up close and personal and I am a gibbering wreck!); however the guests are responsive and attentive and I warm to my theme, whilst keeping a careful eye on the clock, as our time in Belvoir is strictly limited. With ten minutes to go I throw the floor open to questions and finally finish at 6.45 – as I had promised to do.
It has been a very nice evening and many of the guests come and shake me by the hand and tell me how much they have enjoyed the performance. The room soon clears and I am able to try a glass of Belvoir’s finest before changing and getting ready to leave. Diana and Rebecca are getting sappy once more as they take all of the decorations down. I say good bye, and Kimberly and I return to her car.
We drive to an Olive Garden (the restaurant that is, not a Missouri olive garden, although as the state is making fine wines nothing would surprise me), for an end-of-stay, wind-down dinner.
Kimberly has always been the most generous person to work with: she ferries me everywhere, makes sure that I am fed, and protects me from audiences when I need some time to myself. She is quietly spoken and gentle, but a true professional and puts on amazing shows. She likes to stay in the background at the events but she deserves a huge amount of recognition and credit for what she does. She is also a very good friend.
I get back to the hotel at 9 pm, set the alarm for 5 am and then go to bed.
As always it has been a fun stay in the Kansas City area and the shows have been superbly attended. The audiences are loyal and I have some great friends here. Thank you all and I look forward to seeing you again next year.
Belvoir Winery: http://www.belvoirwinery.com/