Today is a rest day, allowing me to adjust a little to the time difference and to prepare for the performances to come. As is always the way I wake early in the morning, at around 4am, and after a few half-hearted attempts to get back to sleep I grab the computer and start the routine of writing my blog and getting it posted before the routine of the day begins.
Daylight begins to appear through the slats of the wooden window shutters and I put the TV on, watching the news coverage of the very exciting conclusion to the World Series Baseball matches, in which the Chicago Cubs won for the first time in 108 years. It is a wonderfully good news story in the same vein as Leicester City winning the English Premiership last year, and a welcome antidote to the hatred and personal attacks that make up current political debate.
I spend a little time unpacking various items of costume, so that the creases can hang out before my first shows tomorrow, and make sure that I have packed everything that I need. If I have left anything at home today is my opportunity to replace it, but it seems as if everything is there. Actually, I think I have over packed this year and probably brought too many clothes. I hope that I don’t suffer with excess baggage charges on the domestic flights.
Nearby in the centre of Cambridge a bell tolls each hour and soon it is time to shower and get ready for breakfast.
I appear to be the only guest (although I think I heard some others leaving a little earlier), as there is a single place setting laid at the head of the dining table. Sandy appears and fusses over me, pouring coffee, bringing orange juice before appearing with a magnificent breakfast of French toast (so light and fluffy), bacon and eggs. It is delicious! Mmmmmm, Yummmm.
Back in my room I am getting ready to take a telephone interview when there is a knock at the door and the organiser of The Cambridge events, Tom Davey, has popped by to say hello. He invites me to dinner at 6 this evening, which will be a treat. I can’t talk for long though, as the phone goes and I do my first interview of this years’ trip.
The journalist has seen me perform in the past, so knows what she is asking about, which always helps an interview. We chat for around twenty minutes before saying goodbye and we return to our respective lives.
My day holds nothing until 6pm, so I decide to do a little rehearsal both of A Christmas Carol and A Child’s Journey With Dickens. Usually at this time of the year I haven’t even thought about the Carol for twelve months or so, but in 2016 I have been performing it a few times during the summer, so it is very fresh in my memory.
I go on rehearsing until lunchtime, at which time I am in danger of getting cabin fever, so decide to go out and explore.
I get into the Jeep and just start to drive. The only certain thing is that I won’t go on the main Interstates or highways, I just want to explore. If I see a road that interests me I will take it; if it turns out to be a dead-end, I will turn round and come back again. In this way I just drive through the beautiful Ohio countryside, loving the golden trees, and the bucolic tracts of farmland.
One road sign points towards Pleasant City, which sounds so perfect that I have to visit. It is a tiny community, with street names that tell their own stories: Main Street, Mill Street, Orchard Street etc. Main Street is wide, straight and long with a town hall and a Church. If it wasn’t for the modern cars parked on the street (and in some cases the word modern isn’t completely accurate) I could be standing here at any period of American history.
My journey continues out of Pleasant City and onwards until I see a sign to ‘Rochester Road’. Well, as Rochester was Charles Dickens’s home city in England I have to take the turning, which proves to be little more than a dusty track leading up into the hills and giving me some amazing views across the rolling hills.
My odyssey goes on until I arrive at Sarahsville, where there is the most unbelievably colourful tree I have ever seen: almost every colour of the autumn is contained within its branches.
I drive on for another thirty minutes or so, before finally setting the SatNav system to take me back to the Colonel Taylor Inn after what has been a perfect expedition.
At 5.45 Tom calls to pick me up, and his wife Julie is in the car too. Last year Tom and Julie hosted a dinner at their country club for various members of the event’s board, and as it was a great success they are doing it for a second year, which makes it a tradition. I like traditions.
We are sat at a large table overlooking the golf course as the sun gently drops beneath the horizon, providing us with a spectacular light show, followed by streaks of maroon clouds until darkness descends.
Our dinner companions are Connie and Mike Humphrey, who portray Queen Victoria and her valet at the festival; and Bev Kerr, a local journalist who has written a wonderful article about Dickens’ trips on the Ohio river during his 1843 trip.
The dinner and conversation is excellent and the evening passes with friendly chat. The Souvenir brochures make their first appearance and everyone is delighted with them, astounded by the quality of the pictures and design: this bodes well. Tomorrow will be the first test of public sales, so it is good to know that the first impressions are so positive.
Dinner finished and it is back to the Colonel Taylor Inn and bed. Tomorrow morning I have the first big event of the trip, as I am talking to 500 5th grade students about Charles Dickens’ childhood and life – nothing like starting with a bang!