As I took the bows in the cavernous John Knox Pavillion last night, I metaphorically brought the curtains down on the first part of my 2016 tour. From here I fly to the East coast, where I will remain almost to the end of the trip. I have a gap of three days over the Thanksgiving celebrations before I perform again, and that gives me a chance to take stock (and to learn my new line properly!)
I have my alarm set early, so that I can pack my two cases, and that is quite a challenge this morning, as I am once again worried about weight. I travel with a stock of business cards advertising this blog site, and Byers’ Choice have just sent me a new boxful to replenish my dwindling stocks. My case was already perilously close to the weight limit and the new additions will definitely send me over the top. I cram as much as I can into my little roller carry-on as I can, which I am sure will end up being checked at the gate anyway, for this is the busiest flying day of the year and overhead bin space will be quickly filled.
When everything is stashed away I weigh the large case in my hand, and make an estimate – it is going to be close I fear: I may have to ditch a few things at the airport.
Next there is time for a quick breakfast, and while I am downstairs I have to make arrangements to have an item that I left in Omaha, (and which was being sent here to Kansas City, but hasn’t arrived yet), to be shipped on to my next hotel in Massachusetts. I leave the address, my credit card details to pay for the FedEx charges, my email and phone number and hope that this time things will work successfully.
I have left plenty of time for my journey this morning and even though my flight isn’t until 10, I leave the hotel at 7. Actually, the traffic is lighter than I had expected and it only takes 20 minutes to reach the Kansas City International Airport. I drop my Camry off and get the shuttle bus into the terminal, where the security lines are busy, but not gridlocked.
There is a set of scales available to passengers to check the weight of their bags, and mine comes in at 50 lbs exactly!
I queue up for security and divest myself of various items of clothing, as directed, before re-vesting myself once I am cleared to fly. There is still plenty of time, so I am able to settle down and relax for an hour or so.
Sure enough before boarding commences the agent makes an announcement: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, this is a full flight today, so we are looking for volunteers to check roller bags to their final destination’. I dutifully take my very full, and very heavy, little bag to the counter, and as I wait to be dealt with another guy says ‘this is a great way of getting a second bag checked for free, I was counting on that!’ As am I – it is called playing the system.
The ground crew get the full flight boarded and away on time, which is impressive, and soon we are bursting through the low cloud and into the sunlight above. I am sat next to a young soldier, who has his camouflaged kitbag on his lap. For most of the trip he listens to music, as I listen to Thunderball, but as we start to make out final approach into Atlanta he begins to talk – about eggs (specifically hard-boiled ones).
‘Oh, man, I could do with a boiled egg now. I love boiled eggs, can’t eat enough. I love ‘em just soft, don’t like ‘em hard in the middle, oh no, just soft. I like scrambled too, but man, boiled are the best! I can’t wait till they’re cold, am too impatient. Man, I burn my tongue on that yolk. Folks on this flight could do with eating eggs, so healthy.’ He continues to evangelise about boiled eggs all the way to the gate.
Atlanta Airport is the home of Delta Airlines and almost every flight connects through here, so everyone is rushing around from gate to gate. I arrive into terminal B and a quick check of the monitors informs me that my flight to Boston will depart from F, which means a long subterranean ride on the PlaneTrain, which, like everywhere else today, is absolutely full. A few people are disgorged at terminal C, and more at D. By the time we get to F only a few straggling dregs of society are left and we all shuffle off to our gates.
The crew here are not quite as efficient at boarding as their counterparts in Kansas City, and we end up leaving Atlanta 30 minutes late, but as nobody has connections now it doesn’t really make too much difference.
We are on a bright, modern 757 which has video screens and movies, which is very rare on a domestic flight. I scroll through the menu and decide to watch The Lady in the Van (Liz and I have been planning to watch it for a long time, but somehow how never got around to it). It is the most charming, and heart-breaking film, and is based on a true story written by Alan Bennet (who is brilliantly portrayed by Alex Jennings, whilst Maggie Smith is perfect as the titular character).
Not only is the film wonderful, but it is also the perfect length for a flight between Atlanta and Boston – the closing credits roll as we make our decent over the Atlantic Ocean. It is a strange feeling, because I often arrive into Boston when I fly from London, and the fact that I am watching a film makes it feel even more as if I am just about to embark on my tour.
Logan airport is familiar and very crowded. As I stand at the baggage carousel an announcement is made: ‘happy Thanksgiving to all our arriving passengers, and welcome to Boston, the home of the Pilgrims.’ There is a pause before the intercom clicks on again: ‘Gobble, gobble, gobble!’
My bags arrive quickly, and then I join the long queue for the shuttle bus that takes me to the car rental plaza, which also is heaving with humanity. Here then I will be introduced to my companion for the next three weeks (I hope we like each other) – it is a shining white VW Tiguan. I ease it out of the garage onto the airport perimeter roads and from there into the Boston tunnel system. The car is light and perky, with a few quirks and I think we are going to get on just fine.
My drive takes me to the City of Worcester and to the Beechwood Hotel, which will be my home for the next six days. I check in and go to a room I have stayed in before, and everything feels like home.
Having hung my costumes up (they have been tightly compressed in my little case), I go down to the bar and have a salad and dessert for my dinner. Thanksgiving celebrations are well underway, and large groups are laughing loudly. I am sat at an end of the bar on my own, when an older gentleman from one of the groups comes up to me and says: ‘I hope you will not be alone for Thanksgiving?’ I assure him that I will be spending the day with friends, and will be well looked after. But, what a kind thought: with everything that is going on in the World at the moment, this was one small gesture of friendship and kindness and, to me, really captured the spirit of the very first Thanksgiving at Plymouth Rock, not very far from where I sit.
I return to my room with a smile!