My tenure of room 301 in the Fairfield Inn Sudbury is brief indeed, as I move on to Nashua New Hampshire today: I have hardly had time to unpack anything, so re-packing is easy. The breakfast room is a fairly typical one, with cereal, a waffle maker, some pastries and fruit juice from a machine.
On the large TV CNN is gritting its teeth to report the continuing process of forming the new cabinet, and it strikes me that it seems to be taking for ages. This is a major difference between the systems in America and England: back home when a new leader is voted in, then they take power that very day, meaning that forming a cabinet is necessarily a rapid process. TV cameras watch as various politicians visit number ten Downing Street to be told that they have been hired, or fired (interesting idea for a reality TV show, there?). In America the President Elect has plenty of time to build a team, as the inauguration is not until January. One lady watches in disdain before saying ‘Ahhhh, change the channel. Put the cartoons on. They make more sense!’ before flouncing out of the room.
The other news currently, which is more disturbing to me, is of raging forest fires in Tennessee, affecting the towns of dear old Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg. I write an email to Kristy Elder at the Inn at Christmas Place, checking that they are safe, and sending good wishes to all of my friends.
I can feel that my throat is slightly tender today, so I cover it carefully with the beautiful scarf that Liz bought me for Christmas last year: it’s a proper actor’s scarf and I adore it!
The drive to Nashua is just over an hour, but skirts Boston, so I leave a little extra time to complete the journey, in case of traffic. The day is dull and cold, but it does not actually rain while I am driving. Mr Bond helps to pass the time, and is just meeting Marc Ange Draco as I arrive in Nashua.
My first performance today is at the Nashua Senior Center, where I am to perform The Signalman, which is still fresh in my memory from Sunday night’s show in Sutton. This will be my fourth visit to the Senior Center, and in the past I have performed ‘A Child’s Journey With Dickens’, ‘Mr Dickens is Coming’ and ‘Doctor Marigold’; I hope that they will like the much darker and more sombre ghost story.
I pull up in the car park at exactly the same time as Jill Gage arrives, from the Fortin Gage flower and gift shop who sponsor my visits to Nashua. It is beginning to rain now, so we have the briefest of hugs, before scurrying inside, where we are met by Judy who runs our event. For some unknown reason Judy has taken to calling me Gerry over the years, and thus greets me, welcoming me back.
The room is laid out with lots of chairs, ready for the show, and Judy asks me what I need for the set. As I am performing on floor level there is not a lot of point doing too much, as most people in the audience will not be able to see, so I ask simply for a plain chair and table. Before looking for them Judy shows me into one of the administrative offices, which will be my dressing room. On the desk paper doyleys have been laid out, with a platter of fruit and cheese for me. It is so thoughtful. Unfortunately, I can’t eat any diary product before a show, as it closes my throat making projection impossible. It is a shame, because the plate looks most appealing.
Jill has brought along a cup of chicken rice soup, which is perfect, and I consume that gratefully, before eating the fruit from my plate.
The audience are starting to arrive, and I get into the sombre all black costume of The Signalman, before going to the function room to wait for the 12.30 start time. One gentleman comes to introduce himself and chat: he is an ordained minister who visits inmates in prison, and uses the story of A Christmas Carol to teach life lessons. He has seen an article about the original hand-written manuscript of A Christmas Carol, which is held at the J Pierpont Morgan Library in New York City, and wants to know if they have published it. I am happy to tell him that the facsimile is indeed available. As we talk I mention that I am not sure how the manuscript ended up in New York, to which he replies ‘Money talks; and when money talks nobody checks the grammar!’
More familiar faces take their seats, and at half past twelve Judy stands up to introduce me: ‘We are so happy that Gerry is coming back here again to perform for the fourth time….’ And then ‘so, please welcome Gerry!’ It feels very odd, as only my family have ever called me Gerry.
As I start the performance, the atmosphere in the room is electric, and everyone is hanging onto the words. So much for worrying that they wouldn’t like it because it isn’t funny! There is a loud gasp as the rail worker says ‘Signalman, killed this morning’, and another as I sign off with the spooky coincidence of the Staplehurst rail crash and Dickens’ death.
I sit and sign for a while, before changing out of my costume and packing the black waistcoat for the final time on this trip: it is red and gold for the rest of the way.
I make sure that I haven’t left anything in the office and drive the short distance to the Crowne Plaza hotel, where I am staying, and will be performing this evening. It is nice to have a couple of hours to rest, and I just lay on the bed watching TV, until Liz pops up on Facebook, and we are able to chat for a while about this and that – an especially about the arrangements for her coming to join me in just over a weeks’ time.
At 5pm Jill calls the room to tell me that the sound engineer is set up, and ready to do a check, so I gather all of my things and make the arduous journey from the 6th floor to the 1st. The ballroom is laid out ready, and Chris, the AV engineer, is waiting for me. He has done a lovely job lighting the stage this year, and there is even a lamppost on the set – I’m not sure what I will do with it in the show, but it looks impressive.
With the sound check completed, I head to the restaurant where are old friend MarMar is hosting her traditional pre-show dinner. MarMar and her husband Mike are Brits who have lived in America for many years, and surrounded themselves with a large group of loyal friends. Every year MarMar invites a large group to my show, and generously buys everyone dinner; it is a great tradition and I always enjoy sharing a little time with them, before getting ready to perform.
I eat a plate of fish and chips, which is delicious, and then leave the party to their conversation. I have been given a boardroom to change in, which is very grand, and rather more impressive than the various restrooms I’ve experienced recently.
I get changed as I listen to Liz’s Scott Joplin tracks (The Magnetic Rag being my current favourite), and then sit at the head of the long table: the chairman of the board, to wait for the show.
The hall is full and noisy when I go in, and there are hardly any seats to be had. A few stragglers make their way in, and it is time to begin. Jody Gage makes a great introduction, and really plugs the programme, before welcoming me to the stage.
It is nice to have plenty of room to move, and to be able to give a proper theatrical performance again. I even experiment with a few new moves as I go on: one is specific to this set, and sees me leaning against the mantelpiece at Fred’s party (it is a pose that brings Dad back to life, for he always stood leaning on our mantle at home). The other thing I try is as the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, making his first appearance. I have always ‘drifted like a mist’ from the back of the stage to the front, and this time I made the same movement but walking backwards towards the audience, so all they see is the black back of my frock coat – just a little theatrical trick that I will persist with for a few performances, and see if it earns a permanent place in the show.
I finish the show and leave the stage and as I return to take my bows Chris plays the Trans Siberian Orchestra’s track in its entirety, which is nice to hear, and sends the audience on their way in festive mood.
I go back to the board room to change, before going into the ballroom lobby to sit and sign. There has always been a very loyal crowd here, and as the time goes on, so my little stock of gifts gets larger: a carton of British Typhoo tea, a dried flower that comes to life when you put it in water, and then shrivels up when you dry it out again (perfect to take to hotel rooms on tour!), a little bag of homemade bookmarks in the shape of nightcaps and candlesticks, and most charmingly a button sewing kit from Ed and Rose Thorn, who always come to my shows. They are avid followers of my blog, and have been worried that the thread I am using for my repairs isn’t up to the rigours of the show! Thank you, Ed and Rose!
The signing finishes, and after a few photographs, it is time to get changed and meet Jill and the team in the bar for a wind-down drink. In previous years I have been in Nashua for a few days, but this time it is in and out in one. It is a nice wind-down to the day, but we are all tired, so everyone makes their way home, while I return to my room, hang my costumes to air, and then go straight to bed.