It has been a lovely, deep night of sleep in my four-post, curtained bed, and I wake feeling refreshed. I turn on the fire, because it is there, and start work on the blog post. The only downside of the room is that there are no facilities to make coffee, so my caffeine craving must wait for breakfast.
At 8am I walk into the main building (my room is in one of the cottages in the grounds of the Inn itself, and am immediately welcomed by the owners Laura and Rick. There are a few other people already intent on their breakfasts and I take a little table by the window. I have brought the lovely book that I received as a present in Lewisburg to read: The text takes the form of a gentle stroll through London, seen from an artist’s eyes, and concentrates very much on tone, light quality and imagery (‘It had been raining heavily all day, and the sky, which had just cleared, was flooded with a golden light. The towers of the Abbey stood up against it in misty blue. A string of hansom cabs coming along, reflected in the wet streets, looked like a procession of black gondolas.’)
A book about London: I have a mental bet with myself as to how soon the name Dickens will appear – page 16 is the answer.
My breakfast of pumpkin pancakes and bacon is delicious, and the coffee is very welcome. Laura talks to me about the book, as she loves to collect antiques of all sorts, and indeed has a little museum/antique store upstairs in the house.
When I have finished, I return to my room, where I have a l little time to relax, before driving to Winterthur for the matinee show. Of course, there is no sound check to be done, but it is nice to be there as part of the team, so in the end I get into my car at around 11.
Everything is as it should be: Barbara is there busily making sure the shop is properly stocked, and Ellen arrives from her office which is located in another building on the property. There was a lecture in the hall last night, so my set had to be cleared away. I help Ellen re-create the elegant parlour, and then make my first tea and honey of the day.
I am walking around the shop looking at some of the books and products, when a gentleman approaches me with a paper bag. He tells me that he has been reading the blog, and was worried for my health. He thought that this may help. On opening the package I find two miniature bottles of Bourbon!
I retreat to the office and as I am sitting there I think about a conversation that Ellen Rob and I had last night: surely in Mr DuPont’s library there must be some old editions of Dickens novels, and it would be a fun project to have a series of events based on them: lectures and performances. Something to keep in mind, for sure.
The crowd are gathering at the door, and I start to get into costume ready for the show. With five minutes to go I take up my position at the back at the hall, and am amazed (although why I should be, I don’t know), to see the sea of smart phone screens in front of me. Almost everyone’s face is bathed in blue.
The Director of Winterthur David Roselle is making my introduction today, and we exchange a thumbs-up signal of readiness across the crowd, which is his cue to make his way to the podium. He finishes up with his traditional warning to anyone who is caught with a mobile phone (you will be taken to the catacombs and never be heard of again), and I begin my walk to the stage.
The show goes well, and the movements are precise and controlled. I have finally abandoned my experiment of moving backwards towards the audience as the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, as I don’t think it really works. The thought was that the audience would just see a black shape advancing upon them, with no features, but of course that they actually see is me with my back to them. Also, the impact of the skeletal, pointing hand is lost. So, not all of my ideas are successful!
The show is good, and the applause is lovely, with lots of high fives and handshakes as I leave the building to change. Having changed I make my way to the cafeteria and welcome the group of people who have been waiting patiently. First in line is a girl who was sat in the front row, and who is completely start-struck; she can hardly speak as she shakes my hand, and looks pleadingly back to her family who are taking photographs: ‘help me out!’ she gasps.
There are lots of programmes and books to be signed, and pictures to be posed for. Ellen does a great job as unofficial photographer, making sure everyone is in position, so that as soon as I have signed I can look up, ‘click, click, click’ and we are moving on to the next, with a minimum of delay.
When everyone has left Ellen says ‘right: change, go, eat, rest!’ I obey her order and leave Winterthur for a couple of hours.
Between Winterthur and the Fairville Inn is the hamlet of Centreville, which is the location of Buckley’s Tavern, where I often wind down after my evening shows, but today I decide to stop by for some soup and salad, which I eat at the bar. As I am eating a lady taps me on the shoulder: ‘is your first name Gerald?’
‘Oh, I will be seeing you at 6!’
That opens the flood gates: almost every table in the bar seems to have been at the afternoon show, and so I am soon posing and smiling with group after group. It is lovely to know how much people enjoyed the show, and to be wanted to this extent, but I really need a little rest, so make my excuses and leave.
I only will have an hour or so at the Inn, but it is long enough to lay back and relax for a while, before returning for the evening show. As I get out of the car, there is the most beautiful sunset, and a arrow formation of geese fly across it with their loud calls breaking the dusk’s silence.
The evening’s audience is the largest of the three here, but it doesn’t sound like that: while the two matinee audiences have gathered an hour before the show, and waited noisily in line, this group just trails in one at a time, there is very little lingering in the store. Listening from my office it all sounds very quiet, so it is a quite surprise to me when I go into the hall to find it so full!
David is back to do the introductions again, and we go through the thumbs up routine before the off. I am feeling very weary and tired tonight, but want to give this large group a good performance. When I reach the stage I try a little too hard, am beginning to strain again, but unlike at Langhorne I am able to catch it and pull back. I have mentioned previously the incredible acoustics in this hall, but they are not apparent from the stage – If anything the room sounds slightly ‘dead’. It is only when I walk into the audience and go to Scrooge’s melancholy tavern, that I hear the resonant and electric tone of my voice, and that is when I can relax.
It is another good show, although I am physically shattered by the end: I feel that I couldn’t go for another five minutes, but that is fine as I do not have another show until tomorrow evening.
After the signing is done Ellen says ‘you look tired, let’s get you out of here’ I change, and am able to hang all of my costumes on the rail in the theatre to air over night: it saves carrying them all into my room at the Inn, and I can pick them up as I drive past in the morning.
I say good bye to Ellen and Barbara, and drive to Buckley’s, but it is so full that I decide against it ans continue to the Inn. Once in my room I light the flickering gas fire and sit in front of it. Maybe I should take some cold medication: now, where did I put that bourbon?