Day two in California and those pesky two hours mean that I wake far too early. I sit in bed and write for a while, before eventually getting up and preparing for an early breakfast.
Being in sunny, healthy California, where everyone is fit and beautiful, I decide to forgo the hot buffet and instead treat myself to a bowl of granola and lots of fresh fruit, accompanied by glasses of fresh orange juice. I do blot my copybook slightly by helping myself to a pastry and a muffin, but on the whole I think I am pretty abstemious.
Back in my room I try to find a TV channel showing coverage of qualifying from the Brazilian Grand Prix, but sadly no one appears to be showing it. I follow the action via the official F1 website and by watching the figures it looks like an exciting session.
Although I don’t have a show until this evening I have earmarked the day to get some serious rehearsal work done. Over the next week I will not only be performing A Christmas Carol, but also Doctor Marigold, A Child’s Journey With Dickens and readings from A Tale f Two Cities, and all three of those shows need extra preparation.
For three hours or so I divide my time equally between the three shows and pace up and down my room going over and over the lines. The relevant script is open on the desk so that I can refer to it if I need confirmation of a certain word or phrase.
When I finally finish it is time for lunch, and I get into the car to go and buy a salad and some fruit. I actually need to buy some coat hangers for my costume too. So far on this trip I have been borrowing hangers from various hotels but it would be useful to have some lightweight plastic ones which I can travel with and have the costumes hanging in the car rather than being folded up in my case.
As I drive I am reminded of two things in this part of California, firstly the ‘take no prisoners’ attitude to driving: everyone is so fast, and tailgate so closely that a Californian freeway is no place for the faint hearted. I am also reminded as to the sheer affluence of this area, and this is illustrated by the high end cars that drive between the palm trees: exotic Ferraris, shining Mercedes, gleaming Teslas and many more of the same price bracket swarm around my little Corolla.
Back at the hotel I return to my room with a slight sense of unease. The Ayres Hotel is spread over two buildings and in the past I have always stayed in the main block, but this year I am in the alternative building, where builders are working through all of the rooms remodelling.
When I was rehearsing this morning I was looking at a huge skip (dumpster) outside my bedroom window filled with the same fabrics, light stands and mirrors that make up my room.
The lifts are boarded with plywood and the hall carpets are covered with transparent plastic to prevent damage. As I return on this particular lunchtime I am suddenly aware that I haven’t seen or heard any other guests in the building. It is as if I am in my own remake of The Shining: ‘Here’s Gerry!’
I eat lunch and rest during the afternoon, before driving back to Roger’s Gardens at 4pm to prepare for my show. As yesterday I am greeted on the set by Hedda, Susan and Patrick and we do a quick sound check, whilst the extra keen members of the audience who have started to line up two hours early look on. The sky is beautiful over the top of the amphitheatre as the sun slips beneath the horizon.
I return to my boardroom and do my pre-ordered book signing duties, before relaxing and waiting. Outside the door the carol singers gather to warm up and I am treated to a private concert of beautiful harmonies.
With 30 minutes to go I change into costume and with 5 to go I walk to my starting position at the top of the theatre. I check with Patrick that both of my microphones are broadcasting, and then it is a just question of waiting for Hedda to introduce me.
The crowd is a huge one and although not quite as responsive as last nights, they are very good and attentive. As the show carries on and I start to get warmer, something extraordinary happens. The night is slightly cooler than yesterday and as I start to build a sweat I begin to steam! Like a race horse at the end of a gruelling steeplechase, my movements are accompanied by an aura of vapour, which must give the ethereal ghosts extra realism.
The show is another good one and I have been very pleased with the way that I have used the space here. As yesterday there is quite a line waiting for books to be signed which of course I am delighted to do watched by the Harrod’s figures of Mr Micawber and Uriah Heep.
When everything has finished I go and change, whilst Hedda and the team clear away the set – there is a very heavy dew falling (or rising, I am never quite sure) and everything is getting soaked.
Hedda and Susan have booked a table for dinner in the Farmhouse Restaurant, which is part of the Roger’s property, and I have a lovely pork tenderloin and we all catch up with our various news from the last year. The pairing of Hedda and Susan is the real driving force behind the events here and it has been a pleasure working with them over the last four years.
At the end of the evening we all hug our goodbyes and I go back to the hotel, where I am rather relieved to see that other guests now populate my building.
The tour is going very well so far and, on the evidence of this evening, I can literally say that I am building up a head of steam.