I wake in the Ambler Inn with a nice long morning of nothing laid out before me.  A glance outside reveals a beautiful morning of blue skies and bright sun, making the snow sparkle and glisten in the low, golden light.


I write my blog and then head to the restaurant for breakfast where the remnants of a major wedding party are spread around the tables in various states of delicate repose.  Some are being very quiet, others are cheerful and brash.  From the snippets of conversation that I overhear it was obviously quite a night.

When I have finished breakfast I decide to move my car closer to the room, so that I will not have to drag my case across the snow.  When I came back last night the car park was absolutely packed with wedding revellers’ vehicles, and I was lucky to find one space right in the far corner of the property.  This morning the Hyundai looks rather lonely.


Back in my room I need to pack, as I shall be driving south straight after my afternoon show, but the fact is that I have nothing to pack – my case is empty as Pam still has the large majority of my clothes.


I watch some TV, play some backgammon on my phone, and generally waste time until 11 o’clock ticks around.  I check out of Ambler and drive to Byer’s Choice where I spend time chatting to Wendy in the store, and Dave in his office.  I go to the main auditorium to make sure everything is where it should be on the stage, and bump into Bob.  We talk about the programmes and how well they sold, and were sold, yesterday, and herein lies our great frustration.  Bob tells me that the $20 price tag was difficult for this particular crowd (not being the theatre-going demographic who would happily pay that amount for a well-produced glossy programme such as we offer), but still, through hard selling and marketing, we sold a goodly amount .  If only we could convince other venues to do the same, the situation would be very different.  OK, some places such as libraries and churches are not geared up for selling, but many of the sponsors are retailers in their own right and should really have done a better job.

As we talk Pam arrives laden down with two huge bags containing my clothes, she has been so generous with her time, and takes the bags to my dressing room.

There is now an hour to go and I start to get ready as the audience is let in to the hall to take their seats.  Today is going to be a massive crowd; many people were worried about the falling snow yesterday and swapped their tickets for today’s show.  I don’t know the number, but it must be pushing towards 800, and every chair in the building is sourced to accommodate everyone.  I am standing at Dave’s sound desk watching the crowd grow when a familiar smiling face comes up to me: Lisa!  Lisa Porter used to work at Byers’ Choice and for many years operated my tour – It was Lisa who negotiated with all of the venues, and arranged my travel and accommodation.  It was Lisa who was always on the end of the phone when I had left my watch, my pen, my cufflinks, my hat and countless other things in hotels or on stages around the country.  It was Lisa who worked hard to re-book flights when one was cancelled, and it was Lisa who drove Liz from airports to venues when she came to join me.  Lisa was the forerunner of Pam, in short.

It is wonderful to see her again and she is looking well and enjoying her new work (she left Byers’ Choice a few years ago now).  She asks me if I wouldn’t mind signing a book for her grandson who is just a year old, which of course I am more than happy to do.

Some eagle-eyed opportunistic members of the audience spot me signing Lisa’s book, and soon people are coming from here and there clutching a programmes or volumes of A Christmas Carol: ‘I know it is an imposition, but would you mind just….’

Fortunately the CB West choir launch into We Wish You A Merry Christmas and that is Bob’s and my cue to make our way backstage and begin the festivities.

The show and the response to it is very like yesterdays, and it is great fun to perform for such a huge group of people.  One thing has been nagging me throughout the tour, and I really want to settle it firmly in my mind, and that is the question: which way does Scrooge’s door open?  In the first scene Bob Cratchit, and Ebenezer himself, go to an imaginary door stage left and at various points open it or slam it shut.  Of course Scrooge returns to his office the next morning, and unlocks the door, before entering it and closing it behind him.  All of this is mimed, but during the tour I have realised that I am not being consistent with the door: are the hinges on the left or the right as I look at it?  Does it open inwards or outwards?  Is the door to Scrooge’s apartment the same or opposite?  This has become one of those issues that takes on huge importance in my mind and I want to get it right.  So today I make a decision, that the hinges are on the right (as I look from the ‘room’), and it opens inward.

The show goes on and we have lots of fun with Mrs Cratchit, and Old Joe, but unbeknown to me I am fast approaching a momentous moment in this years’ tour:  ‘Scrooge got dressed all in his best…’ up goes the top hat spinning over and over, only to fall squarely and comfortably straight onto my head!  This is only the second time that I have ever achieved this and there is a huge cheer from the crowd!

Of course such a large crowd brings a long signing line, but they are a cheerful and remarkably patient bunch of people.  Most who wait behind have seen the show multiple times and some have books that I have signed every year – space is becoming a little limited in those volumes now.

Pam hovers, and takes photographs, and moves people on well, until the last people leave clutching their books and it is time for me to get changed again.  As usual I have completely taken over the boardroom, with various items of costume hung over separate chairs to air individually.  I make my way round the room making sure that everything is packed up, and then get ready to leave.

I go back to my ‘theatre’ only to discover that it has almost been completely transformed back into a factory floor, with work stations replacing the rows of white seats.  Dave has taken the all of the lights down, and one solitary painting hangs on the wall above the now absent stage.



The small painting in the centre if the image is where the stage once was


Bob is controlling the operation, but breaks off to hug a goodbye.  It has been another great time at Byers’ Choice and as ever I am sorry to leave ‘Mr Fezziwig’ as he puts the warehouse back together after the Christmas party.

Pam very kindly helps me take all of my belongings, not to mention the two bags of laundry, to my car, and we have our own goodbye hug, before I set the SatNav and start to drive south.

Tomorrow I have to be in Occoquan, Virginia, which can be quite a long drive from Pennsylvania, so Bob and Pam decided  that it would be a good idea to make part of the journey this afternoon and have booked me into a hotel near Wilmington, Delaware tonight, which will just break the journey nicely.

Diamonds are Forever, read by Damien Lewis, accompanies my travels and I am so relieved that someone has at last got Felix Leiter’s Texan accent correct (I’m sorry to say that Rory Kinnear’s effort in Live and Let Die was not impressive.)  The character of Felix is one of Fleming’s best creations and he has been badly served in all of the films – so I am delighted to hear Lewis’s drawling and laconic accent.

After an hour’s driving I pull into the Courtyard by Marriott just outside Wilmington, and it is a very strange feeling to check into a hotel that has nothing to do with an event, there is an extraordinary feeling of anonymity about it.  I watch a bit of television and converse via Facebook’s messenger service with my son Cameron, who has just been involved in a car crash on the ice in England. He and his girlfriend are quite unharmed, but the car is a bit of a mess apparently.  It is a frightening thought, but I am so relived that they are OK.

After a little bit of online research I find that there is a good looking restaurant nearby and soon I am sitting in a very dark booth, struggling to read the grey print of the menu. Eventually I squintingly order the grilled salmon, grilled vegetables and mashed potatoes.  The meal comes and it is delicious, and just the right portion size, which is rare in American restaurants.

I go back to the hotel and have an early night.  Tomorrow takes me into Virginia, which really marks the last leg of the US tour, but I cannot relax yet, for there are another eight shows to be done here, and three more in England, so I must keep on top of my game for a while yet.

Sleep is coming.  What is it that I must remember?  Oh, yes. Hinges to the right, opening inwards.  Hinges…..to the right….opening in….hinges….hinges…hinges….zzzzzzzzzz