As soon as I wake I know that I am going to be tired all day. The night was one of disrupted sleep and still I am wide eyed and not very bushy tailed at around 5.30.
Breakfast is not served in Williamsburg until 7.30, so I fire up the Nespresso machine which duly presents me with a very small elegant demitasse of wholly unsatisfying coffee. In need of further revival I walk to the lobby where there is a machine that grinds beans and dispenses a much larger cup which hits the spot.
At 7.30 I walk down to the room where breakfast is served and have the combined services of all the staff as I am the only diner to venture out at this hour. As I am showed to me seat, and as Travis fawningly introduces himself to me, a wave of sorrow comes over me: The breakfast buffet at Williamsburg was always one of the greatest on the tour (only rivalled by that at Hershey), and was laid as a long centre piece in the Regency Room. Now sadly due to the changes at the hotel the Regency Room is used no more and I am presented with a menu card instead.
Another couple arrives and Travis is as obsequious with them as he was with me. ‘Did you sleep well?’ he asks, gently rubbing his hands as if drying them. ‘Yes. very comfortable’, is the reply. ‘Sometimes sliding between Egyptian Cotton sheets is all that is required,’ says Travis in a perfect corporate response.
I cast my eye over the menu and my spirits are lifted by the promise of ‘An Old English Breakfast’ complete with fried eggs (‘will be prepared over-easy’), bacon, sausage, grilled tomato, mushrooms ‘English-style’ beans and fried bread. Perfect and I order the dish, asking for the mushrooms to be left off.
My orange juice and coffee arrive and I decide that this isn’t so bad after all! More guests are arriving now and almost every one mourns the loss of the buffet. The staff must have become very adept at batting away these comments over the past few months.
The breakfast arrives and it is indeed delicious, although I am not sure where in England the beans hail from but they add a nice sweet yet tangy flavour to the familiar tastes of home.
As soon as I have finished the meal I return to my room as I have a radio interview due. I have time for a quick shower and when I phone the station at 8.45 I am sat at the desk in a fluffy Williamsburg robe.
This morning’s interview is not to promote any particular event, but just a general feature about Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol and my career. It is a nice chat, and the presenter has done plenty of research which keeps the conversation moving from topic to topic. After fifteen minutes or so of chat I sign off with the inevitable ‘God Bless Us, Every One!’ and listen to his closing comments before hanging up.
I need fresh air. I need to walk. I get wrapped up and head down towards the Duke of Gloucester Street which is the main thoroughfare through the historic district of Williamsburg. The day is bright, the sky is blue and boy is it bracing! All of the familiar buildings stand in their various states of majesty (the Governor’s Palace at on end of the scale and humble wooden cottages at the other), and all are decorated with the door wreaths which are such a feature of Williamsburg at this time of the year.
Opposite the Bruton Parish Church I am dismayed to see that the charming store that sold garden goods and wreaths, and which has always been a favourite stopping place for Liz and me, is no more. It also seems as if there are very few people out and about at this hour, although I do witness a moment of rush hour traffic as two carriages pass each other in the street.
I walk up to the Merchant Square shopping complex where I am to meet my old friend Christine and her eight year son Erich who came to see the show last night. They are already tucking into a huge breakfast, with Erich almost hidden behind a stack of four waffles which are drowning in syrup. We chat about the show and Erich admits that he thought it was amazing and that he ‘loved it more than the Lego Ninjago movie’ which seems like a pretty good affirmation to me.
We are in a French bistro and over the bar there is a television screen showing old episodes of Julia Child’s The French Chef. Liz and I loved the movie Julie and Julia and a few years ago made a pilgrimage to the Smithsonian Museum where Julia’s kitchen is displayed.
Whilst Christine and Erich have their breakfast, I have a delicious cup of coffee. When we have all finished I say good bye and set off to walk from Merchant Square to the recreation of the old Capitol building, a distance of a mile. My stroll is brisk (CD would be proud of me) and the cold morning air is feels so good. As I am striding towards the Capitol the peace is suddenly broken by a loud siren which sounds rather serious: the sort of siren that is sounded when there is an impending nuclear attack, and as it goes off I remember my concerns as I drove past the various military establishments yesterday morning. Despite the unearthly wail nobody else seems to be very worried, so maybe I shouldn’t be either. I complete the mile trek and then walk half a mile back to the hotel and return to my room. When I switch on the TV all of the channels are showing an official screen explaining that there is a test going on for the warning systems relating to the nearby Surry nuclear power station. I probably should feel safer in the knowledge!
The rest of the morning is extremely frustrating as the Wi-Fi service is down (in fact it is a city-wide problem according to the front desk), so I am unable to get my blog posted.
I stay in my room and try to rest before the tea performance which will follow the same pattern as yesterday.
I get into costume and walk up to the dining room just before 2 o’clock and check my microphone battery with Chase, who is on audio duty today. At the top of the hour seating is started and the audience are in an ebullient mood. I pose for a few photographs and chat to many people that I recognise from past years (the people here love telling me how many times they have seen my show). Soon the servers are placing the plates and we are ready to begin.
I am in an energetic frame of mind, which bearing in mind my tiredness today is maybe not a good idea, but I go at it full tilt. At one point one of the buttons from my frock coat cuff pops off, but I manage to retrieve it when I am on my knees being dramatic.
The audience responds enthusiastically, and soon I am bringing the first half to end and vacating the stage so that the waiters can pour tea. In the short break I go back to my room, to dry myself off, but also just to be away from the guests who I know will start to ask me to sign books and programmes, and once I have done one the floodgates will open. But back in the room I read message from Liz with the very sad news that a friend and former colleague of hers has died unexpectedly back in Oxford. It is with a heavier heart that I return to complete my show.
Once I get going my mind becomes involved with the story again and all of the joyousness of the Cratchit’s party, not to mention Fred’s pushes the sadness of the news away for a while.
I finish up and take my bows and go through the well trodden route from Regency room to bedroom and back again where I sign all of the books, programmes (which have now sold out here) and menus for a very happy and festive group of people.
After the signing has finished I discover that the Wi-Fi is back on and I am at last able to post my blog.
To relax I have another of my lovely hot baths and lay on the bed where I fall asleep in front of the television. When I wake I look at my clock and see that I have half an hour to get ready. I decide to do the James Bond shower (scalding hot, followed by ice cold, although on this occasion I wimp out a bit and finish with another blast of hot.) I am still feeling tired and know that I am going to have to call on all of my reserves tonight.
When I get to the room all of my dinner companions (including Ryan’s wife Jeannie) are already seated and are chatting animatedly. Actually it is a good group for me because they all have backgrounds in music and Ryan is the centre of attention (he is a professional singer who teaches opera at William and Mary College), meaning that I don’t have to talk too much. I can feel my eyelids getting very heavy and on a couple of occasions I think I on the point of nodding off, although I must say that this has nothing to do with the company or conversation as they are a lively and engaging bunch.
At around 8.15 we get the nod and my last show in Williamsburg gets under way. I push myself on, taking care not to strain my voice, and don’t let myself get disheartened by a quiet audience. I know that often evening audiences are more reserved and I just have to carry on and not allow myself be ground down. In a repetition of this afternoon’s show another cuff button pops off and once more I am able to retrieve it under the cover of a gesture. Maybe I should be in Pantomime playing Buttons in Cinderella: Oh no I shouldn’t….Oh yes, I should! (that line will mean NOTHING to my American readers, but it is a traditional audience response to the pantomime dame on stage)
The show takes it all out of me, and by the end I honestly believe that if it were 3 lines longer I wouldn’t be able to deliver them. As I bow (to a standing ovation – so I was right not to be worried about the audience), I know that I have nothing left in the tank.
Fortunately the signing line isn’t that long and those that are in it are in fine spirits, including a couple who were at my shows in Pigeon Forge all those weeks ago at the start of the tour.
When I have finished signing I join Ryan and Jeannie in the bar for a little nightcap where we all miss Liz who has been here chatting over a glass of wine for my last few visits.
Soon it is time for bed, and Ryan and Jeannie need to drive home, so we say our goodbyes for another year and I return to room 3191. It would be lovely to have a nice relaxing lazy lay in tomorrow, and maybe a pampering massage in the spa, but unfortunately that will not be possible as I have to leave the hotel at 6.30 to get a flight to Minneapolis where I will be performing for the last two times on this years USA tour