My alarm is set for 5.45 this morning, although as ever I wake before it. My first job is to get packed and as I mentioned yesterday this will entail getting everything into my cases as I will be flying again for the first time since Thanksgiving. My main worry is the weight, for last time I was very close to the 50lb domestic limit and since then the generosity of my audiences has increased what I have with me (most especially the bottle of Ceddy’s Sloe Gin). I get as much into my little carry-on roller as I can, and it is amazing how small two complete costumes can be squashed down to. 2 Frock coats (both heavy in themselves), 2 pairs of trousers, 2 waistcoats, 6 shirts and 2 cravats are all pressed down into one half of the case, whilst shoes, braces, cufflinks, chargers, socks, pens, CDs, USB drives, a sewing kit, a box of business cards, a pair of flips flops (brought especially for California but never worn) and various other things are packed on the other side. The case just about zips up. I usually pack my camera bag in here too but today there is no room and I will just have to hope that the gate agent doesn’t quibble over an extra item of carry on baggage.
My main case gets filled with all of my clothes, the top hat and scarf, the cane, various gifts (the bottle of course has to be in the hold), my wash bag etc and when I pick it up I am fairly confident that it will come in under weight.
Finally my brown shoulder bag is bulging with lots of books, as well as my laptop, charger, two pairs of sunglasses in their cases, and my SatNav unit.
By 6.20 I am ready to leave and pull the cases across the gravel to the car, which does not respond to the key fob when I try to unlock it. Strangely the lights on another car just down the row blink and it dawns on me that I might just be trying to get into the wrong vehicle.
I load up in the Hyundai (I had been trying to get into a Toyota), and drive it to the main entrance of the hotel where I complete the formalities of the check out, before going to the coffee station to grab a cup for the road. Another couple are doing the same, they are driving home to Raleigh North Carolina this morning. They have not been here for my shows, and have no idea who I am any more than I have any idea who they are, but we have a nice friendly conversation over the coffee machine. It is one of those moments when two completely different lives touch for the briefest of instants, before they go off on their separate paths again, never to meet again. I love those little inconsequential connections that in themselves have no influence on anything, but despite that leave the tiniest of marks on the lives of three people.
I get on the road and drive towards Richmond airport as the darkness breaks into one of the most glorious sunrises that I have ever seen. I follow directions to the car rental garage and sorrowfully say goodbye to my Tucson which has been a faithful companion over the last weeks. The gunmetal grey bodywork is streaked with the marks of salt and snow from the weekend, and it is almost as if it is defiantly saying to me: ‘ you WERE right to insist on an SUV, and I hope I looked after you!’ You did, dear friend, and thank you.
In the terminal I seek out a set of scales and put my case onto it and am relived to discover that it comes in at 47lbs. which means that I can put my camera bag in after all. I get checked in, clear the early morning security check (for some reason my box of business cards always rouses suspicion), and then seek out a restaurant for a plastic breakfast. This morning is one of those when all of the timings work perfectly, for as I finish my meal and walk to gate B12 the boarding process has already begun and I can almost walk straight onto the plane.
Astoundingly the flight to Minneapolis is a direct one with no layover, which is almost unheard of theses days. It is due to last for about 2 hours 30, minutes, and I decide to try Delta’s entertainment app with which you can use the Wi-Fi connection on the flight (without charge) and access the huge library of movies. I chose the brilliant Hidden Figures, the story of three women who were mathematicians for NASA in the early years of the space programme, breaking down sexual and racial barriers along the way. On the whole the system works very well, although I am frustrated by occasions of buffering, but I am pleased to watch such a moving film again.
When I have finished the movie I open the window blind and am delighted to see the snow covered landscape beneath me. Soon we are descending into Minneapolis, St Paul airport and I am back in the Twin Cities once more.
As I stand up and put my coat on I realise that I do not have my lovely scarf with me, which was a gift from Liz two Christmases ago. I think I packed in my case – but I cant be sure. I so hope that I haven’t left it in the car, or the restaurant, or at the check in counter at Richmond airport.
I make my way to baggage claim and watch as everyone else takes their bags, until eventually the carousel stops revolving. Of my suitcase there is no sign. To misquote my own show: ‘No Bag!’
I go to the Delta desk and present my bag tag and after much tapping on a computer keyboard discover that it never got on the plane at Richmond (I have no idea why that should be as I was not late checking in). Further investigation reveals that my case was then loaded onto a flight to Detroit, from where it will come to Minneapolis later this afternoon. I give the agent all of my details and she promises that it will be delivered to my hotel as soon as possible.
I have a show tomorrow, and I am glad that I have managed to get all of my costumes into the carry-on bag.
I make my way to the car rental facility where once again I ask for an SUV as there is more snow forecast over the next couple of days, and when it falls here it really falls. This time I am furnished with an electric blue Ford Escape, which has its own built in GPS system, meaning that my little English SatNav unit has finished its work for the tour.
I have been performing in Minneapolis regularly for the last few years and it is a very familiar city to me now, and can picture exactly where I am heading. I have been booked in to the Hilton hotel which is only a few hundred yards from the apartment block where I stayed in March of this year, and in no time I have parked in the garage and am in the huge lobby. It is only 12 o’clock and as yet there are no rooms available for me, so I go and find a table in the café and order a salad for my lunch before completing my blog and posting it. While I am working I get a couple of emails from the PR company that is working with the Aster Café, where I will perform on Sunday, detailing various media events that they have set up including a morning TV appearance tomorrow. I reply asking if they want me in costume or regular clothes, although that might be a moot point for at the moment costume is all I have!
By the time I have finished lunch and work I return to the front desk and now there is a room free, so I can relax and snooze, which is lovely.
Afternoon becomes evening: ‘No Bag’. I can however monitor its progress across the country by getting logging into Delta’s tracking system. I can see when it was loaded onto the flight to Detroit and even that it has arrived at Minneapolis. I know that it was on carousel 6…..and then nothing seemed to happen until the log changed to say it was being ‘set up to delivery’. I’m not sure what that means, but what it does not say is ‘Delivered’
I pass the time by watching the pilot episode of a wonderful new series on Amazon Prime called ‘The Wonderful Mrs Maisel’ and follow that up with the latest edition of Grand Tour.
As 7 o’clock comes round I decide to return to my favourite haunt Brits Bub, where I have a rustic and delicious Steak and Ale Pie and coincidentally find myself sat at the bar next to a lady from Liverpool. We exchange a polite, reserved, British greeting, but she is being outrageously flirted with by a young American lad, and rather enjoying it I think, so I leave them to their own devices.
Having finished my dinner I walk the single block back to the Hilton, where I stop at the front desk. ‘No Bag’. I check the Delta site again and discover that the file has now been officially closed, which is somewhat worrying.
And as I slip between the sheets and fall asleep there is still ‘No Bag’.
Fingers crossed for tomorrow!