Once again I woke early on Sunday morning, giving me plenty of time to write my blog post. The day was to be a repeat of Saturday with one performance at 2 and one at 7 so I had plenty of time to relax in the morning.
At 7.30 on the dot I was in the restaurant where I availed myself of a continental breakfast to be finished before 8am so that I could be back in my room to watch the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from the start. I watched the entire race, the last of the Formula One season, and then got ready for the day ahead.
Although much of the talk had been of an impending snow storm the sky was clear and bright, although the temperature was noticeably colder as I loaded the car.
Once more I arrived at Manchuag Mills at 12.00 and had plenty of time to stroll around the the store and relax. As I admired the amazing displays one item stood out to me, and after a quick perusal of my forthcoming schedule an idea began to formulate in my mind. A few years ago the Vaillancourts had made a replica of Charles Dickens’ reading desk, and it still sat in the store, proudly celebrating the theatrical career of my great great grandfather. In a few days time I was due to be performing Mr Dickens is Coming in Nashua, New Hampshire, and that show requires a replica of Dickens’ reading desk! I realised that if I took the desk this weekend I could use it in Nashua and then drop it back to Gary and Judi as I drove back across the state on my way to The Berkshires.
I suggested my plan and Gary suggested that we load the desk into the car before the snow started to fall. The clouds were gathering and the sky was noticeably heavier than it had been when I left the Beechwood.
The first show would be to another capacity audience and the store was soon filling up with an eager and noisy crowd, many of whom availed themselves of the hot gluevein that Luke was selling. I returned to my dressing room and slowly prepared for the performance ahead.
When I arrived in the auditorium there were many old friends and familiar faces in the crowd and I knew that collectively we were in for a good afternoon.
Sure enough the performance went very well, although the audience weren’t as boisterous and enthusiastic as the day before’s, they were intense and thoughtful and reflective and enjoyed the storytelling. For the first time since I have introduced Fezziwig’s dance the audience started to clap along to the tune of Sir Roger de Coverley and gave me a little round of applause for my dancing efforts!
When the show finished and I’d taken my bows I returned to my dressing room to change and saw that the snow had begun to fall. the ground was white and the sky was grey. It was not laying heavily yet, but it looked as if it was set in for the day.
The signing session in the store was surprisingly lengthy (I’d assumed people may want to leave straight away to beat the weather), and I was presented with some lovely goodies to geep me sustained on my trip by very kindly friends.
The routine was well set and after I had changed I joined the staff of Vaillancourt Folk Art for supper, which on Sunday was a delicious chicken soup and a salad. After which I took the opportunity of the short break to curl up on my little sofa and nap.
The evening performance was always going to be a strange one, in that the Vaillancourts had decided to donate the entire show to the University of Massachusetts Children’s hospital. UMASS is the largest employer in the Worcester region, but it seemed that the event hadn’t been promoted heavily, or there wasn’t much interest in it, for the audience was only due to number around 50. With the snow becoming heavier and doom-laden forecasts of ‘thunder snow’ Gary didn’t expect many more than a handful to actually turn up. In the end there must have been about 20 in the auditorium, all grouped into the middle block of seats, which led to a very different style of show.
Everything was much gentler and quieter and it reminded me of the time a few years before when I was at Williamsburg being filmed for a news feature and they asked me to do some lines. On that occasion I just told the story, without being dramatic, and it was a complete epiphany for me, reminding me how the story should be told.
In my little theatre in the Manchaug Mills I narrated Charles Dickens’ words in a very natural way that gave the show more pace and freshness that sometimes I lose. In that respect Sunday night’s performance was a very important one.
Once again the audience lingered for a surprisingly long time, but eventually it was time to take me leave of the Vaillancourts for another year.
My Jeep was covered in about 5 inches of snow by now, so as the engine warmed the inside so I brushed and scraped the outside until the windows and lights were clear.
The roads around Sutton wind their way through woodland and are unlit. The snow lay heavily and had been compacted by other vehicles. I was so grateful that I had chosen this particular Jeep from the 5-Star Lane at Logan airport, for it boasted a large dial with SNOW setting which I selected.
The four wheel drive system looked after me admirably and I drove with as light a touch as I could manage.
Along the way I watched 2 wheel drive cars slither and slide, while I continued steadily and inexorably onward.
The main difficulty was visibility for the snow still fell heavily and the headlights illuminated the flakes making it look as if I was onboard the Millennium Falcon, making the jump to hyper speed.
I didn’t quite rival the Falcon’s legendary performance on the Kessel Run, which it famously completed in less than twelve parsecs, but i did get to my hotel in around 40 minutes. As I climbed out of the car I decided to christen it Franz, after the downhill skier Franz Klammer.
In my room I started to pack, as I would need to leave very early in the morning. At this point I had no guarantee that the roads to Boston would be passable, or even if my flight would be leaving, but I had to be ready to try.
I set the alarm for 4.30 and fell asleep watching The Legend of Bagger Vance, which seemed to be on a permanent loop on one of the stations.
Sleep consumed me quickly.
For todays Christmas song I have selected one that Mr Fezziwig would love to dance to at his Christmas party: Linus and Lucy by Vince Guaraldi