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On Wednesday morning I continued my road back to being able to perform. On Tuesday I had finally left Manchester and driven south, so that I could be closer to my planned events over the weekend, in the hope that I would feel physically up to getting back on stage. The drive from New England to New York, specifically Long Island, is one that I should have been doing on Sunday, in readiness for the two hows I had booked there, but of course sadly that never happened. It is a route I know well from previous years, and actually follows in the wheel tracks of Charles Dickens’s first trip to the USA in 1842, As he made his way south he commented on Worcester ‘ a pretty New England town’; Hartford ‘The town is beautifully situated in a basin of green hills; the soil is rich, well-wooded, and carefully improved’; and New Haven ‘ ….known also as the City of Elms, is a fine town.  Many of its streets (as its alias sufficiently imports) are planted with rows of grand old elm-trees; and the same natural ornaments surround Yale College, an establishment of considerable eminence and reputation.’ All three of these well-remembered quotes came to me as I drove by, thinking about how quickly I was travelling, compared to the days it took him to complete the same journey by train and steamboat. I passed the time by listening to a new Audible dramatization of Oliver Twist.

My destination was Bob and Pam Byers cabin set high on a hill above the Delaware River, and the most perfect place to isolate, if only I’d been able to get there earlier in the week. The drive was a long one, and Bob and I had agreed that if I was feeling tired, I would just find a hotel and stop for the night. As I neared New York the traffic became heavy, of course, and the weather closed in with low cloud and heavy rain, so I decided to do the sensible thing and find a place to stop, and thanks to the wonder of the smart phone I was soon pulling up outside a Hampton Inn at White Plains, and carefully masked, checked in for a single night.

A Hampton Inn beside a huge highway intersection on a very wet night does not present me with much to talk about, but I spent a comfortable night, enjoyed a perfect waffle for breakfast, and prepared to finish my journey. I waited for the New York morning traffic to clear, and got on the road at 11 to complete the final 1 hour and thirty minutes of my journey.

The cabin is familiar to me, as I stayed here as recently as September, and it was wonderful to be back. I opened the sliding door to the decking and enjoyed the amazing view across the river, as well as taking lungfuls of chilled, pure air. Pam had kindly stocked up the refrigerator in preparation for my arrival, and I sat at the table with a plate of cheese, humous and an apple. As soon as I had finished, and cleared away, I began to rehearse, get back to work. I knew that I wanted to perform on Friday (the first after my recommended period of quarantine was over), but would I be able to? would my lungs have the strength and capacity to project? Would I be able to get more than one line out with coughing and spluttering? The answer seemed to be yes, I could, and I happily bounded around the large room as Ebenezer, Bob, Fred and the charity collector. It all felt fine!

The afternoon drifted on towards evening and I made myself a salmon and hard-boiled egg salad for my supper, which I ate in front of the television, watching the amazing film The Dig, about the archaeological find at Sutton Hoo in England, in 1938.

Although it was dark outside when I went to my bedroom, it wasn’t that late, so I decided to listen to one of my favourite podcasts, ‘You’re Dead to Me’ which is a lighthearted history pod, presented by a young historian, Greg Jenner. This week his subject was ‘A Dickensian Christmas’ featuring, as his expert, Dr Emily Bell, the editor of The Dickensian magazine. It was a fascinating listen, and I urge anyone reading this with an interest in Dickens and A Christmas Carol (which I am guessing is most of you), to give it a try. The link is below.

One more day of isolation, and then on Friday, everything being OK, I can get into costume again, walk across the stage as my sound effect plays, and say ‘Marley was dead, to begin with!’

Your’e Dead to Me Podcast:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m001ghmv