Wednesday had promised to be another relaxing day in the cabin, possibly doing some work on the script for A Child’s Journey With Dickens, until I had received a text the day before from Bob’s son George asking me if I would like to join him for a round of golf (I had mentioned to Bob that I had brought my golf shoes just in case there was time for a round, and he had passed the message on). I readily agreed and George arrived at the cabin to pick me up at 8.45 in readiness for a 9.40 tee off. The course that he had selected was Heron Glenn Golf Club near to the town of Flemington from where I would be collecting a rental car later in the day.
We arrived at the club in good time and sorted out a set of rental clubs for me, which would provide a perfect excuse for poor play in the early holes, and made our way to the first tee, where another two players introduced themselves as Bill and Michael and told us that they would be playing with us, which turned out to be a good thing as they were able to show us the way around and warn us of hidden areas of rough. They had broad New York accents and George and I tried to guess what they had been during their working lives: we came up with either police officers, or maybe in the newspaper industry. We never did find out.
We had a wonderful time, I wont go into it hole by hole, but we all played some very good shots and we all played some woeful shots. On the whole George played more good shots than the rest of us, and if we had been competing he would have vanquished us, but we weren’t and instead we all had fun
From the golf course I had to pick up a rental car which will be with me until I arrive at Logan airport on Saturday to fly home. We were to go to a Hertz dealership in Flemington, and it took a bit of finding. In our defence the venue didn’t look like a Hertz office. In fact it was a very small car repair shop, with scattered bits of wounded automobiles lying on the ground. The only clue that the office may be part of one of the world’s leading car rental concerns was a tiny sign on the wall outside the office. I walked in and said I was due to collect a car and that my name was Dickens. ‘Ah, yes.’ said the lady in the office, its the white Nissan Rogue, here are the keys. Its got 3/4 of a tank, just drop it off with the same wherever you’re leaving it.’ And that was it! No signatures, no driving licence check, no credit cards: nothing. Easy, but I was not entirely sure that Hertz head office knew that I had their car.
I said goodbye to George, although we’d be meeting up again for dinner, and drove back to the cabin, where I took the Mustang out for one final journey to fill it up with petrol (during my drive to Burlington I’d watched the fuel gauge go down as quickly as the speed went up!) When I returned, I sorrowfully guided it into the garage and said my goodbyes.
George had booked a table for dinner in the town of New Hope, 30 minutes away, in a very smart restaurant overlooking the river. Maura, George’s girlfriend was also there and it was a great pleasure to meet her. She is going to be working with Pam on the administrative side of my tour and she was keen to find out as much as possible as to how it all works. She will be a great asset to the team, I think. We all dined well, I had a spicy Asian trout dish which was absolutely delicious, and it was a very pleasant evening with good company.
I returned to the Cabin for my final night in the woods
Although I had only one show on Thursday, in the evening, I did have a little extra work to do at Byers’ Choice, for David wanted to record a few promotional videos for the forthcoming Christmas tour. Firstly I sat at a large table and, looking into the camera, cheerily invited people to come and see A Christmas Carol at Byers’ Choice. Next I cheerily asked them to come and see A Christmas Carol at their local venue (this means that sponsors can put their own captions and booking details on the screen.) Then I told people that they may like to buy my book, and finally a piece about my DVD of A Christmas Carol (Yes! It is available this year). When all those short clips had been filmed Dave and I created a mini Byers’ Choice travel show as I walked through the visitor centre pointing out things of interest, especially relating to Charles Dickens and A Christmas Carol.
When the filming was finished I said my final goodbyes to Dave, Bob and George (who returned my golf shoes that I’d left in his ca)r, and I set out on the road East, towards Long Island. The traffic wasn’t too bad until I reached the environs of New York City, at which time I inevitably hit long tailbacks – some because of accidents, some because of roadworks and some just due to heavy city congestion. I had plenty of time in hand, though, so it was not a concern.
To skirt around Manhattan my route took me across the Verrazano Bridge from Staten Island to Brooklyn, and it has to be one of the world’s most truly impressive bridges to be sure, rivalling The Forth Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Sidney Harbour Bridge, and even its near neighbour, the Brooklyn Bridge. The heavy traffic continued onto the misnamed Long Island Expressways but I arrived at the Marriott Hotel in good time. I had stayed at the same venue last Christmas so everything was familiar to me.
I had an hour or so at the hotel before I was due at the East Meadow Library where I was to perform the double bill of The Signalman and Doctor Marigold that evening. The drive to the library was only a matter of minutes and in no time I was greeting my friends from December Jude and her husband Mark, who helped me to unload my costumes and props ready to set up in the small auditorium. The first job was to reconstruct the danger light for The Signalman, using the screws and screwdriver that Dave had sent along with me. Mark used to be involved in Broadway theatre in the tech, set and props fields and as we built the light he was commenting on the construction of it, with a certain sense of admiration, but also with the inevitable ‘Ah, if I’d made this I would have……’
Soon we had the set in place and Jude suggested that we all went to get some dinner before the show, so we piled into Marks huge RAM truck and headed to a lovely Italian restaurant, where we dined alfresco, beneath huge sunshades. I had a simple chicken dish in a white wine and lemon sauce, which was delicious, but I was aware that time was pushing on towards six pm and we were due to start at seven. Mark noticed my unease and offered to drive me back to the Library so that I could finish my preparations in as relaxed way as possible.
The priority was to do a sound check with Larry, who had looked after my performance in December and who I knew to be a safe pair of hands on the faders, because of that I had also given him the wind sound effect to play during the first half. With the sound check completed and the set checked once more I left the room, so that the audience could take their seats, and went downstairs where I changed in a small staff cafeteria room.
At seven o’clock Jude came down to say we were holding for 5 minutes as guests were still arriving, but soon everything was in place to begin. Jude opened the door to the auditorium (the seating was raked, and I would be performing on the floor level), and I slipped in behind her, which elicited a round of applause form the audience, to which Jude hissed back at me in a loud pantomime-style whisper ‘you were supposed to stay outside!’ It was all good fun banter, and Jude is a natural entertainer.
With the introductions completed I started the show. The audience weren’t as responsive during the two performances as some others, there was not the same laughter at Marigold for instance, but oh my they were appreciative and applauded long and loudly afterwards. I learned long ago that audiences respond in different ways and just because there isn’t an instant response, it doesn’t mean that they are not enjoying, or appreciating the performance, and the crowd at East Meadow were a case in point. After Marigold was finished (and, yes, they gasped at the correct moment), I opened the floor up to questions and we had an enjoyable session covering lots of ground, including how do I learn lines? What is my favourite film or TV adaptation of any Dickens novel? (David Lean’s Great Expectations, or the BBC’s Bleak House), and how did I feel about the Queen? which brought the emotions that have been there all week bubbling up to the surface again. Soon it was time to wrap up and I took another round of applause before leaving the room. I loitered outside as the audience left and the questions continued until the library emptied and it was time to pack up my belongings, say my goodbyes and head back to the Marriott where I set my alarm for 5.45, as I had a three hour drive ahead of me to Massachusetts.