A Christmas Carol, Brazilian GP, Brit's Pub, Chanhssen Arboretum, Charles Dickens, George Russell, Llandrindod Wells Victorian Festival, Loring Park, Mannies, Minneapolis, Music Box Theater, Nicholas Nickleby, The Hen House, The Minneapolis Club, The News Room, Wesley Center
Sunday began extremely well for me, with my Wordle puzzle being solved in 2! My standard score at this game is 4, over my time of searching for 5-letter words I have achieved this 92 times, whereas yesterday’s score was only the 5th time I have managed to do it in 2 lines, so it was definitely worthy of celebration.
With a six-hour difference between Minnesota and England, I took the opportunity of making a What’sApp video call to home and spent a lovely time chatting to Liz and the girls. It is always difficult for Liz when I am away (it is hard enough when we are both at home!), and it was good to catch up.
At the Minneapolis Club there is no breakfast served on a Sunday morning and the staff had delivered a small continental affair of some cereal pots, a muffin and a bottle of orange juice, but I had noticed a diner across the street called the Hen House, which looked to be a fun, lively place, so I decided to have my breakfast there instead. I don’t know how long the Hen House has been open, but it feels as if it should have the title of ‘A Minneapolis Institution’. All of the servers wore T shirts which showed a fake dictionary definition: ‘HAN-GRY – An irritable state of mind, that can only be cured by eating at HEN HOUSE eatery’. I chose a plate of 2 eggs, sunny-side up, bacon, hash browns and toast, which was delivered swiftly, and was delicious. I saved a slice of toast until last, and asked for some jelly to go with it (remembering to speak American) and was delighted when I was given a little pot of genuine strawberry preserve to spread. A particularly fine breakfast all in all!
Back to the club and I had a little time before the matinee performance, so I decided to walk around the city again, to get some cold, crisp, fresh air into my lungs. I wrapped up in scarf, hat and gloves, and strode out into the empty streets. My first destination was Lund’s grocery store, which I know well from my brief time living in the city, for I wanted to pick up a salad for my lunch. Lund’s is great, with the fresh produce immaculately displayed, and soon as I was at the salad bar loading up a plastic box with a dairy-free collection, and a Balsamic and oil dressing over it. I also bought a cheeky slice of apple pie, which I would save until after the show.
From Lund’s I took a stroll through Loring Park and past the two apartment blocks where I lived, as well as the venues in which I performed – The Music Box Theater and The Wesley Center where the two runs of ‘To Begin With’ were staged. Wallowing in happy memories and nostalgia I walked back to the club, and settled in to watch coverage of The Brazilian Grand Prix (the actual race being shown on the ABC network, which the club does have). I sat on the sofa and ate my salad, which was delicious, and watched as the young English driver George Russell won took his first victory in Formula 1 – it is always great to see a driver win for the first time, and he fully deserved it.
During the race I had a message from Jeff asking me to pop down so that he could introduce me to his colleague Heather who would be running the sound effects for the show, as he needed to be elsewhere. We had a brief chat and then I returned to my room, while she made preparations for receiving the guests. Back upstairs I made another call home to say goodnight – our eldest is going off on an adventure trip to Wales early on Monday morning, so I wanted to say goodbye to her, whilst our youngest was ready for bed and read me a story, which was wonderful – it will be great to be back home again on Tuesday.
At around 1.30 I started to get into costume, making sure that I had everything I needed – hat, scarf, cane, penny-piece in my pocket, and sucked on a Fisherman’s Friend throat lozenge, not because I felt a need for it, but because that is part of my final thirty-minute build up to every show. Venues, timings and audiences may be different, but I can find a sense of security by following a regular countdown. I made my way down to the library, where the audience was already gathered, and Heather was ready to make her introductory remarks. I waited outside the door, in the large hall area and when she started the sound cue, I slowly walked up the short aisle to begin.
Once again it was not an easy show, the audience were quiet, although they joined in with the Cratchit’s lunch enthusiastically. I have actually noticed this before with Minnesotan audiences in the past, they can be quite reserved and, well, almost British, dare I say? The show ran its course, and Heather did a great job on the sound effects, and as before I returned to the stage to take questions after the final applause had died away. Again, there were some good ones, the most interesting being ‘which modern author has the same influence as Charles Dickens?’. My answer to this is that whoever it is probably isn’t an author, as Dickens used the best available outlet to spread his characters, stories and social concerns across the globe – today he, or his counterpart, would use social media. electronic media, television and film to achieve the same ends. I believe that Charles Dickens should not be regarded as just an author, but as a global communicator
The session finished and I took another round of applause, before stepping down from the little stage and leaving the room. As on the night before I chatted with the audience as they left, and signed a couple of books, before breaking away to chat with Peggy Johnson and her family, who I had spied at the back of the crowd during the show. I first met Peggy goodness how many years ago at a show in Wisconsin, and over the years she has brought me back to the Minneapolis area to perform in various venues, including the amazing arboretum at Chanhassen, in 2016, when Liz was able to be with me. We chatted for a while about this and that, and it transpired that Peggy had been in Wales during the Summer with her daughter and had noticed that I was appearing at Llandrindod. They had briefly thought about coming to the show and surprising me there, but the timing of their visit didn’t quite work out. It was even more frustrating for her; in that the show she really wants to see me perform is Nicholas Nickleby which is what I had been doing in Wales! Peggy still has ideas to bring me back to the Twin Cities again and hopes that we can do a summer performance in an open-air setting, which would be great fun.
It was time to say goodbye and the formal part of my mini-tour was complete. I went up to my room on the 4th floor, changed and ate my apple pie, before resting for a while, indeed I fell to sleep on the bed for an hour or so. As darkness descended outside, I began to think about dinner, I had decided to treat myself to a celebratory meal, and had checked on two local restaurants – The News Room and Mannies Steak House, both of which would be open on a Sunday night, according to the Google Map app on my phone. At around 7pm I wrapped up against the cold and walked to The News Room first, which was busy and lively, but the hostess at the door informed me that the kitchen was shut, although I was welcome to have a drink at the bar. Answering my enquiry as to what time they had closed for food she answered, ‘Oh we kind of play it by ear, see what’s happening’. Oh well, there was always Mannies: dark, locked, closed. Nothing for it but to return to Brit’s Pub once again, where a trivia night was in full swing, the theme of which was Pokémon, and I can honestly say the questions may as well have been written in Greek for all I understood them. I ordered a Cornish Pasty, served with rich beef gravy and fries, with a rather unnecessary salad on the plate, and toasted the end of my trip.
On leaving Brit’s I crossed a plaza already brightly lit for Christmas, and walked the few blocks, through the quiet streets, back to the club where I settled in for my final night in The Twin Cities.