Another night of dreams, and fitful sleep. Waking in the crepuscular light, praying I’d gotten enough sleep, waking to find myself in a faint-headed fuzzy-brained mood, askew, with a vibrating mantle over an inert brain core. Well, count on Dr. Footlights to get me through the show. After breakfast we got in the car and plied the narrow lanes to Halesworth. Astrid, as ever, had to futz with the nanny-function of the car, which immediately enabled lane assist. You don’t want that in this part of the world, where the lanes around 1 - 1/2 the width of most cars, and you’re constantly straying out of the lane to ensure you don’t clip the oncoming traffic.
We found the venue, the King Theater. Sounds elegant, no? You can imagine a little theater tucked away off the High Street, some old place with perhaps a tier of seats above, old footlights, musty faded history, a bit of ornate decoration to indicate its important cultural role in the town’s history.
It was a room in a car dealership. The King dealership.
Now, I didn’t mind; it suited the purposes just fine, inasmuch as there was a stage and a TV for my slides and sound clips. And a lot of chairs. I tested my equipment, walked around the town for 15 minutes, returned to a full house. Went to the wings, inasmuch as there were any, checked my watch . . . 11:59. Promptly at 12 I took the stage to kind applause, and began.
The subject was “British voices in American Radio: the actors who shaped the conception of England in the golden age of American storytelling,” a subject I came up with after about 30 seconds of thought. The invitation to do the INK came first, the subject came later. (The invitation came because Astrid and I had done local shows performing her mother’s work, and this came to the attention of the festival organizer.
I’d put together a slide show with clips, talked it out twice last week and once more a few days before I left, and was confident I could banter on for almost an hour or so. No notes; notes are for the weak. It all came back as soon as I started talking, the first joke landed very well, which broke the ice and let everyone settle back knowing this wasn’t going to be slow or dry. It all went over very well, and the applause at the end IF I DARE SAY SO was generous and appreciative, and everyone, I mean everyone lined up at the end to say something nice on the way out.
Your genial host was, shall we say, a happy and grateful man.
One of my favorite memories is sitting at this exact table in the Guest Huut in the late evening writing, and deciding that I should hear some music. I carry a small speaker when traveling, and I can access my satellite channels, and I went with the swank 60s movie music channel. It played an instrumental version of “You Only Live Twice,” a piece that has deep and profound meaning for all sorts of reasons. Somehow a lot of things came together. I just turned on the speaker and hit the same channel . . . and that’s exactly what was playing.
A few hours ago after dinner we were sitting in the kitchen, sampling the chocolates I got as a reward for the show, listening to Denis play in the other room . . . and of course Denis knew Barry back in the day, which is nothing I could have possibly imagined when I was, what, 12? That I would be here, in England, ever, in a beloved familiar place, at home in this room and this space with these people, in a way that seemed to reset and recenter and restore. How the hell did this happen?
Well, as I noted in my talk today, it’s all because I picked up the phone and called Peg. That set it all in motion.
Tomorrow: the pleasures of Halesworth!