Making ready for the road

There’s a growing surge of adrenalin as the first gig of the season approaches.  Trying to make sure everything that needs varnishing or painting has been, the do lists of details ticked down to the last remaining few. The nerves come from worrying that everything will work ok or that I forget some vital widget, left in the corner of the workshop.  One of these days I will count the number of components that make up the show and are moved in and out of place in the setup.  It must run to over a thousand. I know each of them almost intimately.  Every one not only plays a fundamental part but also has a quality that I enjoy and has become important, not only for its use but its particular value.  For example, I have a small wooden box that contains the bolts and wingnuts that I use to fix the flats of the stage together.  There are just the right number of wingnuts in the box for the job so once empty I know that I haven’t forgotten to fix something down.  The box has a Use, it holds the bolts and wingnuts but it also has a Quality - it is the list of the things I have to fix down so when it’s empty the list has been all ticked off.  The wingnuts themselves have a Use and a Quality.  Some are new and shiny and are good for places they can’t be seen, but on some flats I need to use the older, blacker ones that can’t be seen by the audience or they would stand out.  To me at any rate, and therefore potentially to the audience!  Use and Quality.  Utility and Beauty, and preferably both, make up the things I like to surround myself with.

Today I am at the garage having the lorry oil and filters changed and final checks that the vintage lorry will survive till its thirtieth next year.  Tomorrow it’s the turn of the trailer stage.  Every year I renew the trailer axle bearings and have the brakes checked.

And then it’s the final pack and tie down.  Tying down things in the lorry and trailer after the winter is always interesting.  It dawns how many things have been moved about since I last drove it.  Most of the contents in my home are held down with bungees, on shelves with ridges along the front or fixed down so I am always pleasantly surprised how few things fall down on the road or fly about as we drive along, but there is often something I forget and find it has rolled around the back when we arrive.  The dogs use the cab as a dayroom when I am static and when it suddenly becomes a cab with me in there too, they look at me as though I am invading their space, which I suppose I am!  I discover all sorts of bits they have purloined and taken in there, old chewed pencils and forgotten ends of dog chews.  Yeuch!

But then it’s time for the off, the tenth final check that everything is there and the road beckons and I become my other self, the one that is really me, the nomad traveller eccentric showman.  'The last little show at the end of the world', as someone once called it.

A day later and now I am beginning to panic!  I just took the trailer in for the service and bearing change to discover that there’s something else that has to be done to it to make it safe and usable.  The guy says ‘We’re not cheap but we do a good job…’ and he needs it until 4.00pm Friday which means I wont arrive in Llandudno till late Friday with all the holiday traffic and then an overnight setup.  And I will have to squeeze the last juice from my credit card!  I am trying to avoid overnight setups because of the work and stress involved but there’s really no option.  And I daren't think about the credit card. At least I will have extra time to finish of some of the things off at the workshop, but it’s going to be a pain whatever.  I hope it’s not a portent of the summer!

I had a postcard from my mystery benefactor with some interesting clues as to their identity and location!  Multifarious mysterious messages! I’m on your trail!

Hope to see some of my friends at the Extravaganza in Llandudno this weekend.  Come and say hello if you are there, in the meantime,

All the best from a road near you,

Mr Alexander
Mr Alexander