Heat, a hat and heady honeysuckle

An uneventful and leisurely drive down from Salisbury to Ilfracombe.  Salisbury, where I spent a morning en flaneur re-visiting all my old haunts from over forty years ago where as a young, ex-drama school, full-of myself acting asm I joined Salisbury Playhouse and three weekly rep for my first professional engagement.  Much of it was as it was and much was gone and very different.  The best was to visit the Arts centre in which, two years later, in 1973 or 74, I ran the first event which helped launch it from a beautiful but redundant church into a vibrant community arts centre.  A Five-Penny Festival ran every day of the Easter School holidays and over four hundred children came there daily for drama, events, making and processions for five pence a day (you could buy a large Kitkat for 5p then). The space there now is spectacular. (www.salisburyartscentre.co.uk) I spoke briefly to the operations manager, one of a team of 18 full time staff and almost as many part timers who now work there developing the arts for people, just as we dreamed of all those decades ago when the odd band of individuals found ourselves in possession of the keys to the church.  I was uplifted and so proud to see that wonderful space now extended and renovated, vibrant, popular and successful and to think that I had somehow helped the rebirth of that extraordinary space.

And so to Devon where the sun is shining and provides my dream location, next to the theatre overlooking the bay (photo below) and just along from the harbour, complete with the infamous huge pregnant woman sculpture by Whatshisname.  The half a cow ‘artist’.  The scent of honeysuckle is all-pervading here this year.  Everywhere we walk around the lorry, it’s optimistic aroma assaults the senses.  The area was the Victorian gardens of a huge hotel, demolished a few years ago to make way for the Landmark Theatre. I think it isn’t actually honeysuckle but a species of palm which grows everywhere in this balmy gulf stream infused county.  And it’s warm and mellow and it’s oh so happy.  So happy that I bought a hat!  A replacement for my two-year-old panama which now is held together by hidden Jaffa tape (an extra sticky brilliant orange version of gaffer tape!).  It was expensive but at least I now am earning and can afford to invest a little into the show, and especially as the old one was looking below standard.

A couple of days to do the washing, roam and relax and tomorrow I am revising some evaluation reports for Cat’s Paw Theatre, so I am keeping myself rooted a little in the real world and not becoming totally seduced by the romance of my life, which, accentuated ferociously by the heady notes of honeysuckle, the wonderful warmth of the summer sun and the shade of my lovely new hat has threatened to take me over at times today.

Victorian Week in Ilfracombe is another of those volunteer-run events whose core of dedicated individuals never cease to amaze and excite me with their energy, enthusiasm and eccentricity.  I am trying to come up with a Mr Alexander special for them again this year but as yet nothing has emerged.  Last year it was ‘Christmas Day in the Workhouse’, a recitation of the famous Victorian Parlour poem which I had learned by heart for the occasion.  Not sure how to top that one this time.  Perhaps better to attempt something of an entirely different nature.  Let it ferment for a couple of days and something will emerge. I fancy something of a mentalist nature, but not sure what.

The weather forecast is mixed but we’ll see.  I shall put the awning up which now has a brand new and rather fetchingly camp burgundy beaded fringe along the top edge.  A great success and lends the awning a real Victorian look, rather like a flamboyant standard lampshade!

All the best from a road near you,

Mr Alexander

The view from my window towards Ilfracombe harbour at night (the dark bit in the middle is the sea which you can't see!)

Mr Alexander