Plus ça change…
It has been a year of many changes. As I look towards 2019 and my seventieth year on the planet it is a really good time to reflect on change and to accept that there are some things that I can no longer do easily in the way I have been used to, and others that I should be doing to make sure I can continue working in the profession I love.
The first one of those is a decision to come down permanently from the knife-juggling chair balance routine. Those who experienced my fall on the second day at Shrewsbury Flower Show this year were amazed I could carry on with the show. I was amazed myself, but I suppose I just leapt into full adrenaline-fuelled mode and there was only a short way to go before the end anyway. Someone sent me a video but I still haven’t dared watch it. The hat was the fullest I have ever had, so thank you. I have mused on that hat for a while… perhaps I should fall over more often?
So if I’m not climbing up chairs what am I doing? It hasn’t been difficult to decide. I have so many routines buried in the repertoire, many of which are only half finished, so I have been developing those. I’ve also tried to be closer to the audiences, by which I mean to be more accessible during the show, maybe that means being more human. Making eye contact, stopping to notice particular reactions, talking to people. I’m also planning another height adventure, but this time without the danger. Something I’ve been toying with for a while. And that’s enough from Tantalus.
The first season without Mimi and Blue alongside me. This has been hard in many ways and if I didn’t know it was right for them it would be much harder, but little Mimi has had a lot of health challenges after the Rushden accident and its after-effects. It turns out she has a heart murmur, an enlarged liver and other issues so all in all she is much better off on the sofa with Blue and Hilary, having lovely hand-cooked dinners and sitting in her dog pram (yes, really) while Blue trots alongside for half the walk in the park. She then gets out and walks back for the exercise and because her dinner is waiting at home. When I’m there I love pushing her in the pram. She looks like a Queen, which she is, surveying her kingdom and receiving all manner of comments (most of them kind) and laughter from other walkers on route. But I do miss them in the lorry and in the show. I still do see them a lot when I am in Chester and staying with Hilary. They will join the long list of famous personalities who have once trod the boards with Mr Alexander.
As will The Old Time Rags, who after a lovely short season of shows with me on the stage have decided to develop their own stage, built on to the back of their live-in van. They have been fantastic companions this summer and we have all learned from each other, which is how it should be. I wish them great luck as they develop their careers together in this strange business. Another change in that I am welcoming other performers to join me on the stage, after years of going it alone. My role will to become the Master of Ceremonies, the Barker, the Stepright (‘Step right this way, ladies and gentlemen’). And of course the stage putter upperer. Which has been made a lot easier now with the addition of four hydraulic jacks, remotely controlled, which lift the stage trailer up to the required height and automatically level it. Expensive kit, yes, but only on the day I bought it. And ever since I’ve loved the ease, especially at the end of the day when I just press a button on the remote and we’re ready for the road.
Another bit of good change news is that Martin Orbidans, Mr Alexander’s Accompanist, the Queeen’s Pianist, will be making a comeback in 2019. He is currently living abroad and will continue to commute by air at the beginning and end of the season. He is coming over in mid-May and will stay until September, working every show with me. I have found him a lovely little vintage Carlight caravan to live in which will sit behind my car, allowing us a vehicle on site sometimes to escape from the showground. It’s very exciting and I am beginning to think up a range of routines which will be all the better for live music.
So all change, all good and all the best from a road near you,