On The Road Again

Saturday 21st May

Grateful as I am for the kindness of my drivers over the last few days I am most pleased to be back on the road. I had decided to attempt to walk the last three miles towards Sparkbridge knowing that if I did fall by the roadside I could hitch to our next venue. I,m no stranger to sticking my thumb out as it is quite often more reliable than the train.

Lord Gregg and our new pusher Alison (P4) who was joining us from Lakes Alive were in good stride as I hobbled slowly behind. The calf was feeling tight but not as painful as the previous day so I am well on the mend.

Later the journey slowed to a gentle pace thankfully and the rolling hills and fields were as green and pleasant as Jerusalem suggests. Horses followed us along to the boundary of their enclosures and swallows danced and scooped along the roadside. The tranquility was kept peaceful enough by the absence of many vehicles.

Perfect were it not for the growing ache in my hip and right knee. The calf started to pull a little as we pushed on and fresh tweaks and pulls niggled me as my body compensated for the peculiar stride as we made our way along. Alison seemed to be enjoying the warm sunshine and and an excuse to be out of the office on such a lovely day and so we strolled along together very merrily indeed.

We turned into Sparkbridge quickly enough and I was pleased and surprised to manage the journey with minimal pain. Sparkbridge is a pretty little village with a stone bridge over a gently flowing river and a smattering of pretty homes of various shapes and sizes.

Arriving at the Royal Oak we were greeted by yet another Alison this time a kindly member of the bar staff and offered coffee in the sun soaked beer garden. I rested my leg up on the bench and we sipped our coffee and watched the clouds gathering.

Oh not again!

We moved inside as the temperature dipped and rested up. I nipped in and out to check the sky. It remained dark and occasionally spat. As we approached curtain up our optimism left and we trundled around to push Dolly into the pub as our wet weather contingency.

We set up quickly as the pub filled up and settled our audience as sympathetically as possible to view in the tight space. We had to massage our choice of routines as the booth didn’t quite fit under the ceiling. A group of teachers had joined us from Ramsden Infant School in Barrow and two tables were filled with holiday makers visiting from London.

The space was very tight, Dolly was only half built given the clearance and as such the show was chaotic but very enjoyable for the largely adult audience numbering 40 who generously filled the hat with £63.36

Our Landlord also seemed pleased as we were offered food and beer at the end of our performance and the keys to the local village hall where we were invited to bed down. Thank you to all at The Royal Oak. A fine night .

As our audience slipped off home and to their tables for dinner we were joined by Mark. A strong looking grey haired fellow. We had met him earlier in the day as we rested up outside a pub in Bouth and he had joined us a promised to see the show. He had mentioned on first meeting that his Aunts had been puppeteers many years ago having built and performed with their own marionette show during the early 1930’s.

Having recently moved home the puppets had been found in the attic and in a sad state of natural decay as they were made largely from moulded and painted paper. He had promised to bring them along for us to look at and there we stood spread over two tables viewing four boxes full of beautifully crafted marionettes. Knights, Kings, Queens, Elephants, horses farm animals. All manor of ancient strung puppets all now very carefully bagged and catalogued by Mark their inheritor.

“I’m not sure what to do with them. What do you think?”

My opinion was that despite some being badly damaged they are an incredible collection of historic value. We exchanged cards and I look forward to visiting as soon as possible to view them again and find out more of the history of his showman family background.

Incredible!!

Later Janice and Blez joined us briefly to deliver Alec (P2) who will again be our pusher.

Thank you Alison for all your help today as (P4)

My wife and son were in the audience tonight even though it was lovely to have them I’m starting to miss them more and more as we draw closer to the finale of our three weeks on the road.

It’s difficult sometimes.

We enjoyed the beer and famous Royal Oak curry before making back to the village hall to bed down. The hall itself looked very much like the famous Warmington on Sea drill hall the setting for Captain Mannwearings Dads Army.

Yes we did the voices.

Boomdang Theresa arrived in the morning with her van to whisk us safely along the rather dangerous and fast roads to Broughton. If you fancy a treat on Saturday night we are to be joined at the evening performance in Dalton by Boomdang, Tingtang and the companies young students for our final evening show. Theresa and her drummers are a striking act and I’m very excited to be sharing a stage with them.

On arrival in Broughton we managed to avoid a speeding ticket from the local bobby who later joined us for coffee. Nice bloke, even though he did slap a parking ticket on Dolly before he slipped out for some police business.

Having eaten we pushed up to Broughton School for an afternoon performance for the children. The school sat high up a hill above the village and I smiled as I caught sight of the sea once more.

After coffee in the staff room we set up and one teacher hearing that we feature a routine telling the ancient story of Lambert Simnell was most excited as her class had only recently studied the subject.

We performed in glorious sunshine with Mr Profit (P4) warming our audience as we struggled to tune our instruments. He would make a fine teacher of youngsters were he not already employed by Unison. The show went very well and we left waving to shunt Dolly though Broughton for the evening performance at The High Cross Inn.

The View from our pitch was breathtaking. The beer garden drops into a huge valley and beyond to high, lush rolling hills. To our left across the bay our home town of Barrow visible at last in the distance. The weather was kind enough and a large audience settled.

All the ingredients necessary for a possibly perfect show.

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