Herewith an account of the adventures in England in 2018, written on the spot with scant reworking. The events depicted took place last week ago.

At the hotel bar, because I can't write across the street at the Crown. Also, pints are eight pounds. Same Slavic bartender. It’s odd to have a slight language barrier in England, but there are so many Eastern European people in the service industry I utter “excuse me?” a half-dozen times a day - usually when they employ a vernacular phrase I didn’t get.

There is a Yank at the adjacent stool who was enormously full of himself, and seemed disinclined to enter any conversation in which he could not be the sharpest, most fascinating person ever, so he's keeping up a running patter with the Slavic bartending staff. Quite well-spoken and enormously tiresome. I finished my writing work and went on to do a little Seven Dials research on newspapers.com, coming up with all sorts of horrible crime news from the middle 1840s. I read a few details to the bartender, who was mildly amused - history, eh? How about that, would you like another.

All right, FINE. Here, you’ll enjoy it.

 

And so on. The story had to do with the release of a novel by a former Seven Dials criminal who'd been transported. Probably all hooey, but the idea that people were thronging a book store in this gin-soaked hell-hole was fascinating.

Later at the stroke of midnight I went outside to consult with a small cigar. There was a lone security guard walking around the perimeter of the Dials, and I considered saying “hey, you’ve got an easy job compare to the constables of the 1840s” but I held my tongue. Three revelers came up Mercer and decided to ask me for . . . directions.

“Do you know how to get to Soho?” Said the fellow.

“Never ask a man standing outside a hotel for directions,” I said. “I’m not from here.”

“Where are you from?” Said the tall pretty blonde in a Slavic accent.

“From Minnesota, America, at your service,” I said. “So I should be at your service.” I got out my phone to look for Soho.

“He speaks English, why wouldn’t he know where we could get some weed?” Said the other girl. Uh - that does not follow. I looked at them and said “by Soho, do you mean the actual place, or weed?“

“The actual place,” the guy said. “Really. We just want to find some place clubby.”

I typed on the phone and found a fast route. Eight minutes, walking. Down that street I was just reading about in the 1840s crime report, then left on Shaftsbury -

“We were just there,” the fellow said, adding. “I’m from London. I should know where Soho is.”

That you should. I gave them good directions and sent them off.

NEXT DAY As I noted before, Seven Dials was first laid out by a fellow named Neale, and there’s a Neal’s Court around the corner. I went there last night to look for something, and didn’t find it. Turns out it was on the second floor.

 

 

No one expects this! Actually, I did.

 

 

The office of Palin and Gilliam. They recorded the albums up there. Well, some of them.

Head on in; see if you can find it.

Pack up, check out. Liverpool Street Station, where I have habits. I go here for this, there for that. Remembered Daughter’s self-consciousness last year when she screwed up the self-check-out process and felt like a stupid Yank. Today’s her first day of school in Brazil; I got that message on my watch just as I was paying for Scottish Water at M&S with my watch.

 

This place could be more modern and a bit cleaner, but I like it.

Then I went outside and watched an elevator ascend inside an impossibly tall glass tower, thinking: I lived long enough to see the future. Then again, who doesn’t?

 

 

On the train for Lowestoft, with calls at Blurtford, Saxmurfer, Ohfershire, Dalton, Moore, St. Connery, and Darsham.

I’ve done this three times now, and I think I can manage without assistance again. It’s not that I don’t know which train to take; I do. It’s how to ask for the ticket. I want the fast train to Norwich, but I want to get off at Ipswich and take the slower train to Darsham, but actually Lowestoft. This requires an up-and-over maneuver - leave the train, take a lift to the walkway over the tracks, then take the train that’s sitting there, waiting, to head off.

If you’re lucky, I gather. Sometimes it’s not there. The first time, I ran! And made everyone else in the family run, too. The second time, with Daughter last year, I encouraged alacrity. This time I strolled. Eh. It’s there. I’ll make it.

Some of the towns on the stop don't seem interested in visitors.

 

Then we stopped at Darsham; I disembarked, greeted Astrid with glee, got in the car, and headed to Walbers. The objective of the summer would be soon achieved.

I made it to the Anchor.

 

They were out of the ale I wanted.

But there were others! After three half-pints of Adnam's finest and dinner with the Kings, I went back to the B&B and fell asleep at the preposterous hour of 10:30, thinking “I’m going to be up at 4, aren’t I” but it didn’t matter. Three days into the time deformation of eastward jet lag, I was still a bit off.

Around ten AM the next day I went to Astrid’s house to run through the chat segments for the show, and then we greeted the other actors who would be performing in the first skit.

Have I told you what I’m doing here? No?

 

I’ll describe in detail later, after the triumphant performance. Let’s just say it’s like last year - we’re doing two of Peg’s scripts, but it’s bigger. There are more people involved, actual staging with blocking and props. Look, Ma, I’m acting!

Five years ago I picked up the phone and called Peg Lynch cold to talk about her 1950s radio show and now I’m in a small town in England doing her Albert character with her daughter as her Ethel character. It’s . . . just a vast joy. So.

The first read goes great, and we’re all right there. It jells instantly. The other actors are, well, actors, so they know what they’re doing. Break for lunch, then the second set of actors arrive for the more difficult skit - it has actual action and props and the like. The actors: an adorable and charming actress from Norwich to play the little daughter, and a nice old lady who is sedate and cheerful and your basic nice old English lady, until she starts to speak her lines - at which point she erupts into the fully-formed character of a dotty English matron, brilliant diction, charmingly dotty. Well:

June Beatrice Freud, Lady Freud (née Flewett; born 22 June 1927 in West Kensington, London[1]), is a British actress and theatre director. She is also known by her stage-name Jill Raymond, and was usually known as Jill Freud after her marriage to Clement Freud.

As a war-time teenager, she was evacuated to C.S. Lewis's house in Oxford and she is said to have been the inspiration for Lucy Pevensie in the Chronicles of Narnia.

Uh huh. She was in “Love, Actually.” And now I’m acting alongside her.

Have I mentioned how much this is sheer absolute delightful heaven?

After the rehearsals I went back to my B&B and slept. Overslept my alarm. Woke, went back to the King’s for more run-throughs on our presentation, then dinner and drinks and palaver, I had to ask Denis about this.

 

Oh, Cleese was in that musical he wrote. Long story.

At the end of the night I tottered down the dark lane to the B&B, and was reminded that this was the path Daughter and I took last year after an evening of equal duration and amusement - and while you might think “aww, time moves on, you must have felt a pang,” I was texting her in Brazil as I walked along. She had texted earlier about going for a walk, I’d sent pictures of the Kings and news from Walbers, then said do you remember that dark walk back, all the stars above, the glorious remove.

She did. And reminded me that I relieved myself en route.

And it was magical despite that. Such is Walbers.

 

Off to a smashing start! Tomorrow: rehearsals. And then the performance.

 

 

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