With heavy hearts on Wednesday 1 November, we lock up our little Italian house for the winter and set off on the long drive: (Approximately 1330 miles), back to Calais and then the ferry over to the UK. The drive is okay, the weather had threatened to be bad, but it’s sunny all the way up the boot of Italy, Switzerland is dull and grey with a little snow at the side of the road at the Gotthard Tunnel. France is pretty much like a spring day in England, the sun is bright but there’s a chill in the air. After 13 hours of driving we take a break at a service station, and grab a few hours sleep. The following morning we continue on our way, half an hour into the journey and the red brake lights of the traffic in front glare angrily out of the mist. I slow and come to a stop, two lanes of stationary traffic with perplexed drivers wait to see what is happening. Seconds later and the wail of sirens is heard and a blue French police car squeezes between the two lines of traffic, six minutes later we are sailing past two vehicles moved onto the roadside, their crumpled bodywork giving us a clue to why we were delayed. The traffic flows quickly once again, and I wonder if the British counterparts of these French gendarmes would have had the traffic moving again so quickly? If this was the M6, probably not.
We pass through Luxembourg into Belgium, where we stop for some lunch. I opt for a salad bowl, all looks normal at the start. Sliced hard boiled egg and onions begin the dish, but as I uncover the lettuce and tomatoes I discover cheese, then ham, then potato. Okay so that’s not too bad, but it got worse, after another layer of leaves there was cous-cous, beans, more onion, some olives and then blue cheese. I beginning to wonder who thought this combination of ingredients would be pleasant when I hit a dollop of cold mashed potato. I decide to give up when the cold mash gave way to chopped salami. The salad is abandoned and I eat the bread roll that came with it, making a mental note to avoid all Belgian service station salad bowls in the future.
We arrive at Calais, board the ferry and feeling peckish we decide to try the curry, bad idea to be honest, it was not the best I’ve ever tasted. We disembark after a short delay and once again the driving begins, this time we’re heading north. For me the most boring, soul destroying part of the journey is the stretch from Dover to The M1. The roads are wet and the spray from lorries makes it hard to see further than a few feet ahead. Three and a half hours later we’re climbing out of the Berlingo and opening the front door and falling into bed.
Monday 22 November 2010. Rehearsals for Beauty and the Beast begin today, I meet the cast and we spend the day singing the songs from the show. I’m playing the beast and have ten songs to sing in the show, five of which are solo’s I have Two big numbers to do, one is ‘Love Changes Everything’ and the other is the Elaine Paige, Barbara Dickson duet, ‘I Know Him So Well’. I have to sing it, changing the him references in the lyrics to her. The first day goes well, our director Lara gives us the blocking for the songs and by the end of the day we all leave with a headful of dance moves and lyrics jostling for space. I come home and call the lovely Natalie Cástka, to tell her I'm singing 'our' song, as when we did panto together last year, we sang it together in the van. I was Barbara Dickson, by the way.
Day two of rehearsals go well, we’re putting the blocking into the script and going over the songs and dance routines. The rehearsal space is small and intimate, but we don’t mind as we’ve gelled well as a cast. I’m playing opposite my friend Steph, who I worked with earlier in the year. (She’s on the blog posting: Sunday 20 June 2010). The girl playing the house-keeper, Dora is Chlöe and she fits in really well with us as she likes filthy jokes and can’t stop talking too. I prepare dinner as the iPod shuffles in it’s dock, Tim Curry sings ‘I Can make You A Man’ from the motion picture, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Make me a man I think, that’s a nice gesture as all I’m making is pasta sauce. We open a bottle of Fragolino and chat as the tomato and chilli sauce bubbles away, soon we’ve opened the freezer and shots of homemade limoncello are being quaffed.
Wednesday 24 November 2010 and we have the afternoon off to work on songs. Steph and Chlöe come over to my place, we have lunch, which is a salad with olives and anchovies. We crack open a bottle of wine, followed by another, then we have limoncello shots before videotaping ourselves as we rehearse songs in my living room. The dogs love the animated actors leaping around and think it’s a good game, before Jacob rips the front of my script apart. We open another bottle of wine and tell jokes, rehearsals forgotten. I have to say this acting lark can be fun sometimes.
Rehearsals continue all week, songs, dances, lines etc. Costumes are tried on, everyone laughs at me in the Beast’s head, then we all laugh at Steph in her bonnet. The weekend comes and we have snow, and it’s bloody cold. Saturday we go to Rozz and Spike’s for a delicious curry. We drink wine and chat and have a pleasant afternoon before leaving their lovely warm kitchen to venture out into the frigid early evening air. Driving home and the iPod shuffle brings us The Saturdays with ‘Higher’ feat Flo-Rida, a sunny tune on a winters evening. I spend the evening with my friend Adam watching Strictly and The X Factor: How gay are we? We drink lots of pecorino, a delicious Italian white wine that Spike kindly gave me five litres of earlier.
Sunday 28 November 2010. It’s cold outside, so after a brief trip into town to do some unsuccessful Christmas shopping, I come home and listen to music and do some work on my laptop. Before uploading this weeks blog and settling down with Adam for another evening of Strictly and The X Factor. The results shows. I wonder if Wagner will get through again, I hope not as my mate Coley will have the screaming ab-dabs, and his Facebook status will once again inform us of his disgust, as it has almost every day since the Brazilian entered the TV talent show. (I use the term ‘talent’ loosely).
And the answer to the earlier question is: Very gay.