Northampton, Didcot, Great Torrington, Borehamwood


Day 2 - Northampton
Having been in Northampton once already for a radio appointment we're back again. It's only day two and I have spent most of it sleeping. The theatre is massive, and the crowd is too, it's a cracking show. I don't recall much else.

Day 3 - Didcot
Didcot Cornerstone is a new arts centre and theatre, right next door to a cinema. I'm upset that I've missed a load of good movies including Super 8 and Captain America, so I go and see Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I like it. The venue is a studio space, all modern and cool, and made the nicer by Emily the front of house manager, who is very welcoming and very fit too. I look at her. I have been away from home for too long and give myself a big slap then phone my woman. The show is great.
We stay in the Kingswell Hotel, built over a well where one of the previous owners threw themselves in. I'm reminded we are in cider country as they serve a rather good cider and have a great pint beneath a picture of Winston Churchill.

Day 4 - Great Torrington.
After a B road drive the village of Great Torrington is lovely and has bunting hanging in the street. At the 'Green Lantern Cafe and Bakery' I order a ham and cheese toasty, a cheese and onion pasty, a cake and a mug of tea which all comes to £3. We are back in time. Charlie and I find a map of the town which includes the places such as 'Ladies Wash' and 'Bastard lane', we try to find Bastard lane but there is no sign post at the location for it when we do and an amusing photo call is lost.
There is a lot of history here and once a year there is a LARPing event where people get dressed up as cavaliers and try and bomb the town with cannons, to recreate an event involving Oliver Cromwell and 200 kegs of mislplaced gunpowder. There is a hill outside the town which was created with body parts. At the theatre they tell me about the history and the people are quaint and a bit scary.
The show is odd. As Danny Pensive I play mostly to silence and wonder if I'm holding up a mirror too close to the locals perception. There is one particularly long silence which I play to and let hang with a simple closed yes/no question, waiting for a least one of the 150 strong crowd to answer. No one does. It remains a silence.
In the toilets after the gig I spot a swastika carved into the wall, and overhear some children talking about Alistair Crowley.
We make our exist after the show and head off into even darker boonies and the Ram's Head Inn for accomodation. The landlord is incredibly welcoming and chatty and the rooms are very elaborate. In the bar we get chatting, the landlord spots my Doctor Who t-shirt (one of many) and starts discussing my favourite television show. I happily join in until he tells me of the programme before my time when he was young, a show about a man who lived in a council house and built a tardis out of a shed he had in the back yard. What? I go to correct him, but he's insistent. It's all Erin our tour manager can do to interject so I don't go apeshit. I get as far as naming the date and time of the broadcast of the first episode before the conversation is changed to something less dangerous.
I go to bed and watch the american apprentice final. Piers Morgan has won as he is a massive ****.

Day 5 & 6 Borehamwood
A day off and we drive to Borehamwood via Avebury, a small town with a big ring of stones and a National Trust site where creepy kids serial 'Children of the Stones' was filmed back in the 70's. I walk the circle with my headphones on listening to atmospheric soundtrack music to get the full on pagan magic effect.
Then on to Borehamwood, a bit of soul-less place after the last few days. It is however home of Elstree studios where some of star wars was actually made, and they still have some big budget movies shoot here apparently.
I've driven all day and I'm knackered and hungry. Wandering back to the hotel past Elstree with a pizza in one hand and a 4 pack of cider in the other, the older surrounding building's still look authentically 50's with their square partitioned single glazed windows, wood & glass doors and big wire mesh gates leading to warehouses behind . You could easily imagine it being a big hub of activity a few decade's back, but now not so much. It's all office space and I can look in and see stressed faces buried in computer screens.

The sun goes down and the sky is weird orangey pink colour. It looks beautiful, but at the same time quite oppressive. Show tomorrow.

John Cooper
Comedian & Improv coach
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