Bedford, Poole, Taunton, Eastbourne, Southsea, Alnwick


Day 20 - Bedford
We turn up at the civic theatre on time but it is locked. When we are let in by one the tech's I take a look around and see a very old theatre looking the worse for wear. It does though come as a surprise that we will be one of the last (if not the last) production put on here, as everthing gets moved over the road to the new corn exchange venue. The staff are really nice, but it does feel a bit odd when the three of us are left alone in the old church hall style venue. If not somewhat of a safety hazard. Poking around the old theatre I reveals it's age with overly officious signage, faded posters the 1920's and a broken piano with all the guts and springs showing. I imagine the home guard meeting in here like in Dad's Army. I wander in the town of Bedford which is uneventful but for purchasing this months Doctor Who magazine. We are given a rider! It is mostly cakes and crisps, which I munch on, ignoring the bananas. I think I'm the heaviest I've been since the beginning of the year. Healthy eating on tour eating is so hard, much harder than Edinburgh. The show is surprisingly good, like gang show entertainment.

Day 21 - Poole
Down to the South coast and Poole. I'm knackered and rock up into the dressing room of the lighthouse for a kip. In fact I kip for most of the day and don't really see anything or anyone until showtime. If I see another sandwich I will shoot someone in the face with it. I don't even remember the show.
On the way out of Poole we stop at a Tesco's 24. Look at this shelf of cider. This is Tesco's. It may look like an average selection of cider like any other Tescos's, but it isn't. You'd be surprised just how much the menu changes when you get near Somerset and it's neighbouring counties. Thatchers gold in both bottles and cans, Sheppy's Dabinet and three varieties of Cornish rattler, you'd be hard pushed to find those in the North West and North East in your average supermarket...and they're all gorgeous.

Day 22 - Taunton
Into somerset proper where I get a large flaggon of Sheppy's scrumpy that will hopefully make it all the way home to Manchester at the end of tour. In the car we listen to soundtracks from computer games, and I rabbit on about the Elder Scrolls RPG games until everyone is utterly bored, but at least I'm not banging on about Doctor Who anymore. Anything to stay awake at the wheel. I am amused by a shop called 'world of bears' but I don't know why.
The show is good for me and great for Charlie, plenty of laughs. I find it hard work, but wouldn't change it for the world. Five show's left.

Day 23 - Eastbourne
Eastbourne is lovely. It's Saturday (must hang on to what day it is) and the sun is shining, the sky is full of those guys on motorised parachute thingy's whirling about all over the shop which looks really exciting. I wander through the main shopping parade where like Manchester they have a shopping centre called the arndale, and down to the sea.

The Devonshire Park Theatre is old and lovely and we have a top show, really enjoyable. The landlord of the venue pub next door gets us to sign the poster for the show and will put it with the others on his wall. It's a thrill as I have so much affection all the British actors I see the names of on the walls. Awesome.
Our hotel is a small chain owned by John Malcovich the actor. It's our intention to look for the seventh and a half floor and climb inside his head, but unfortunetly as we arrive the lift has been broken by a dozen topless drunk stags who have all tried to squeeze into it. They all come out laughing like idiots as they inconvenience all the other guests in the hotel. We carry our bags up three flights of stairs. I want to push them all into the sea. There is a picture of John Malcovich on the wall of the room, looking p***ed off. I think he knows.

Day 24 - Southsea
It's quiet, not much is open and getting dinner is a chore as we go into the pub next to the Kings Theatre. Seeing someone eating a Sunday lunch I try to work out how they knew to order it being that there are no menus on the tables, and no specials board. On asking for a menu we get a single piece of A4 paper, with no mention of Sunday lunch on it. I go to the bar and ask if they do Sunday lunch. There's is a noticeable pause before the girl replies 'We do a Sunday roast?' Bless. She brings a friend of over to help with the sentence 'We've got Chicken, Beef or Pork, but no Chicken'. Charlie notices seating upstairs and tests them further. 'Yes you can sit upstairs, but there's no table service upstairs' came the seemingly adequate reply until we realise the kitchen is upstairs and the serving waitresses have to go upstairs in order to fetch the food down.
We have time to kill as Erin goes in to prep the show, so me and Charlie visit the D-Day museum. I don't know that I expected much, but it was a great display of vehicles and memorabilia, showing the preparation for operation Overlord and the sheer scale of the operation it's hard to imagine. Impressive and really sobering.
The theatre is gorgeous, another ageing beauty. The show is great too, and after we to the Phoenix for a pint where I get uncharacteristically shirty, then calm down (I'm just tired). The walls are awesomely covered with signed photo's and I get snap happy on pictures of Bernard Horsfall, David Yip, Sue Pollard, Tom O'Conner, Bernard Breslaw, Spike Milligan and the pub dog.

Day 25, 26 - Break & Alnwick
On the road for most of the day, from South coast to Northumberland six hours or so seeing nearly all of the A1/M1, deciding against the M18 connecting road just to be a purist. A nice meal where I eat some beetroot and cucumber, a chat to the wife, a pint and bed.
If you like books, Alnwick has an amazing second hand bookshop called Barter Books - it's just huge. I'm not a big reader and I spent the best part of an hour in it instead of visiting the castle which is also huge. The town itself is quite small but the people are canny and you can feel the history here.

John Cooper
Comedian & Improv coach
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