The Year That Changed My Life (Part 4)

[This is the fourth of a multi-part post.]

It was November 1989, Wednesday, Nov. 22 to be exact.

I was on a bus en route to Bath, England, researching my first spec screenplay, about the early life of Victorian actress Ellen Terry (illustration at right, with her later colleague Sir Henry Irving).

The following is a direct transcription from my journal of the time, written at the end of that week, when I was preparing for the final leg of the journey back to London in time for my 30th birthday.

This is what it says about the year that changed my life:

[Friday, Nov. 24] Yes, well it’s been a few days and lots of adventures in between. Wednesday the 22nd was a traveling day much like I hope tomorrow the 25th will go. I’d gotten a bus [coach] ticket in Freshwater and Tuesday afternoon I’d gotten together with Mr. Richard J. Hutchings and his wife, of Brighstone, who is a local historian of Tennyson. He and his wife picked me up at Cambridge Lodge and took me past the Farringford and Watts’ Freshwater residence, The Briary, just down the road. Anyway, I’d said all that before. Wednesday morning I had my last breakfast at Cambridge Lodge. The night before I’d been to the Albion and before supper walked the cliffs above Freshwater Bay. Wednesday a.m. I took the 8:23 bus to Newport. It was frosty and cold. At Newport I transferred to Cowes where I took the ferry over to Southampton. At Southampton I waited an hour and a half for a coach to Bath. It was a clear windy and cold day. When the coach got into Bath I headed for the Tourist Bureau and got booked into a room for three nights at 13 pounds per. Not as good as the previous places, but besides Tenterden, I paid more. After taking the local bus to Sheridan House at Bearflat and dropping off my luggage, I hurried back down to Bath and immediately found the Theatre Royal. There I talked to a Jane Tapley, who agreed to give me a brief tour on Thursday at 10am. I booked a seat for the evening performance of “Our Country’s Good” and went into town for supper and drinks. I didn’t find supper but I did find Guinness on tap and good conversation at the Smith Bros. Tavern Dorchester Ales at Westgate, just down from the theatre. All I had time for was a bag of cheese and onion crisps and a few pints of stout. I talked with two guys, one ditching his wife who’d been to New Orleans in the ’sixties and the other who want to talk Anglo-American politics. By 7:30 curtain, I had to drunkenly rush up to the theatre. The show was good, though a bit slow and amateurish. I really enjoyed being in the actual theatre Nelly played in Opening Night 1863. Afterwards I had drinks in the bar with the actors and a “hamburger” on the walk “home.”

[Thursday] Nightmarish – wonderful – magic. I had breakfast then ran up to meet Jane Tapley for the tour of Theatre Royal, Bath. After a 20-minute tour, I commenced to the Reference Library in Bath where a young man named Chris helped me find the Bath Chronicle for March 4, 1863 … I’VE GOT A COPY OF THE DRAMATIC MONOLOGUE! Hurrah! A thing I thought I couldn’t find! I was also able to get a playbill for the Opening Night of “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” I also chatted with a college student (blonde girl) who was doing her dissertation on Nazi art [?]. Directly after the library I took the 12:00 bus, at the bus station, to Bristol. What a dump Bristol has become! I wandered about the City Centre—the Tourist Bureau because I’d forgotten my map—then the Old Vic [Theatre Royal] where I bought souvenirs and arranged to take a tour on Friday. There was a performance of Ibsen’s “Master Builder” scheduled on Thursday at 3:00. I wandered up to the public library where I requested the Western Daily Press for Sept. 1862. I read the notices of “Endymion” on Sept. 15—then … came across the first of Godwin’s “Theatrical Jottings.” I wanted to have copies made, but the bound volume of papers was too big. I was able to jot down some notes. It was amazing to finally read [hear] Godwin’s own voice. I’m so far off base with him! He’s brilliant! After 4pm, I struggled wearily back to the bus station. On the bus back I had a drunk sit right behind me. I snapped at him and he wolfed back. I moved to the back of the bus. It was like an ominous note to a wonderful day—like the tumorous madman outside Tenterden—there’s a dark element to this whole proceeding. I went for a quick stout at the Smith Brothers, then had dinner at an Indian restaurant Tandoori [“Maharaja”] in Bath with chicken Madras, rice, and vegetables which made me sick later. It was odd. I stopped in for a last drink across the street, chatted with the Australian bartender and later, after I’d gotten back, was full of nausea and sickness—I threw up. A few glasses of water seemed to set me right and when I woke up in the morning I felt great.

[Friday] In brief, I’m dead tired. I’d like to get to London tomorrow and put my feet up for 2 days. Not go anywhere except by wheelchair. Today:

  • Bristol by 10 am. Portland Square. I photographed Godwin’s old home.
  • Tour of Theatre Royal Bristol at 12 noon. A gorgeous, grey-eyed brunette with a beautiful accent showed a handful of us around. I showed her the script later, but she didn’t seem impressed.
  • University of Bristol Theatre Dept. Talked with Mr. Christopher Robinson. George Rowell retired two years ago. Told him all about my project. Photocopied Keith Barker’s article on Terrys and Godwin in Bristol. Back at B&B by 5 o’clock.

I guess my big takeaway for this leg of the journey had to be the “ominious notes” that came from being on the road. Also, recalling the pure joy I felt in finding a missing piece in my research, right there in the Bath reference library.

With the good and the bad, I took things in stride, knowing change was just around the corner, and with it fresh possibilities.

Something, I believe, I still need to be reminded about.

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~ by completelyinthedark on March 24, 2018.

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