Black Country

The following week, after a short but welcome day at home, I went back to the West Midlands to do 4 shows in 3 venues – Wolverhampton Wellbeing Centre, Walsall New Art Gallery and The Public, West Bromwich. In our new touring scheme there were 4 of us, Steve Wald as technical director, Louise Mothersole as performer and Marie Collins as ASM. We had opted to stay at the Premier Inn near West Brom as we generally like Premiers, given a tight budget. Steve Wald says that they must do meticulous research, Premier Inn people, since they manage to cut out all necessary expenditure on their fare, except those things that are truly just too annoying to miss. The only flaw in this best ever formulated touring plan is that I was driving myself up and down, around and about. It’s a force of habit for me to find driving the easiest option since walking is so painful (my arthritic knees) and I have a Blue Badge. Luckily the plan was also to give Marie a lift from London to the hotel the night before the show in Wolverhampton at lunchtime the next day. Luckily for me, that is. As we sped through Archway heading for the A1 a red light appeared on my dashboard. We stopped to read the car manual, topped the car up with pink fluid stuff, sighed with satisfaction at our ingenuity and headed off again. After 40 minutes on the M1 the red light flashed again. The only good thing about what happened next was that we were 5 minutes from a Service Station – so I could phone the AA from there. Then it was just damp, cold aeons of time – 7 hours, I mean 7 hours – before we were delivered to the hotel by a reluctant AA man at 2am the next morning.  Marie took this photo of me in a vibrating massage chair at some point during the ordeal. The next day I made the decision never, ever to drive on tour again… Things got better after that. My top moments were meeting a young man wearing an Afghan hat who told me that my work ‘spoke to his psychosis’ – we shook hands on that; the inspiring local ‘service user leader’, her daughter and grand daughter who came twice; the head of a local NHS service who talked movingly of her brother; and an old lady bent double in a wheelchair who knows all the words for Mambo Italiano and whose laugh threatens to shatter the reinforced windows.

Black Country