Sunday 9th September ~ Houston Vanilla

Houston Vanilla



Around five weeks ago, Shirley, a spiritualist minister at our church, took me to one side and predicted that I would ‘see’ a North American Indian during my US travels. “…but only you will see…other people will not notice” she said finally.

For Japanese




Now the memory of that conversation has stayed with me since that time. I certainly didn’t see one during my stay in New York – but then I didn’t expect to see one in the frothy metropolis of Times Square. Nevertheless I know enough to expect the unexpected and think and hope that have learnt enough to never second-guess life, so I tucked the prediction away in a corner of my mind, like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle, promising not to force it into the developing picture of my American travels, unless I found a space into which it fitted…



…The sky clicks, like a jigsaw piece, into the angular Houston architecture. At first I found it alienating and memories of England and especially my home town of Durham City came crowding in, producing the all-too familiar knot of homesickness that I always feel low in my throat when I am in unfamiliar surroundings.





Are people the picture within a frame of their environment? I have always thought that the frame that surrounded me in my growing years, has helped to form and produce the individual that I am. The frame of my city; the frame of my friends and the frame of my parents have all contributed to the entity that is now ‘me’. Opening my hotel curtains on my first morning revealed a frame into which I thought I did not fit and which, almost at once, brought on the familiar pangs in my gullet…



…not only that, but the humidity was such that it seemed difficult to draw oxygen from the hot air – perhaps one day in the far future, Housteners will develop gills to augment their lungs - People walk slowly in Houston to avoid evaporating.





After a space-shuttle descent, by lift, from my room on the 26th floor, I set out into the futuristic glass, concrete and metal world. Maybe because I needed to pull myself into focus, I searched out the centre of town, only to discover no real axis but several; some of them I know I have yet to identify.

My first walk down the angular streets soon became intimidating; the vertical buildings join the sidewalk at a set-square angle. I progressed like an ant, along the grid-formed streets; right-turn, left-turn…lost…



…then I found Main Street.

Main Street looks like all the other rectangular passageways, except for the local general-store. I gratefully retreated into a semi-shoddy conglomerate of £store cheapness, KFC chicken (and sausage-on-a-stick North-East English ‘Chippy-Dinge’) The higgledy-piggledy contents of nylon socks, shampoo, batteries, unfamiliar tobacco, sweatshirt, children’s games, and general-store paraphernalia rested my eyes from the hospital corridor sidewalks. After browsing for a while, I bought a ham sandwich and a packet of Bugler tobacco (!) And set out again into Houston’s geometric streets.



Passing the Dolphin Fountains on Main I felt the first spats of the storm that was about to lash space-town. At first I thought I had caught spray from the leaping jets, but the drops of water that spoilt my first half-rolled cigarette, caused me to look up.



The sky had become a vanilla and ice-cream soda float, pouring into the spaces between the angular buildings, where dimensions of vertical and horizontal became indistinguishable, lurid and blurred in the down-pour that hit like a forearm smash and drenched me in a steaming melting-pot of warm rain.



At that moment I was baptised into the raw spirit of Houston, where the peach like vulnerability of flesh is at mercy from its own artificial creation; where heritage is ripped down for the new and history dies at the end of the present moment.



Houston is the Savage Rose.

Sunday 2nd September ~ ‘Twas the Night before Houston

‘Twas the Night before Houston…



Ninth Avenue from the Top of the Hudson Hotel

…and I was lying on a recliner, right on the top of the Hudson Hotel in New York. It had been the last day of rehearsals for the “Whistle” company, before we all move to Houston tomorrow.


Click above for Japanese translation

You will appreciate that I cannot “blog” about what goes on in rehearsals; to do that would be the equivalent of a doctor, publishing details of your private visit – but what I feel I can say, is that this is one of the most special companies I have worked with, during my rather long career (42yrs). Perhaps one day, when I have long retired from this strange volatile profession, I will include in my theatrical reminiscences, stories of the moments that the vulnerable people I work with have encountered. We have many young members in our company; the youngest is around 8 yrs of age and the oldest member has reached the bridge of the half-century, but they all share the innocence of early childhood – an innocence and openness that is essential, in my opinion, for every performer.

Children remembered

But only a few

And down they forgot

As up they grew…

ee. cummings

All I feel I can say is that yesterdays final “run-through” before we move to Houston “we have a problem” (‘course we don’t – it’s just a phrase that makes people smile), astounded me. Frankly I thought it was Fantastic.

There was one moment, which was rather spiritual. Everything was prepared and so I decided to do something that I have never done before the production is on the stage in the technical rehearsals – I decided to set the final curtain-calls (the bows). Suddenly my mind went blank and I seemed to be stopped by an unseen hand. “Sorry I can’t do it” I said. Many company members then reminded me about the theatre superstition of planning curtain-calls in the rehearsal room. They and I felt it was a good omen – or “Spooky” as one company member remarked…

After the company left to prepare their private lives for the move and also for the forthcoming tour of the mid-west, I sat in the empty rehearsal room and felt the echo of the vibrations of the last two weeks; emotions do leave an imprint after the ‘emotioners’ have gone. To me it’s like a silent buzz; a sort of vibrating static that makes the air slightly viscous and treacly-fluid – I love it.

Finally leaving the Chelsea studios on W26th street (between 6th and 7th avenues, leading to Broadway) I experienced the usual ‘come-down’ to Normality (whatever that is) and hailed a yellow cab to the Hudson Hotel…

In the evening I visited “Whims” the fantastic restaurant that David and I found a couple of weeks ago and had my final New York meal. It was delicious.



Five Spiced Duck Breast

With fingerling potatoes

Sautéed Bok choy

And a Red Wine Raspberry Reduction.

Have you ever had a meal which is so delicious that you just have to go so slowly and savour each little taste?

The meal was served by a bright attractive and very friendly waitress called Rachael Lee. Rachael hailes from Oklahoma and we chatted about my impending move to Houston. Americans really know about good service and Rachael is no exception. I wish her well with her future and with her future plans, whatever they may be. Thanks Rach’

Sunday Morning…

I’m sitting in my hotel room, finishing this short entry, before taking a taxi to the airport in a couple of hours…

‘till the next time

(from Houston!)


I apologise for the lack of definition in recent photos. I forgot to pack my camera when I left for the States, so therefore all photos are from my camera-phone.(I’m actually a little surprised at how good they are)

Thursday 30th August ~ The Moon and New York City

If you look at the Module on the home page, you will see that it’s almost the full moon.


“When you get caught between the Moon and New York City
I know it’s crazy, but it’s true
If you get caught between the Moon and New York City
The best that you can do ……
The best that you can do is fall in love”


David and I have found a really cosy, yet modern restaurant just near our hotel. The food is gourmet quality and the surroundings are computer-chip modern and yet manage to be warm and friendly - all at the same time. (Click on the link below if you like good food, I really think they deserve a ‘plug’.)


click on the Japanese characters below if you want a translated page…


I wasn’t too well last night and I was a little worried as I slumped into the yellow-cab on my way to rehearsals, that I wouldn’t have the stamina for the intensive but fascinating sessions. “Whistle” continues to absorb most of my days - capturing the emotions within each scene feels rather like catching lightning in a bottle and managing to cork it, before it disperses into the aether. Fortunately around mid-morning, I sneezed, popped my cork and broke the cold that had been bottling up unknowingly inside my pounding head. Naturally I had thought (hypochondriac that I am) that I was due for a mild stroke at least; but the resounding “phsChawww!!” I unexpectedly produced - during one of the quiet scenes of course - cleared my brain and elicited ‘bless you’ responses from the cast. My “Thank you for your support, I shall wear it often.” reply, caused a gratifying giggle from the company members. Americans and especially American thespians, seem to adore my quaint English sense of humour (humor)

I’m getting really excited about our opening in Houston in around ten days time and our forthcoming tour of the mid-west. If your interested and especially if you live in the USA, do click on the link below. A word of warning however; if your internet connection is slow, put the vid’ on pause whilst it loads, otherwise it keeps sticking…

After our meal, David went to buy some fruit juice from an all-night store, whilst I had a ciggy outside. I looked up and there it was…..


Now click on the link below and have a private karaoke

(if you sing like me, I suggest the bathroom as the best location)



Love to Sarah and Pete Howarth who got married to this song…..


’till the next time


Tuesday 28th August ~ Whistle Down The Wind USA

Whistle Down The Wind – USA



From my hotel window

It’s been a week since I returned to New York to rehearse “Whistle” for the forthcoming tour of the mid-west. My initial impressions of New York and New Yorkers as being more friendly than Londoners has not lessened at all, in fact I am even more surprised at the warmth and friendliness all around me.

Translation for 140 languages by ALS

Perhaps it’s me – perhaps I am attracting friendliness and hospitality – drawing it to me like a magnet. It’s a thought…

I fully believe that most, if not everything we experience and gain (or lose) in life, is of our own doing. I believe we design our own successes and failures; our own harmonies and our own discords. Most times we are the architects of our destinies…

I first saw the film “Whistle Down the Wind” in the early sixties and although the story has now been transplanted from Lancashire to the mid-west of America, the central message of love and belief remains unchanged. So maybe it’s rubbing off on my attitudes to the people around me. There is a magic about the piece that unusually has increased in its present incarnation – maybe because Americans still have an unashamed belief in Jesus. Please don’t be offended, but Christian fervour seems more tangible on this side of the pond, together with a greater sense of identity. But then the UK is going through an all too quick change of identity, both in religious belief and also in social custom. Politicians must take into account that their ideals and visions of the society they wish to create may be at odds with the needs and wants of their ‘subjects’.

There is a drive in the UK toward a healthier society. Smoking is an easy target; a target that also allows folk in small positions of authority to say “No”. Real authority comes from trusting and allowing populations, rather than restricting and banning. Real power often comes from being able to say “Yes”.

Meanwhile violence and murder continue to increase. Greater focus should be placed on spiritual development and mutual respect; otherwise we may end up with a physically strong but spiritually hollow population. It is of little comfort to know that we may be mugged by a healthy non-smoker.

The quantity of life does not equate to its quality.




At my hotel door.

My present work-rate is extreme and therefore this Almanack entry is short, but I will post another within a couple of days.


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