Singing Librarian flashbacks : Snow

Tonight’s rehearsal for Into the Woods is cancelled due to the exciting weather we’re experiencing in Britain at the moment, and this got me thinking about other rehearsals which have been affected by the weather.  The last time snow decided to see how good the British infrastructure is (answer: not all that great, really) was in February this year, leading to a couple of cancelled rehearsals for the shows I was involved with at the time.  However, “it snowed, so we didn’t rehearse” does not make a particularly interesting story, does it?

More interesting was a rehearsal for Me and My Girl.  This was my first show with Canterbury Operatic Society, and I didn’t really know very many people all that well.  This particular rehearsal was being held a little way out of town, in a school hall in the village of Westbere.  It had been snowing quite a bit, but the rehearsal was to go ahead nonetheless, but a little while before rehearsal, I got a call from the lady who normally gave me a lift, saying that she needed to head off to rescue her daughter who had been stranded by the train service.  Not knowing anyone else’s number, I realised I would need to make my own way there, so headed out to the bus station and investigated the situation.  Unfortunately, nothing was running to Thanet, which was the route which passed through Westbere, so I took the next best option, hopping on a bus to Sturry, a town which is at the bottom of the hill which leads up to my destination.  I hopped off at Sturry train station and began a trek through the falling snow, hoping that I would recognise the school when I got there.  Feeling slightly lost, and very alone in the dark, I hurried along the road, a journey of about a mile and a half.  I was terribly worried about being late, thinking that as a new member, I needed to keep my copy book as clean as possible.  I needn’t have worried.  When I did arrive at the school, remarkably close to being on time, I discovered that very few of my castmates had made it on time, and many did not make it at all.  I think I was the only one who walked part of the way!  This was probably an early sign of my rather extreme dedication to my hobby.

More recently, in February of this year, a rehearsal for When Midnight Strikes turned into an adventure.  The rehearsal in question was to be out first run of the show with full costume and as close to full props as possible.  I would be going straight from work, travelling by bus from Canterbury to Folkestone, so I wore my costume trousers and shoes, and had my character’s shirt and jacket with me, protected by a suit cover.  The weather forecast said ‘light snow showers’, but there was not a flake to be seen, and I received a text message from the director (who lived in Dover) to say the rehearsal was definitely going ahead.  Thinking no more of it, I boarded the bus, and was quite surprised when we started to see snow falling as we left the outskirts of the city.  The flakes rapidly stepped up in terms of speed and number of flakes, and the bus soon stopped so that the driver could announce that she’d had a call telling her to divert the journey via Dover as the usual rural route was a little tricky.  I sent a message to say I’d be late, and before long I got a call from the director telling me to give up and turn round if I could, as the snow was rather thick in Folkestone – he too had been delayed on his journey to rehearsal.  However, before I could take his advice, the bus stopped again, this time for good.  We were approaching a hill, which was apparently impassable due to abandoned cars, and we couldn’t turn around either.  The driver was most apologetic, but it appeared we were stuck.  In a place I didn’t know, in essentially the middle of nowhere.

Along with my fellow passengers, I got off the bus, stepping out into snow which was already coating the ground thickly, which was rather impressive given how little time it had been falling for.  As tends to happen in such situations, strangers consented to talk to one another, and we worked out that we were in a place called Capel-le-Ferne, and that we could walk into central Folkestone by heading down the hill which the bus could not attempt.  The long march began.  Sure enough, there were sufficient cars abandoned on the road to make it very hard for any vehicle to get through.  I soon began to realise that what I was wearing may have been appropriate for Christopher West at a New Year’s Eve party, but was impractical for the Singing Librarian in the snow.  The fault mostly lay with my footwear, as my shoes, perfect for the character and easy to get on and off (important, as I had to change out of and into them at speed near the beginning of the first act) had practically no grip on their soles at all, which did not help with the tricky task of keeping my balance in the snow.  I soon slipped over, landing on my suit cover, which was also a nice smooth surface and therefore aided my descent of the hill, just with a little less control than I would have liked.

About an hour later, I arrived in Central Folkestone and began to recognise my surroundings.  Or rather, recognise the buildings.  No roads seemed passable – clearly no busses would be going anywhere, let alone back to Canterbury.  My only hope lay with the rail network, but as my route to the station would take me past the rehearsal venue, I thought I may as well put in an appearance.  The delight with which my arrival was greeted was touching and amusing at once.  Only about half of the company (mostly students from the performing arts branch of the university I work for) had made it, and nobody was expecting to see me.  I was covered with snow, and was told that it was as though Father Christmas had made an appearance at rehearsal.  We ran through one of the songs, just so that things had not been a complete waste, and I headed back outside, having promised faithfully that I would let people know how my journey home was going.  The answer, once I had been at the station for quite some time : not well.  Not well at all.  It didn’t seem likely that I would be leaving Folkestone soon.  I called one of the group and was immediately told to join them in the pub, and that I could stay overnight with two of the cast, who had already been planning to host the director and the guy playing my brother after a night on the town.

Deeply grateful, I joined them in the pub, and from there embarked on another adventure which can remain untold for now, at least on this blog – a night out with the students.  To be followed the next morning by a journey that probably qualifies as epic.  Five hours to get from Folkestone to Canterbury, finally arriving at work at 12.30.  And all because of a rehearsal.  Snow may cancel a rehearsal, but it certainly won’t stop me from making every conceivable effort to get to a rehearsal which is still going ahead!

    • Trish
    • December 4th, 2010

    That is true dedication!

    My most memorable journey in the snow was the first time I went youth hostelling in the Peak District. We were staying in a ‘basic’ youth hostel called ‘Windgather’ (the very name makes me shiver) located in a very isolated position on the top of a very bleak hill. At the bottom of the hill was a pub.

    For some reason going down to the pub in the early evening seemed a good idea, despite (or maybe because of) the extremely cold weather. However the journey back in a blizzard in the dark was not so great!

  1. September 8th, 2013

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