By Michael Wagg
‘twere well it were done .. slowly
We managed to prise ourselves away from the velvet ocean and pineapple cocktails of Hawaii’s big island, and drag ourselves onto a plane at Kailua-Kona airport. A remarkable place, the terminal ‘building’ has a roof, of sorts, but no walls to speak of. Very much in the open air, the airport is like much of the island, where inside meets outside freely. I was taken with the fact that our hotels, for example, had no front door. Once on board, off we zoomed to our next stop, San José. Luckily our pilot did know the way.
One moment lolloping on a tropical island, the next checking into a hotel in one of California’s silicon cities, in the shadow of Zoom headquarters (San José is its birthplace) this week I’ve been thinking a lot about pace. The pace of things: travel; change; life. Pace is part of the gig and journeying so often as we do, along with the particular rhythm of our schedule, there’s a strong sense of being here, there and, bloody everywhere.
We travel once a week, usually flying, and one of the tasks once we get to a new place is to try to really be there. It’s easier said than done, as the adventures come thick and fast, and often I feel part of my head is stuck in the previous place, still digesting and reflecting; still trying to catch up with myself. Time zones don’t help! Added to which, in any given week there’ll be meetings and planning to do for the following week (we have an education Zoom with next week’s faculty staff) and we’ll also be looking forward to what’s on offer there. So there are three different places vying for space in our Hariboed brains. I must confess it’s often pretty muddled in there, never mind the gummy bears, and rather than ‘here, there and everywhere, it can feel much more like literally a minute ago! Now!! And, blimey that’s tomorrow!!! – and tomorrow, and tomorrow…
The pace and shape of the tour can mean it all becomes a bit of a wondrous blur. And perhaps it’ll only be when we stop, after our London shows, that we’ll really be able to catch our breath. (Book your tickets now for London, by the way – they’re selling fast!) So I’ve tried to slow things down for myself whenever I can. Swimming works. So far I’ve managed to swim every day, bar one, since we left London. My one failure was the day of our 14 hour journey to paradise so I can be excused. When I say swimming though, I really mean splashing about merrily, so that has helped to slow the pace of things.
In terms of the travel, it all comes back to being here. And that’s the task on stage too. We try to be present. Just as on the journey there’s a pull to look back and a push to look forward, sometimes sitting at the back of the stage I have to consciously remind myself not to dwell on what’s just happened (even if it was a shambles!) nor worry about what’s to come (even when the little devil pops in to suggest you’ve forgotten the words!) We try to be here, now. Which is also easier said than done; but no-one said it was easy!
We often chat about the pace of the show too, and its running time is a gauge of that, but can deceive us. As with all theatre, there’s a running time that feels like the right duration for our particular telling of the story, but pace is a different thing and we try to welcome elasticity; wriggle room. Within the (exactly) two hours traffic of our stage (1hr 15, re-set, have a vape, 45 mins) we try to allow room for moments to expand or tighten, in response to each given space, audience or atmosphere. We’re looking for urgency without rushing, drive with pause for breath, moments to find their own pace. Time for such a word.
And the pace of (real) life here, where so much is dominated by the motor car, can often feel hectic. I’m not a fan of cars (in fact in more bellicose moments I declare they should be made illegal immediately) so I’ve walked wherever and whenever possible. To take things in at a walking pace – strolling, wandering, meandering, bummeling – has felt important; though those that know me will also know that my own walking pace is..well.. pacey. I love slow travel, but I like to stretch my legs!
This week I’ve enjoyed cycling around San José too, and along the Guadalupe River. And on day one here I slowed down long enough to spot the earthquake shake the bathroom door (5.1 magnitude, the largest quake here for nearly a decade, a news report said it “rattled nerves” only). Then by the end of the week we were jumping the trams in San Francisco. Trams are, officially, the coolest way to travel. Particularly with flowers in your hair.
The pace of change then, on a simple level, is the challenge. Just as we’re starting to settle in to one place – which mainly means knowing where the best breweries are – we up sticks and head to a new hotel in a new city in a new state. Only yesterday we flew 2,500 miles over ten states – from the Golden State to the Sunshine State, via the Peach State (Georgia). As we waited for our bags at the carousel (which goes at a lovely pace, and I’m sure is some sort of image of the inside of our heads) Anne noted that yesterday she was on the island of Alcatraz, and tomorrow she’ll be in a Florida swamp.
To add to the whirlwind, the taxi driver that took us, leisurely, to the hotel turned out to be a significant reggae star: a marvellous man who knew Bob Marley personally and whose songs have been covered by numerous bands, including UB40 (unfortunately!) To our delight he sang for us, beautifully, as we wended our way through the humid streets. And if that wasn’t enough to blow my jellied brain, moments after we arrived I met a Floridian couple who used to live in Sutton Coldfield!
I need a lie down, and this week I’ll mainly be floating in the rooftop pool and walking with alligators. Slowly.