I arrived in Buxton in the chill early evening. Being rather naive, I assume that the halls of residence are near the University, so I go to the University. So, it seems, does everyone else.
As soon as I arrive at the gates, the security guard comes out with a friendly smile. "You looking for the Halls of Residence?" he asks. Yes, I am. "You one of them Italian exchange students?". I suppose I'm flattered, but no. The Halls of Residence are in the opposite direction to the University but most people don't realise this. The guard has a sense of humour about being confronted daily with lost people, or maybe he is just relieved to have a lost person who speaks fluent English. Or maybe he is overwhelmed by my Parisian elegance (only slightly marred by the absence of any cosmetics) - he offers me a glass of water before I set out. When I explain delicately that, after a two hour journey, this is a bad idea, he lets me use the facilities before I start my trek down the hill.
The halls are at the bottom of the hill underneath the railway line. Through some inspired coincidence, Michael the mad-keen train spotter is on the railway line side - I am on the opposite side of the building and to my astonishment, I don't hear a train for my entire stay. (Michael wakes up at 6:45am every morning to check out the 64... or whatever it is. It was all explained to me in detail, but as I didn't have to document it, I promptly forgot it).
All the shows are sold out. Bummer! I had hoped to see at least one show other than our own... well, it was not to be. I am still pretty tired, so I will take the chance to catch up on work and sleep in that order.
On the evening of my arrival, we have a celebratory dinner. I sit down to deep-fried chicken pieces on soggy spiced rice and think longingly of Paris... The Buxton climate is actually not that different, it is cold and rainy. But the food - alas, the English have never quite come up with something to equal my chicken salad. I eat the fried thing and stagger back to the university to work while indigestion wreaks havoc on my innards.
I wake up and do a morning run down to the Gardens and back. The Gardens are closer to the halls or I am fitter - I did the same run last year and took most of an hour, this year it only takes half that. Little furry critters flee before me - some things never change...
Rehearsal. This year, we have the Octagon, which is right in the middle of the Gardens. It is a lovely venue, but very public - we have a lot of people looking through windows, wandering in and out etc etc. Eventually, someone shuts the doors and draws the curtains so we can work in peace. Our extra aesthetic maidens need to be fitted in their costumes and decorated appropriately - for some reason, I am in charge of this, it is a bit like asking Attila the Hun to mind a china shop. Luckily Tiffany is prepared to help out!!
Hooray! We are right next door to a canteen we can get coffee!! Maybe I am not used to cows milk, because the coffee tastes quite odd. Or maybe the problem is that the coffee comes from one of those press-button machines like they have on the railway stations in Australia. Sad addict though I am, I can't drink it. I empty the cup into a garden bed, then apologise to the flowers.
Sunday night we have a working bee to let things down, take things up and add extra glitzy bits to the four spare costumes. Much to my amazement, they work out rather well - possibly because my main contribution is to organise the event rather than to actually participate!
More of the same. We rehearse. Today, I know not to grab a quick coffee from the Octagon cafeteria. I go back to Project X over the road, which does superb coffee using a proper coffee machine.
I go to the wool and craft shop in the mall about six times for ribbons and extra costume bits - eventually, I succumb and purchase a heap of wool for the plane trip back. It looks like we have 20 lovesick maidens and a sheep in the Octagon - maybe I bought too much wool?
I finish my first project and email it back to Australia... one down, one to go!
The big day!! This year, I know not to help with bump-in. When I am good and ready, I make myself breakfast and cart my costume down to the theatre. Since the costume is 90% of my baggage, I end up carting my suitcase down to the theatre and back. Twice. I really have way too much stuff!
I manage to get a quick lunch break and go back to the halls for some time out.
The dress rehearsal was pretty lame - everyone was saving themselves for the night. Luckily, it paid off. We were great and the audience loved us. I was extremely happy with what I did, we got a lot of laughs and at the end of it, our adjudication was all we could have hoped for.
Our cabaret also gets a rousing reception - people are quiet and listen to us. That never happened last year or at any of the cabarets I saw this year. Usually, there were people ordering drinks and moving about. This time they sat and paid attention to every word. Particularly good reception for 'Chocolate' and the 'Dance of the Cygnets', also for a racy version of 'Three Little Maids'.
Afterwards, we went home and drank everyone's duty free. Maybe a bad move - one of the orchestra seemed to be coming along with us for the party, but when I explained where we were staying he told me that they'd been banned for rowdy behaviour. Hopefully we won't suffer a like fate, because there was a LOT of duty free at the start of the evening and none at all by the time we all knocked off about 4am.
Outside my window, a local moggy, with an unerring cat instinct for finding a sucker, was crying. I wandered out (carefully!) and brought it in. I gave the poor little thing a cuddle and dried it off, then realised that I couldn't keep it in overnight so put it out again. All a bit of a waste really, but I do miss having little purring furry people around...
The next day I awoke at 6:30 and went to Edinburgh, but that's another story...