day 15, drive, H -Town and Interview

Stopped at the weird dark Mexican restaraunt en route, before we hit LadyLove town.

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Texas is amazing. We are so lucky that we get to drive thorough all these States. So full after dinner. I felt as though I would not be hungry for at least two days, but as Katharine often says – hunger returns.

We reached our destination – The Days Inn on the outskirts of Houston with some exciting-yet-perhaps-we-should-avoid-them inhabitants. And no lights in our room. Em and I in together, we had approximately 12 mins to change ( we were everso sweaty from the van, we have arrived back into summer it would seem) And emerge looking fresh, smelling better and ready to meet St John in Houston, or H-town as they like to call it.

Drove to TV/Radio station in Central Houston, via a massive traffic jam. Met with the lovely St John, changed in the toilets and sang Auld Langs Syne, Gaudete and ding dong, very amusing with musicians sat opposite us and not behind us. Filmed and sang and interviewed, hoping not ALL content was recorded, we were, after all, full to brimming with ‘van time’ and slight delirium. Then off to the Olive Branch near our motel. Beer and deep fried Parmesan lasagna covered in Parmesan breadcrumbs and with more Parmesan on top. Soup was nice though. Too full, once again, alas cannot seem to avoid filling up to the brim with salty foods here.

And that, my friends was day 15.

This is the interview…….. http://www.houstonpublicmedia.org/news/christmas-carols-from-the-mediaeval-baebes/

Day 14, Two tellies, the children, the lecture, 1200 people and a wee visit to the second hand store

Well my my my, time really has leapt away without me and I have almost forgotten myself and our American adventures to the toils of canal life. But here I sit, in my hometown, many miles from aforementioned stretches of water and finally I have both time and wifi to complete the last few days of our whirlwind tour – well it now seems like a whirlwind and geographically it was also said whirlwind but while we were there, we traversed the many seasons that it felt like months had parted each new venture.

So where were we, that’s right. We are now on to day 14. This is titled – two tellies, the children, the lecture, 1200 people and a wee visit to the second hand store.

So yes! Fayetteville, what a wonderful town. And we saw so much of it so very early in the morning. We were staying at a wonderfully large hotel right In the town centre and at 5.45, when it was still very DARK, we, just the Baebes had a rendezvous in the lobby in FULL regalia. Crowns, dresses, full faces et al. We met Erin and off we were whisked to the TV station to do not one but two early morning TV appearances, you know, the bit just before the commercials, or the end of the show. We sang Auld Langs Syne both times and it was a very exciting treat. We had to wait for a bit between shows and were sadly all a little starved so when we were finished we were then taken to a bagel place, it was a bit like Starbucks but full of bagels, ANY kind, in fact the ladies were so spoilt for choice that for some of them took quite some time to order, as I recall, waiting hungrily behind them. Beauties, all of them, however, I’d like to raise my hand as the – ‘I’m really not fussed what bagel it is or what I have in it, I would just like to put some food in my mouth immediately please’ Baebe, well for that moment anyway.

Then, we went back to the hotel and had an hour break before a schools workshop. I fell straight on to the bed without so much as even removing my shoes and fell into what we (Pom and I) like to call a ‘Geisha sleep’ where we lay flat without moving our heads so as not to disturb any make up or hair placements. This was effectively achieved and we bounded, like sleep deprived sprites, straight back into the chariot that awaited us and over to the newly built very lovely school where we were to run another workshop. This time there was to be no massaging. Thank you Clarey.

At this brand new, beautifully built school. we were on their huge new stage with a wonderful set and a fabulous crew, from tonight’s venue. We had sound and mics this time, which was, again, a treat. We had a wonderful audience and even a very keen fan – she was coming to see us tonight – and we sang, and taught them Salva Nos, we were princesses led by Queen Katharine and our slaves were indeed Princess Charlie and King Ben of the Bongoes and we had a very lovely time.

Then it was back to the hotel for some more sleep. Although Pom and I got caught by the Second hand store – Cheap Thrills, if you go to Fayetteville GO THERE. The purchases that were purchased are totally extraordinary, over an hour was spent amongst the rails and bargain boxes and so much joy was had, and subsequently HAS been had by the select few items we chose to buy in this fabulous place.

We ran back, still in our red dresses, to the hotel, flung our many bags down and threw ourselves into the sleepy void for a good couple of hours.

We were then taken, by our lovely host Valerie, to the venue……amazing venue, we got our own green flask drinking vessel things. We were SO excited. Hard to explain why as we genuinely do not know why we were so excited by these drinking apparatus but there we go. VERY excellent dressing room with a rug and a SOFA.

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Wee break between sound check and the pre show ‘creative conversation’ with members of the audience, so we visited the best second hand bookshop that I think exsists! Like a scene out of Ghostbusters there were aisle after aisle of singular second hand books. And I mean aisle after aisle. Miles deep it felt. Then I realised my friends music shop was not too far away so Pom accompanied me to May Bells music shop to see an old chum, from the ‘Old Time’ scene, who I’d met in London and Wales and hadn’t seen for four years. A beautiful shop down a very creative alley filled with all the stringed American folk joy instruments of your choice. Sadly we had only a short time together but she gave me some actual English Tea (PG Tips, apparently they sell it in Walmart!) and we took some pics and off we ran to get ready for the pre show talk. So good to see you Allison :) and how amazing to come and see you in your actual shop! In Fayetteville! Hundreds and hundreds of miles away from where we met! Uncanny and amazing.

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Food in the mouth (delicious too), make up on, dress on, questions read and partially answered in our minds – tick. And we were ushered out on to the stage by the most wonderful woman, a strong and softly spoken leader, and I am so annoyed at myself for – right now so many miles away and so many hours having passed, that I cannot recall, but she was like liquid gold. Anyway, she led the sessions with her amazing voice and we sat and answered and were, ‘in conversation’ with the audience. When the time was up and we had managed to get Charlie involved, we had to run off so that they could get the theatre opened and we could begin.

I do believe there were 1200 in to see us this night. Our last gig. And what a truly excellent time we had there at the Walton Arts Center and what a fabulous audience and how we are and were so sad that we have to end this tour.

With a funny feeling we got back in to our dressing room knowing that that was the last show, it was a bit of a – have to say it again- whirlwind of a day with so many
Engagements that we were finding it hard to stop and take it all in and realise that this was the last show. But, relentless as this tour has been and how it shall follow we boarded the bus of joy and sat for two hours as we headed towards – I have no idea where we were going….was it Oklahoma?

Bye bye Fayetteville we all loved you A LOT THANKYOU Waltons Arts Center. X

Day 13, we drove, again, all day, from Oxford Mississippi to Fayetteville Arkansas.

Another day of driving. I forgot what happened so I made some notes.

These are the notes.

That’s about it really.

Breakfast, Katharine melted her stage cup, breakfast was bad. Met a lady from Essex, she was happy to her our accents. Em and Ben in lobby, Ben was doing his weird voice thing with phone. Sent off other drive day blog. Drove 7 hours to Fayetteville, Thai dinner, delicious and warm Sake, Sophie poured mine. I poured hers. On drive we went back via Memphis moz teased us saying we were going to Sun Studios but we weren’t. Cracker barrell lunch and ye olde rocking chair porch. Bought Christmas decs for my nieces. The water boy, the square in Fayetteville with magic lights. Bed for early night, get up at 04.45 tomorrow.

Done.

Here are pictures.

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Day 12, Graceland garden, and Ole Miss.

This morning there wasn’t a headache, well not for me anyway. I think the enormous amount of food I had shoved into my mouth last night (all that South in my Mouth) helped me out of a possibly awful morning. After a breakfast of a terrible cheese omelette that looked like a tiny bright yellow pasty with the consistency of a tired old foam pillow, we were all ready to see Graceland. However, someone kindly informed us that ‘The Mansion’ was not open on Tuesdays. !!!!!!!!!!!!!. ????????. What? Honestly, this is clearly not meant to happen. However, good news is that the surrounding grounds and meditation garden – with grave – are open, so down we trotted.

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It is incredibly fresh in this part of the world this morning, a beautiful crisp and bright day, what better way than to meet the King (‘s gravestone). The wall surrounding his Graceland home is covered in names and wishes and expressed joy and love for Mr Presley. It is a long wall, there have been many many visitations. We were greeted by a lovely gate keeper who told us where we could walk, and up the hill we went on this fall-like morning. Orange and brown were the colours of this day/private land. A HUGE nativity greeted us halfway up. I think this was indeed Elvis’ very own nativity ‘set’, he was a generous man, by all accounts, and wanted to share holiday love, so there were gargantuan displays of Christmas-ness a plenty. We approached the Mansion and it was remarkably small. According to the security lady, back ‘in those days’ the sense of grandeur and scale were not as large as our modern expectations and so Elvis built a home that he thought was big ‘in those days’. It is neat and tidy and incredibly well preserved (obviously). We took the obligatory pic/selfie in front of the pillared porch and stared at it silently, imagining him traipsing around in front of his lovely house.

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On the way to the ‘Mediation Garden’ – which was built by someone, at some recent time, and managed to get the graves on Elvis himself, his mum, dad and grandmother and his still born twin brother moved to this Graceland location set into said ‘Mediation Garden’ – we walked past two beautiful horses. They frolicked in a playful and, what seemed to the naked eye, dangerous way, with each other and it was a beautiful sight. I wandered why they were there and who really looked after them and I had a lot of questions about the horses, but all the security people/guides, were also so very enthralled by their antics that I didn’t really have anyone to ask and I was also too busy making a bee-line for the grave of Elvis Presley.

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Once there, I was overwhelmed by the shrine. A large water feature with a lot of fountains in and a lot of noticeable wiring and ugly pipes making it both serene and terribly inelegant. I was sad to have noticed this, I like to think some people don’t notice these ugly details and just get on with being immersed into the space of death and grave-ness but alas it made me realise how ‘constructed’ all this was. To move people from their original resting places and to then be placed under a whacking great bit of shiny perfect marble with eloquent inscriptions in gold lettering and great fountain-like funfair made me feel sad. It seems insensitive to the dead, all for the benefit of the living. Of course, I understand why it is there and how important that is to people who come here and sit with their hero, and how inconvenient it would be to have to visit Elvis’ house and THEN have to get back in the car to drive to his actual resting place…….I mean, WHO wants to do that…..so let’s just put them all together in a lovely shiny package. Woop. Spiritually I felt very little stood in this garden of meditation with the pipes and the wires and the statues and the gold shiny marbles slabs. Are they even really under there? Anyway, I took the pictures and I thought about Elvis and I thought about how he was one half of a set of twins and that made me sad. I thought of his mum and his dad and his Grandma. This family that were unassuming, who had a son, who sang and touched so many peoples lives and greatly affected music history, amazing.

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I say all of the above, but I say it with a full heart and care for the real people. It was magical to be there, I never thought I would ever make it to this iconic place, and I feel so happy and I was so excited when I found out we were going to go there. Uncontrollably so, that when I got the voice message from Maurice on the bus, in London, about this part of the trip, I screamed really loudly, on the bus, in London.

Across the road is where Elvis’ aeroplane, the Lisa-Marie, and his Blue car, are. You can pay to see them when the mansion is closed and then come back and top up your ticket to go and see the mansion another day, apparently, according to the nice lady that told us. She goes there every single day, she doesn’t work there. I just made that up – about her, not the ticket. There is also the shop there. I bought an Elvis flip book of him swinging his arm around and a plectrum with his face on and a TCB badge – Takin’ Care o Business.

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We thought we were running out of time so I whisked Pom away from the many things that she wanted to take a long time looking at and then maybe purchase. We made it back to the van on time, and waited. Little did we know that the rest of the band HAD indeed, after all decided to go and look at The Grave. Turns out Charlie and Emily wanted to reenact the scene from Spinal Tap, where David and Nigel tried to spontaneously sing ‘Since My Baby Left Me’. They managed it with aplomb, and it was filmed by Anna. Another wedge of content for the ‘subscribers’ page – which doesn’t exist.

Then, all abroad and off to ‘Ole Miss’ university, in Oxford, Mississippi at the Ford Center for Performing Arts. Another massive venue, another fabulous crew, another large stretch of time, but that is always preferable any other option for a get in. We were staying in the beautiful and imposing hotel across the way and so it was delightful to get back to the hotel for a wee snooze pre show.

As this day was post Memphis day for a large majority of us, we were a little tired and no one seemed to document a single thing, photographically, in Mississippi.

Dinner was served at 17.00. It is so nice to be fed in the venues, the food is always much fresher and includes, as a rule, vegetables. Thank the Lordy. Today there was broccoli, I really love broccoli. We had salad also and (oh my god, we’re driving through Texas as I write this and we just saw a field of ZEBRAS, I AM NOT EVEN JOKING) anyway blah blah, dinner was awesome and we had loads of it. The stage was enormous and we were stretched across it, which was spacious but also perhaps a little too far apart, as the holding hands bit in Coventry Carol was a little more than strained.

Signings as per usual and a wonderful treat to meet everyone that we could. Then, during the get out – wonderfully un rushed as we could walk leisurely back to the hotel, no need to saddle up and pile into the van – I realised that I should have been collecting sticker/back stage passes from all the venues to stick on the back of my tap board. So they fetched me one and I was thrilled and now I wish I had thought of that from the beginning, what a lucky wee tap board to have travelled all this way across the Americles. Anyway, we hopped across to the hotel, and decided to rest this night. We were strangely knocked upon by a gentleman who said he’d worked at the station we had advertised at and wandered if he could take us out to the local bar, but this was a slightly unorthodox way of approaching us ladies, so we declined the offer and had a quiet night cap in Anna’s room, before one by one drifting sleepily off to bed.

God Bless you Elvis.

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OH and we got two massive chocolate cakes given to us. THANK YOU x

Day 11, Elvis and Beale Street, TN.

Again, we arose and a-drove. So much has already happened betwixt then and now that I may end up forgetting a lot, but this morning did precede quite a large night in Memphis. Anyway, I do recall that we went to a ‘Huddle House’ on this journey. I remember having a stuffed hash brown which had several meat products in, all containing the word sausage. It was yellow and sausagey. Then we filled the chariot a la monde – don’t even think that is a term, and off we wobbled. OH hold on, yes! That was in Tupelo, and Elvis was born/lived in Tupelo when he was a wee boy.

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We arrived on Elvis Presley Boulevard at about 15.30 and Maurice quickly ran into the ‘Days Inn Graceland’ hotel to ask about Graceland, which apparently had already closed for the day. !!!!!!!!!!!!!. ?????????. Hilarious. However, we were then able to focus our attentions on to our hotel…The Memory Lane, stuffed with Elvis paraphernalia and to our utmost joy, a guitar shaped swimming pool. I had already pre planned my swimming journey in said guitar but it was so very extremly freezing cold that I just managed to get my tootsies in (I hope that means toes here and nothing else).

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We were to wait a couple of hours before a group journey somewhere but Ben-Lighting decided to take a wee trip in to Memphis itself. This is about a $25 cab ride away but Sophie, my new room wife, and Charlie and I decided to crash in on his trip. Oh and boy oh boy oy va voi were we glad we did! There was a lot of freeway to be had between our hotel and the centre of Memphis/Beale Street and then we were skirting alongside the mighty Mississippi River, it was a slightly foggy night which excentuated the romance of the view. Then the cab man dropped us right off at the top of Beale Street and we were suddenly mesmerised by the largest collection of neon bar signs that we thought were actually possible in one street without setting everything on fire.

We walked the length of Beale street
OH! I have just discovered something – I was about to say ‘walking with my feet off and on the Beale’ and I just wanted to make sure I was referencing the song lyric properly and I WASN’T because THOSE AREN’T EVEN THE LYRICS. For YEARS I swore that those were the words to ‘Walking in Memphis’ and I was TOTALLY wrong. I am using a varied amount of both lower and UPPER case letters to, hopefully, demonstrate how utterly shocked I am about this as this is one of my most loved songs and I didn’t even KNOW THE WORDS properly. The ACTUAL (I’ll stop with the caps thing in a minute when I get over it) lyrics are –

Walking with my feet ten feet off the Beale.

Ok, I’m over it now.

Obviously he was happy to have been there. I too was ten feet off the Beale. Usually when on tour in America there is not another place in the world that I would rather be, not at any point of the entire tour. And this feeling was, if possible, magnified ten fold. Right there, in Memphis, there was no other place for me to be. Snaps snapped, moments captured, neons lights filling our memories both digitally and spiritually and then it was time to sit ourselves down, drink a beer and listen to some blues.

Very recently I discovered that when a group of people are together, doing something awesome and having an amazing time, it is possible that the group falls silent. Happiness and being content, the true form of both of those can, surprisingly, manifest itself as silence. There is no need to be any louder. And so we – lighting Ben, Prince(ss) Charlie, Sophie and myself sat quietly in BB Kings, listening to the live band (with curiously 90’s-esque costumes on emanating a synthetic 1950’s feel), drinking our drinks, looking around at all the other patrons for the night, and we were silent and happy. Sophie and I discussed our happiness after a while, it was mutually formed into silence. Wonder was continuously entering into our eyes and I ordered a blue cocktail and things got even better.

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We headed across the road to ‘Put some South in our Mouth’ and eat at, apparently, the best place to eat in Memphis. Oh and on the way, which was a mere 8 feet from BBKings, we were witness to a man somersaulting down the road, he lost his shoe mid flight, which worried me a little vu pt he seemed to cope fine without it. Back to the food place….It was nice, and good to stock up on something that will soak up alcohol. The best thing about this place was the size of the beer. Bars in America do not seem to sell pints as we know them, and this place happily overcompensated that for us by giving us all over pint sized beers, see this s#*t just keep on getting BETTER.

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We a

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We also discussed how, since Ben-lighting had shaved, he looked a bit like Nicholas Cage.

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Discuss.

Standing outside, waiting for the others to leave, I speak to the man on the door. Apparently ‘Usher’ is in town, doing a concert at the Fed Ex forum. I have never wanted to see Usher, but for some reason I was deeply compelled to go and see him, but I was whisked away and in to a souvenir shop and all thoughts of Usher left my brain and instead my eyes feasted upon all things Elvis. It cannot be denied that I LOVE a souvenir shop, and things. I love things. And after scouring the shop for the worst crime against souvenir sensibilities I found what I was looking for. This.

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I am so happy with this. I cannot explain why, but you can imagine how extraordinary this night is turning out to be.

We trail Beale street some more for more ‘stuff’ and sights. Sophie bought a hat from a different shop where the lady behind the counter was from Cambridge, UK. I’m always delighted and disappointed in equal measure to meet a fellow Brit in somewhere amazing. Terrible isn’t it – that I think that. In Memphis you can carry your drinks around with you from bar to bar, as long as they are in plastic cups. So we still had our diner beers on us. Ben had downed his already, I was about an inch off the bottom of mine, however the more cautious drinkers in the party still had a healthy amount left, and as we passed the resident ‘bums’ (I am loathe to refer to this group of individual humans who may not have houses or very much money as ‘bums’ but, well there we go I have just described them as they are in both my terms and American terms so I shall refrain from the possible ensuing apology) Anyway Sophie and Charlie gave them their beers, which received much cheer and off we went to ‘Rum Boogie’ bar. $3 entrance fee buys you the best house band in town. The place is dripping with guitars hanging from the ceiling, signed by the likes of everyone you’d like to see a guitar signed by. And Dollar bills cover all possible surfaces. Originally they were meant to have wishes on but now it has devolved into people just writing their names and where they are from, on them. We love this place and you can even smoke in there! I know!

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There are different sections of the bar. So we sit there and as we are lamenting the fact that all the others decided to stay in the hotel…..’stay in the hotel’ ???? In MEMPHIS……yes, I know they may have been picked up by a big pink limousine and taken to a place where Elvis used to eat – quite close to the hotel, and had larger than usual margheritas but COME ON kids #thiss@*tisforreal. I passionately sent a message to all enthusing about how awesome it would be to experience this place together, and it all came good after Sophie had been woo-ing Pom with our tales of joy and finally, at ‘Rum Boogie’ Pom, Anna, Maurice and Katharine stroll on in. Huurrrraaaaaaaayyyyyyy. We were so happy that there were more to the party and to enjoy the joys of Beale Street. We danced to the blues in the side bar (This band had the most awesomely sedate Japanese lady bass player, who looked like she would rather be eating her own feaces than be playing the bass, with the band or even AT ALL, and was even sat as behind-the-speaker as she could, but obviously she was deliriously happy, somewhere in her, what looked like, frozen soul, we all fell deeply in love with her, for being the coolest thing since her aforementioned frozen soul). We tipped when they sang ‘Tips Tips, Tips the band’…we drank bourbon and ginger in plastic glasses we tipped and tipped and danced and photographically documented the band/dancing/Sparkles/etc and then we headed down the road to Coyote Ugly.

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All there is to say about that is we danced on the bar pretty much as soon as we got through the door. I clogged along, on the bar, to the non blues music blasting out at us and we were up on the bar for some time. We were the film, with our clothes on (do they even take their clothes off in the film?) we kept our bras on and didn’t haphazardly fling them at the bar, although Pom protested that she has exactly the right bra for that sort of shenanigan, and was distray to realise she didn’t have it on.

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Then we went to the 152 bar. A lovely bunch of ladies that love ladies had woo-ed us to go and watch their friends band. And so we made it that way……we lost lighting Ben, Sophie and Charlie, as they went back to the hotel, having had fully experienced Memphis to their satisfaction, and we weren’t far behind. Yet another bar you can smoke in and a couple of beers later, we watched THE most awesome drummer, man, that guy clearly works out. I’m surprised he could move his arms at the speed he did considering the size of them. Anyway he was amazing, we danced and then when they were done we found ‘Joseph’ the cab man. He squeezed all five of us in his car – not his car, he doesn’t have a car but he’d like his own car – and he talked to us all the way home. We fell in love with him. So many things were discussed and shared in that cab journey. He was like our black grandpa. Rich in everything but dollar. Wise, beautiful and an open and warm assuring soul. Pom then did not let him leave. We left them there, after shouting at Pom, telling her he has jobs to pick up/money to earn, but their souls were searching around listening to the aged ground, talking of the pains of heritage and many many other things.

Finally Pom returned to the room, I found Katharine and Poms room, there was talk of defrosting one of the frozen beers, but I was done in after being sated via liquid form and I couldn’t do another round of the circular discussion Pom and I were having about Blues and American folk music. We were saying the same thing – gospel was also involved, I think we were agreeing but in a confrontational and disagreeing sort of way. Nothing better than a late night impassioned row about music.

That was that, over and out. Memphis, you were more than I could possibly ask for.

Day 10. We drive for 9 hours and gained an hour.

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This day we drove a really long way. Van time was had in abundance.

Not a lot happened.

Ben cleaned the windscreen, and Maurice filled the tyres with air.

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We found a Ruby Tuesday to eat in. We were served by Johnny. He used to be in the army. Clarey spilt my strawberry lemonade over me and my iPad and into my bag. I was tired and emotional, but it was ok because I didn’t want the drink anyway. It had so much sugar in it that it immediately gave me a headache. Johnny gave me another one in a take away cup, I felt bad because I didn’t want it. I had a massive chocolate cake, it went all over my face.

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We got to the hotel late and had a really awful pizza. Emily thought she had ordered pasta, but it arrived inside a bowl made of deep pan pizza base, she was not impressed.

We listened to Ralph Stanley and varieties of Country music. One by one we went to bed. Emily and I watched the Kardashians on TV.

That was the day.America is vast. Oh and we gained an hour, by driving. Amazing.

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Day 9, massive Straz Center, and hot hot sunshine

So we’d been at the Howard Johnson (bates motel) for two nights, an unusually long stay, and this morning we convened at 9am after managing to secure only a banana for breakfast and off we went. En route I managed to get my hands on a Corn dog for breakfast, a corn dog is a sausage on a stick covered in something like corn bread, it was meaty, fatty and delicious in equal measures. We then Drove to Tampa, very possibly via a pharmacy, as per.

We arrived in Tampa City, it has been a while since we saw tall buildings and a sprawling metropolis so it was a new day with a new vibe on and here, laying In wait for us was the South Bank of Tampa, an amazing massive venue. The American touring version of Dirty Dancing was visiting, and we were welcomed alongside them in poster form, in various parts of the building.

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Pretty much immediately we had to get our dresses on for another workshop. This time it was with two choirs who were about to go and sing carols in the park (in the heat and sunshine, hilarious. Must remember it is December). We managed to utilise Ben drummers skill set for this today and so full band were in on the act. Same format as yesterday but Clarey added a massage circle into the mix for her warm up. We Baebes were dotted around the circle and weren’t quite sure about how we felt when we had to turn around and massage the person behind us. I had a seven year old, and so did Em, it was weird, well it wasn’t weird, but, sadly in this day and age massaging a stranger child might be considered weird, but when we had to turn the other way I was massaged by said child who seemed to have the hands of a lumberjack, so you know, win some lose some.

Once again I introduced us as a variety of Princesses, intimating that we may very well own various stretches of land in the UK (well, in Sophie’s case…….). I masculinised Charlie this time and also bequeathed Ben with the role of King Ben of the bongos. He seemed to be happy with that. We sang songs and they learned the chorus’s/chorusi and it was lovely to have so many young voices belting out new songs that they picked up with great speed. Charlie once again shared a few of his instruments and Anna talked about hers. The hurdy, once more had a special yet mini section of its own and after more singing we were done. And on with the next mission of the day – the soundcheck.

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What a venue! This may be the largest capacity seater yet. The theatre goes dark for lunchtime (closes) so we were forced out on to the be-fountained streets surrounding this vast complex of theatres. For some reason, it has been noted that the peoples of America don’t tend to sit on the many grassy areas which adorn urban spaces. So we thought we would. The sun was bashing down on us and we lay down for as long as we could before entering the air conditioned darkness of the stage, for our set up and sound check. We quickly worked our way through with the help of the many stage crew and side stage monitor men, it was ‘Wit’ helping us today Pom, not ‘Kip’ or even ‘Kit’ for that matter.

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Then there was word that the beach was only a $12 cab away, so we feverishly gathered our bikinkies out of our suitcases, Ben drummer got his too, and off we went to get a cab. But no, wait, Maurice is going to drive to the hotel, and there is an outdoor pool, so let’s go there instead! So we ran back to the van and sat waiting for the others. But no, wait, it is a 15 min drive and by the time we get there we’ll only have enough time to put on our swimmers and jump in and jump out again to get back by 5. So Ben drummer, Clarey, Em and myself decanted ourselves back out of the van to find a table in the sunshine along the river in this Floridian version of then South Bank. See! It is difficult to coordinate for 12 sunshine deprived people.

So, we did indeed find a table and Emily snuck to the bar and brought out 2 beers and 2 glasses of champers. Champers in Tampa, pre gig joy all round. It shone on us and rained a little bit while still shining. We watched the speed boats churn the brown river up as they sped past with topless waving men on them, and Clarey (postulating once again, more ‘Hamptons’ less ‘yogic’ this time) seized yet another opportunity for a winter summertime photo shoot.

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Back we went to find a lovely dinner waiting for us. Some delicious steak and potatoes and salad, and ranch dressing. I LOVE RANCH DRESSING, so much. We seemed to have quite a lot of time to flop about pre gig today, so Pom made a sleeping area out of bubble wrap and some towels, I skyped my mum, who was sat in the dark next to the lit up Christmas tree in the depths of Cornwall, and there I was showing her around backstage and sweating in the heat as she was being all snug and Christmassy.

This gig was particularly enjoyable, the house was extremely full and we felt the grandness of the enormous stage and theatre that we were in, and it was absorbed into our show. Once again we ran out to meet our audience after the show, and once again we loved everyone we met. The wonderfully polite and lovely Freya, and the couple that had driven 8 hours from Georgia to see us and of course, here we meet the super Angel once again.

Photographs and signings later we ran backstage and almost slammed into the most enormous Sweetie trolley, laden with huge jars filled with thousands of sweeties. So we shoved as many as we could into our mouths and swiftly ran off……the ladies filling the jars backstage didn’t know who we were or what we were doing backstage dressed in mediaeval dresses with crowns on, but Pom explained and they were then delighted.

We rammed the chariot of joy back up with our suitcases and instruments and drove off to another hotel – which I can’t really remember now, but I know it wasn’t the one where I saw a raccoon on the car park……I saw a raccoon, a real life raccoon, running, in the car park, amazing.

Oh but it did have this wonderful display.

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This evening was an exciting evening for us because we’d had a lovely gig, no one was ill and we had two days off now AND Maurice had finally purchased the ingredients for the ‘White Russian’ party. So, we had a White Russian party in Kat and Poms room. Various dresses were draped over the many lamps in the room, as per usual, for ambience, and Maurice and Ben made, mixed and handed out the cocktails. So much milk!

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Then Maurice thought he’d have a wee rest on the bed, which was slightly partitioned from the sofa that Jamie, Charlie and I were sat on, so Clarey (once again, NOT on muscle relaxants this evening) took it upon herself to assume the character of Cilla Black and decided we were to play a game of ‘Blind Date’. It is advisable not to share the content of Maurices questions with a large public audience, or indeed any of either mine, Charlie, or Jamie’s answers. However, Charlie obviously did the best job of providing all the right answers as Maurice decided contestant number 1 was the one for him. That was Charlie, but the game was suddenly over when Charlie refused to stand up for the reveal/hug/kiss. It really was difficult to get him off the sofa. Pictorial evidence provided below.

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The party suddenly became very physical and dancey. Clarey and I went into extreme ‘twearking’ mode (that’s Mediaeval twerking). Which resulted in all the men leaving the room to ‘go to bed’, oh, maybe the inverted commas seem to allude to the fact that weren’t actually going to bed, but they actually did, I don’t know why I put them there, but I’m going to leave it now anyway.

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Some daggering took place, google it. And Katharine was surprisingly bad at holding her own and I managed to dagger her to the floor, but remarkably she didn’t spill her drink, she is an expert. Then there was the circle of dancing ladies. Sparkles the dog was having a truly wonderful time and we all took a little solo in the middle of the circle, then people started to lie down and it all subsided very naturally and the party was had and done, empty bottles and fun.

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