Snowed in at Sunrise

Snowed in at Sunrise

This past year has all been about a number of projects, the most rewarding one being the writing, development and touring of my first purpose- written solo show, In the Glare of the Neon Yak. There have been many magical moments along the way, particularly the week in October last year where I sat down and wrote the whole thing, and of course, the joy of taking it to new towns and meeting new people. It’s still an ongoing concern, with a couple of projects in development which I’m really excited about.

But for me, the biggest achievement was learning the whole thing. Previous to this last year, I could not even remember a three minute poem, so it seemed hugely ambitious, initially, to decide to memorise a whole hour show.

For a while, this took up all of my time. I would run over lines constantly, whether at the gym, or swimming, or walking, or even doing other things, the script of the show was with me for several months and I would aim to memorise half a page a day.

One weekend I decided to go and stay with my parents at their bungalow in Brixham, and the only project I had to work on was the show. My parents had a large room at the back of their garage which I use as a rehearsal space, and the idea was just to plant myself in there and continue learning and rehearsing the show. However, by the time I arrived, it was very cold indeed and the idea of spending two days in an unheated room during the coldest temperatures for many years in Devon did not appeal.

And then it started snowing. Snow is unusual in certain parts of Devon. I’ve lived here now for over twenty years and had never once seen it snow and settle. And it was an eerie time. I placed my script on the windowsill of my bedroom at my parents house right next to the radiator, and watched the snow falling, great big clumps of it which soon settled and coveted first the lawn, then the road, all within a very short space of time.

And as it snowed, I worked through the script. It was the first time that I felt comfortable with the material, the first time that I’d realised that yes, it was possible to learn the whole thing. And a very strange sense of wellbeing overtook me, the absolute comfort of being warm, safe, and with my parents, and with a project that seemed to be working, and the snow falling outside, this temperate area of palm trees and bungalows now covered in a thick, white blanket, while my parents chatted amiably and the central heating purred.

I had a gig that night at the Teignmouth Poetry Festival, but it soon became apparent that I would not be going. The roads soon became undriveable and as a dull grey sky lowered over the bay, I realised that I would be staying in Brixham for another night. But nothing seemed to matter, I had my script and my solo show and I had warmth and everything felt so weirdly serene.

I’m sure many people have had such magical memories of a very specific time and place, a moment where everything has combined. It was almost comforting to know that even in this modern age, nature can still affect the way we behave and the things that we do. Within a few months, my father was to pass away, and this adds a further dimension to my memory of the weekend, that it would be one of the last times I would spend with him, and the knowledge that I will never again feel the strange sense of wholeness and absolute family comfort from being with my parents in such a situation.

But most of all, I remember it as the weekend when my show became a reality, when it became clear to me that I would be able to fulfil whatever ambitions I had with it, and while it would then go on to tour all over the country, it would be born right at that moment, in a bedroom in a bungalow in Brixham during the Beast from the East.

Author: Robert Garnham

Performance and spoken word artist.

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