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Down to the Isle of Wight today to see The Villagers do The Tempest. I'd texted my old pal Dan, who has lived on the Island for many years, two weeks ago to ask if he fancied meeting up for the play and he'd agreed. Then this morning Dan phoned to say his dad Glyn and Glyn's girlfriend Erica had said on a whim that they'd like to see the show.

They live in Portsmouth, close to the Isle of Wight car ferry port, so I met them there and we travelled over together. I've known and got on with Glyn for ages. It was the first time I'd met Erica, who's from Austria; she was pleasant and friendly. Dan met us when we arrived at Fishbourne and drove us to Quarr Abbey, where the play was being presented.

Quarr Abbey is still a working monastery of Benedictine monks. There's a souvenir shop, selling mostly Catholic books but also a few about the Isle of Wight. One title they sell is a book penned by Glyn and Dan, Curious Carvings, Odd Odes & Tall Tales of the Isle of Wight. Naturally I bought a copy and got them both to sign.

I went over to the stage area in search of programmes (a folded sheet with the cast list and a potted history of the Villagers). At first all I or any of the Villagers people in the vicinity could find was bookmarks; just then Carol appeared bearing programmes. On her spotting me, we walked over to each other and shared a hug and a peck on the cheek, then a quick chat.

A lady sitting just inside the entrance to the tea garden spotted my Villagers Silver Jubilee polo shirt and asked if I was an ex-member of the company. I replied no, I just have friends in the group. She said I was lucky as she'd never known of a non-member getting one. She introduced herself as Annette and said she was playing Sebastienne and would be off to get changed in a moment. Annette asked if I attended often; I said every year since 2004 and added "I live near Milton Keynes, I'm just down for the show." Annette gasped, then said "We need loyal fans like you, thank you." I replied "Break a leg" and wandered back over to the stage area, where Aussie was standing and he and I had a catch-up.

The teashop's wares included a Quarr Abbey Ale. I had to try one to accompany the early scenes of the play; a very pleasant tipple.

The play was very well performed as usual. Sarah Mackinnon was excellent as Miranda. Ariel was played by two young women, Charlotte Fitzgerald and Charlene Lomas, both in brightly coloured hair and dresses (Charlotte in shining blue with a bit of green; Charlene in red and yellow, with - be still, my beating heart - pink hair). They always appeared on stage together, often entering from opposite sides, usually taking turns to speak, occasionally speaking in unison. They gave their performance a lively playful edge, especially when they were teasing Caliban, Stefano and Trinculo, giving them pushes and nips with big grins. I loved them.

Towards the end of the first half there was a tap on the back of my chair. I turned to see Sharon, a friend of my mother. I already knew from the programme Sharon was playing Iris. I waved, then during a scene change said hello and asked how she was. She said "My bit's coming up" (it would actually be quite some time into the second half).

A Minghella's Old English Toffee ice cream at the interval. A former member of the company, Nigel, who I'd worked with at ONS, came over to say hello to Dan and me.

Sharon was very good when her bit came, as were her fellow goddesses Glyn (a mainstay of the Villagers and mother of an old friend of mine) as Juno and Carol as Ceres. At 4.45 the Abbey bells launched into a very long ring to call the monks to prayer. It carried on for about ten minutes, and started up again, for a shorter ring, at 5 pm. The cast gamely carried on, raising their voices to be heard above the bells. During his speech of thanks to the audience at the end Ian (Prospero) joked that next year's play would be For Whom The Bell Tolls.

We all chatted to Aussie and Carol again at the end. Someone, talking to another cast member, was saying he'd thought the bells were part of the play.

Drive back to Fishbourne, where it emerged in conversation that there's been a lady in Dan's life - Lucia - for the last 18 months and that she has moved in with him. On realising this was the first I'd heard, Glyn said it was clearly a long time since Dan and I had had a proper catch-up. I remarked that it was a shame Lucia hadn't come today; Dan said she had work.

Glyn, Erica and I said our goodbyes to Dan and boarded the ferry. They decided on the trip over that they fancied a fish and chip supper, so when we arrived in Portsmouth they gave me a lift to the Hard, allowing me to catch the train home while they visited the chippy.

Arrived home just after 10. Hooray, there was an episode of Dave Gorman : Modern Life is Goodish on Dave.
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Malmö 58

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