Panto Postcard 5, 2022.

60.75 hours

Coventry Basin, Coventry Canal to Brownsover Services, North Oxford Canal

Following the red lit path

Monday morning a seriously early start to the day, the alarm went off at 5:20. We were both up and out of the door in 20 minutes. I’d opted to walk across Coventry rather than get a bus or taxi. At about a mile to the Station it’s not that far, but my knees and calf muscles were playing up so Mick accompanied me with the bike in case I needed to ride instead. Coventry was dark and misty, very atmospheric.

First tea of the day.

The train got me to Banbury forty minutes before the bus to Chippy, so I sat in the station cafe with a cuppa and ate a sausage sandwich I’d brought with me watching the sun rise through the fog. The bus onwards to Chippy was quite late arriving and by the time it had made it’s way through some road works it was half an hour late. It had taken me 3hrs 15 minutes to get to work!

Abi the Director was back with us, thankfully Covid had been mild for her and her family. Paul was also back with us, there was time to sort a few problems out before the actors came on stage. It was now time to finish off the technical rehearsal. When the Pippins joined us late afternoon we then did a tech/dress. This meant that if there were any problems we’d stop to sort them. We stopped a few times and then afterwards had quite a lengthy notes session, there were still things missing costume, props wise and a few problems with scene changes.

Mick had a morning snooze on the sofa before pushing off, winding and heading back up to Hawkesbury Junction where he turned back onto the North Oxford Canal and pulled up for the day.

Tuesday. An early start for Jo and myself trying to work through the long list of things that needed finishing, making use of time on stage before the actors arrived. Having a key to the theatre was useful as I could open up.

There was one scene that needed finishing off before production photos could be taken. The finishing off consisted of a lot of cross hatching which I knew would take several hours. I chose to finish the funnels today as they would help the scenery look more complete.

A portrait of Whittington

During the afternoon scenes were worked on by the actors and I got chance to finish off the piece that would sit on the proscenium, this was done by torch light. Have to say I was rather pleased with it.

Getting ready for photos

Then late afternoon we settled down for a dress rehearsal with Josh the photographer, Becky the composer joining us by zoom and we were also joined by several members of staff and ushers to give the actors a small audience. Today we got to see the walk down costumes for the first time, still work in progress and several props were now finished. But sadly things were still being worked on, a black curtain got stuck in one scene meaning many of the photos won’t depict the show as intended.

Such a fair weather boater

Mick’s day was totally opposite. It was raining, so he stayed put avoiding getting wet. Apparently Tilly ventured out for a little while.

Wednesday another early start. The side of the ship needed finishing off and as it spans right across the whole stage in three pieces I needed to do this early so as not to be in peoples way. Finishing touches happened to more props and costumes and I did my best to tick painty notes of my list.

The wings full of scenery and props, so much so some flying was needed

Today we were joined by Gemma the Production Manager who’d been off with covid. Having both her and Paul back in the building meant jobs were being crossed off the list. The auditorium needed clearing and Sophie the DSM was moved up into the box from where she’ll operate the shows. Christmas garlands were primed to be flown in and space was cleared in the wings so there’d be room for the actors.

Highgate Hill

The first preview hadn’t sold many tickets, so last week the decision had been made to cancel it, meaning we’d be able to have another dress rehearsal. A good thing as so many of the creatives had been ill. It was actually a dress without costume, enabling wardrobe to continue working on things.

A well earned beer

One problem was found as Paul watched from the wings. The final scene change was tight and to get two large arches into position in time it was felt that some alterations to them were required. Two truck bases would need to be made, but for now he would be an extra pair of hands back stage.

The first preview went well and we rewarded ourselves with a drink next door at Checkers, followed by some chicken and chips from the burger van.

If you look carefully you might just seen the spouting water

The sun was out again on the North Oxford Canal, so Mick carried on retracing his steps of last week. In Ansty a bridge had been spouting water, social media comments had been concerned that it may be closed by C&RT, thankfully Mick got through without any problems. He thinks it’s a water pipe in the bridge that has burst. Here’s hoping it doesn’t get closed before we are back through in a couple of weeks.

Full moorings

As he approached the swing bridge at Rose Boats the canal got busy. The bridge opened and closed and opened again and the narrows approaching it were congested. This meant that when he reached All Oaks Wood where he’d shared the moorings with one other boat last week, he got the last space.

Thursday. Only one show today in the evening, giving time to do acting notes on stage and time for props, costumes and set pieces to be finished off that bit more. Measurements were taken, timber purchased, alterations to the arches would happen after the show this evening.

One of the traditions of Chippy Panto is that Edith, a lady who adorns the proscenium arch is taken down each year and replaced by something to do with the show. This year I’d decided that it should be a portrait of Whittington the cat. Photos had been taken of Nadia in makeup, this was blown up, a simple version traced onto a shield and then painted in. In previous years I have only once witnessed Edith being replaced, handy to know that it is simply done with a D handle and a safety chain. Time and care were taken and Edith was taken to John Terry’s office for her rest.

Getting all Christmasy

Garlands were fluffed up, ribbons added. Piccadilly Circus was finished off including the extra lines on the backing flat. Jobs ticked off at pace.

Jo had been meant to finish on Wednesday, but she’d decided to stay one extra night to be able to finish off one quite elaborate prop. This took her quite sometime, but was well worth the extra hours and that prop got an extra Ooooooo! in the evening from the audience.

The final lines added to Piccadilly Circus

After the show Paul, Gemma and myself got busy with saws, drills, screws, wheels, canvas and paint. Two truck bases were made up and had a coat of paint applied before we left the theatre, the paint would be dry by the morning ready for the arty bits to be added.

Mick avoided the rain as best he could. Tilly kept the stove company as he moved onwards through the autumn colour.

Autumn colour

A pause to top up with diesel was needed at Armada Boats, then he found a space just before the water point at Brownsover. This meant that Oleanna wouldn’t need to move to top up the water tank and the mooring was a good place to pick up a hire car from.

Friday. Over night I’d had cramp in my right calf muscle which has been playing up for the last few weeks. As I stood up out of bed to try to alleviate the pain I heard a bit of a popping noise! Not good, my hobbling walk would be even worse today. After packing my bags for collection later in the day I hobbled slowly in to the theatre where the truck bases were already fixed to the arches. Time to get arty and paint them.

Spring Street with the theatre at the end

Two colour washes were applied and left to dry. They had just about got there by the time the actors arrived for their warm up on stage. New things should always be shown to actors before a show so that they don’t get thrown, the truck bases would be a step up and down that hadn’t existed before so everyone it affected got to have a go.

Then I could finish painting them. The last black line of Chippy Panto went onto a truck base at 11:46, it would be dry before the final scene of the afternoon show. Other little jobs were ticked of, more garlands and ravens added, then it was time to start collecting my possessions together.

Touch up paints were rationalised and put together. Some things are likely to need a freshen up as they are used, other paints are there just in case.

Some straw still to be added

As the afternoons show started I sat down to have some food, listening to the first school show on the show relay. Not so many laughs, but total excited noise at some scenes. The model box was put together to be added to the 50th anniversary exhibition in the gallery. After the interval I sat on the back row to watch the second half, each member of the audience wearing cat or rat masks that they’d made prior to their visit.

A coat of glaze to the truck bases was just about the last thing I could do before press night. My job was done. A couple of things sadly not achievable in what time remained, but an email to Paul next week will hopefully see them get done.

A technical glitch needed sorting

Mick arrived in a hire car, we loaded all my work gear and then headed to my digs to pick up my bags there. A chat with Suzanne and a final goodbye and thank you for letting me stay again. Some cheesy chips were consumed before joining the audience at the theatre for Press Night which seemed to go down very well.

We stayed for some food post show and a drink, but by now my energy levels had run out. It was time to say my goodbyes and thank yous. Time to wish everyone a good run and a Happy Christmas in Chippy. Time to climb in the car and drive back to Rugby, have a few head nudges with Tilly, a glass of wine for the driver and go to sleep.

Dressing rooms

Dick Whittington is open and what a show it is. This year has had many problems come it’s way, covid, family bereavements, people doing their best to plug gaps in the back stage team. We got there in the end with a lot of hard work from everyone and the assistance of zoom. Now I need to rest up and get back to day to day boat life, a far slower pace will be welcome.


1 lock, 17.92 miles, 1 right, 1 hire car, 1 panto open, 616 hrs work in total, 1 designer hanging up her dungarees, 1 boaters hat being dusted off, but first the sofa calls.

4 thoughts on “Panto Postcard 5, 2022.

  1. finstallcrosswi

    Hi Pip, I hope you are enjoying a well deserved rest. I have loved every minute of your panto postcards and am really looking forward to seeing the fruits of your labours next weekend. I travelled to London with our daughter for this weekend and thought of you as the train went through Banbury and again as the bus went through Piccadilly Circus! Take care and happy cruising. Jennie x

  2. Ade

    Boy you work hard!
    Well done the postcards are most enjoyable.
    The show looks bob on.
    Take a rest and hope your leg/knee is ok.

    1. Pip Post author

      Thanks Ade. Thank goodness I’m not jumping straight onto another show like I used to!

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