Thursday 21 February 2008

The Code of the Bloke

14st 6lb; zero alcohol; 1,443; Thames.

It’s high time for a change of scene. The only snag is that I can’t leave the dog at home to fend for himself, and last year the two local kennels that he actually liked both closed down. I got around this by persuading my ancient aunt that what she really needed to brighten her declining years was a visiting Border terrier; but that won’t work this time as I’ve arranged to take her away with me as a hugely belated birthday treat. So I took him to the new kennels I identified late last year, to which he had already paid what I thought was a successful trial visit. Unfortunately I evidently misread his reaction completely, judging by the mega-sulk into which he went as soon as we arrived there. He even did that classic Border terrier thing of turning his back on me and refusing to acknowledge my presence; a favourite trick of my previous dog, who would make himself positively dizzy going round in circles on the platform of Alnmouth station to avoid eye contact with me. This was intended to underline his displeasure whenever I went off to work in London, and my then girlfriend drove us to the station to wave me off. But I’ve never known the current office holder do it, so he must feel pretty strongly on the subject.

I regret to report that the National Express train journey to London was pretty painless, if one overlooked the fact that the lavatories at both ends of the carriage were awash with what one could only hope was water. An early supper for six at The Ivy was a positive pleasure, apart from paying the bill at the end of it. And Jonathan Miller’s production of The Mikado at the Coliseum greatly pleased everyone else in the party, since they had not seen it before. I have seen it on numerous occasions over the 20 years or so that it has been in the repertoire, and I have to confess that memories of Lesley Garrett as Yum-Yum and Bonaventura Bottone as Nanki-Poo eclipsed those currently performing the roles – perfectly well, I am sure. Yes, I confess that there was a time when I fancied Lesley Garrett.

I have moved on to other sopranos now. I e-mailed a conductor (orchestra, not bus) friend of mine after a particularly stunning concert last month, congratulating him on his performance and confessing the lustful feelings I have long harboured towards his principal soprano. I had been stunningly well placed, only about ten feet from the stage and directly in front of her, so that I could appreciate the sparkle in her lovely eyes; yet with two rows of people between me and the object of my desire, preventing me from making a sudden lunge on top of her. I added that her appearance naked in one of my favourite Handel operas had been perhaps the absolute high point of my theatre-going life, then made some further general observations on what I would have done if I had made a dash for the stage, assuming that I was 20 years younger and had ingested life-threatening quantities of Viagra. Now the conductor has replied saying how much he enjoyed my e-mail, and adding that he had taken the liberty of forwarding it to the object of my desire “who also found it most amusing”. Amusing. Not flattering or intriguing, you will note. How am I ever to look the woman in the eye now, if we are actually introduced? I can’t help feeling that the Code of the Bloke has been offended in some way (with special reference to Section VIII: Solidarity), but perhaps there is a different version of the Code which applies in musical and theatrical circles. Louche. That’s the word traditionally applied to artistes, is it not?

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