Sunday 22 June 2008

From thought showers to a penalty shoot-out

Definitely not weightless in practice, but sadly lacking in corroborative detail; 13.0 units of alcohol yesterday; 1,322; Mind the Steppes.

I woke early this morning and lay in bed reading yesterday’s newspaper, in which my eye was caught by a cracking piece about Tunbridge Wells council banning the use of the word “brainstorming” in case it offended epileptics or the mentally ill. The approved term for their staff to use is now apparently “thought showers”, which sounds disturbingly like a Teutonic perversion to me. Predictably, there was a quote from someone at the National Epilepsy Association saying that the council’s worries were total nonsense. And a similar one from a representative of SANE, who sadly missed the opportunity to begin his quote “No-one in their right mind could possibly …”

My taxi this afternoon turned up five minutes ahead of schedule, and my guests were standing on the step of their hotel, waiting to be picked up. In fact, if they’d been wearing bits they would have been champing at them. So no cause for complaint there. It was a better afternoon than forecast – sunny, but windy – and the only crises were a mild colour clash between the outfits of my two female guests, and the proven tendency of glasses of champagne to blow over if set down even for a second. I would illustrate the colour clash point with a telling photograph, but for the fact that I look an even bigger berk than usual in the ones taken with my own camera. And, despite repeated polite reminders, my guest Lady D has conspicuously failed to send me the photos taken on hers.

Incidentally, the privacy-obsessed Less Tall Cheshire Brunette did not finally break cover in yesterday’s picture. She is not with me this weekend, having f***ed off on holiday to Majorca with a bunch of girlfriends instead. (At least, that’s who she told me she was going with.) One of the last things she did before leaving work on Thursday was to send me a touching e-mail reading “very excited but trying to remain calm & professional - must remember others are still working & refrain from running out whooping & cheering at 4 o'clock!” Since then she has contented herself with texting photos of sun-kissed golden sands, and accounts of meals in Michelin-starred restaurants. I am beginning to feel that I may have devoted enough of my life to opera, and should now seek to broaden my horizons.

I am ashamed to say that I fell asleep for a bit during the first act of Eugene Onegin, but then if I’d been honest I’d have reported exactly the same thing on the last two days. The production did not engage me in the slightest, being not exactly monochrome but in the very softest of pastels, and minimalist in the extreme – with much swishing of huge net curtains, which took the place of the dull, old-fashioned sets demanded by the literally minded. The singers sounded fine, but were all curiously lacking in passion. I reluctantly gave rather more of my attention to an especially disgusting old man seated on the other side of my lady guest (as opposed to my Lady guest) who coughed for England, setting off sympathetic echoes around the house. Then he started sniffing, making a noise like an elephant extracting its foot from a particularly viscous swamp. How I wished for an Andrew Davis in the pit to stop the performance and boot him out.

Lady D, who knows a thing or two about design, made it clear at the first interval that the staging was in fact absolutely marvellous, as we went for a sprint around the lake (in lieu of the Traditional Romantic Walk, which we had failed to make earlier). And it did improve for me in the second act, when the presence of some characters in military uniform at Tatyana’s name-day ball finally introduced a bit of colour to the proceedings, and some spirited dancing brought the stage to life. Then they held the fatal duel off-stage, and I reverted to thinking that it was all a bit perverse. I was also convinced that I had not seen the production before, but subsequent examination of the programme established that it has been in the repertory since 1994 and I have certainly seen it at least once, then clearly expunged it from my memory on the grounds that I did not enjoy it.

We had a good dinner, in which at least we were all content with the things we had ordered, and Sir D told me a cracking story which he strictly enjoined me not to repeat, never mind publish in a blog. So that’s right out, then.

When we came out at the end of the performance there was no taxi for ages, but I refused to panic and we were eventually conveyed back to Lewes by the man who had brought us, after the promised “sturdy lass in a people carrier” failed to show up. A shame, as I would very much like to have seen how a “sturdy lass” by East Sussex standards measured up against the world class bloaters one sees waddling around the streets of Newcastle, strewing pie wrappers in their wake.

When I got back to my friends’ house, I found them watching the Euro 2008 match between Spain and Italy. I decided to support Spain on the grounds that at least they have a monarchy, and was pleased when they won on the inevitable penalty shoot-out. Odd that, as my support is normally enough to jinx any individual or team in any field of human endeavour whatsoever.

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