Saturday 28 June 2008

Like Vettriano crossed with Hockney

I had rather a leaden sensation in my stomach this morning, but have no idea what this might have done to my weight; 6.5 units of alcohol yesterday; 1,317; Westphalia.

Inevitably, I had the most appalling indigestion when I woke up, which I did annoyingly early. I shared all this information with the LTCB, along with the fact that she is very beautiful, at around 5.30 a.m. She took it surprisingly well, all things considered.

After a distinct absence of breakfast, we went to Euston to meet a couple of the LTCB’s friends who were visiting London for the day. Despite heavy hints, the Dutch male half of the partnership remained as resolute in standing on the left hand side of tube escalators as the LTCB is about saying “train station”. I tried to pretend that I was not with them.

We decided to go to the Royal Academy for the Summer Exhibition, which I expected to be a nightmare on the basis that the privileged private views I used to attend when I was a Friend of the RA were always packed to the gunwales. But on a summer Saturday when the place was open to hoi polloi there were no queues at all at the ticket desks, no intrusive security measures and absolutely no crowds inside, making it a highly civilized and enjoyable experience. The highlight for me came in the last room with a group of paintings by Ken Howard, including one of a couple of my friends in their flat in Brighton, where the LTCB and I had stayed four weeks ago. A man in a flamboyant shirt, with a matching loud voice, approached this painting just as we arrived, and announced to the room that it was “like Vettriano crossed with Hockney”. This at least gave me something provocative to text to my friend, along with the LTCB’s soothing comment that she had never met a living work of art before.

After this we finally made it to the Lebanese restaurant which had been my first thought for supper last night, and which proved well worth waiting for.

This evening the LTCB and I went to the show which had been the real object of our visit to London: the ENO’s production of Bernstein’s Candide. This was up against a real challenge in that the one production I had ever seen – by Scottish Opera 20 years ago – still stuck firmly in my mind as a definitive rendering of the piece. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it, with Alex Jennings not quite effacing my memories of Nickolas Grace in the central role of Voltaire / Pangloss, but creating some positive new ones of his own, while the apparently 12-year-old Anna Christy was as striking as Cunegonde as she had been earlier in the season as Lucia di Lammermoor. The updating of the libretto was not as irksome as I had expected, though translating Westphalia into 1950s America (“West Failure”) made a bit of a nonsense of the subsequent journey to the New World. The only bit that jarred with me was having mask-wearing singers purporting to be Blair, Bush, Chirac, Berlusconi and Putin on rafts after the shipwreck towards the end.

Afterwards we walked across to a fine old fish restaurant which the LTCB (who has excellent taste in most things – apart from men, obviously) has designated as her favourite in London, and enjoyed our second superb meal of the day. I do hope she realizes that there won’t be many more where these came from, unless I can devise some way of generating a bit of income from my writing in the weeks ahead.

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