Friday 10 October 2008

Falling in unison: the market and me

No idea what I weigh; little idea how much I drank last night, but I’ll take a wild guess at perhaps 11.0 units of alcohol; 1,214 days left; Covent Garden.

I woke up at 2.15 a.m. in one of those mercifully rare states of total disorientation in which it takes an implausibly long time to work out where the hell one is. The feel of the bed and the shape of the room suggested that there should be a Less Tall Cheshire Brunette beside me, but there was none. After much fumbling (which I would never have got away with in the LTCB’s house), I finally located a light switch and grasped that I was in a Gothic boutique hotel somewhere in the Newcastle area. I also established that either (a) I had been drinking quite a lot, or (b) the late David Lean had requisitioned my mouth as the set for his eagerly awaited sequel to Lawrence of Arabia.

There was no such confusion when I woke again at 4.45, because the colossal amount of banging and crashing could only come from a hotel kitchen, above which my room was so conveniently located. Well, or from Shepherd’s scrapyard on a particularly busy day, perhaps. Having a skip load of empty bottles tipped onto a lorry shortly afterwards struck me as a particularly masterly piece of planning, with the peace and comfort of their guests clearly always at the forefront of the management’s minds. I almost whooped with unseemly joy when the time came to check out.

I arrived at King’s Cross fractionally before the LTCB’s train pulled into Euston, and so was able to make a valuable saving by picking her up in my taxi. Every little helps. Shortly afterwards we found ourselves in my bank in Fleet Street, collecting the horrendously expensive engagement ring I had been storing in their vaults since the end of an unsuccessful previous relationship. We were shown into a private room, where I unveiled the shiny trinket to the LTCB in much the same spirit as an eighteenth century European explorer opening a sack full of beads in front of a group of natives. She proved well able to contain her excitement, indicating that she would never want to wear anything quite so ostentatious. So far, so good. I shoved it in my pocket, faintly hoping that the sodding thing might fall out in our taxi and allow me to claim for it on my home insurance (though I seem to recall that the small print of the policy precluded me from claiming for loss in almost any circumstances except if it was on my fiancée’s ring finger, and she had the digit severed by a machete-wielding attacker (though only in England and Wales, excluding Greater London, Sunderland and Hull, and during the hours of daylight) or had it plucked from her by a golden eagle (excluding Scotland, Continental Europe, Africa, Asia and North America).

Stopping briefly in the bar of my club this evening for a reviving Coca Cola, I found that I have become so inured to financial catastrophe that I was completely unmoved by the Evening Standard’s screaming banner headline about “Black Friday For Shares” and the news that the London market had sustained its biggest one day fall of all time. Clearly the only way forward is to splurge what little money I have left, so we headed purposefully to Covent Garden and watched a fantastical imported production of Cavalli’s La Calisto, a work which had its premiere in 1659 but has only just made its way into the repertoire of the Royal Opera House. The costumes were remarkable, notably those of Pan and the half-goat played by the splendid Dominique Visse, and the two sexy peacocks accompanying Juno. The playing and singing were sublimely lovely, too, which I always consider an advantage in an opera.

But perhaps the most remarkable thing about the evening was the fact that the Less Tall Cheshire Brunette clearly enjoyed it as much as I did. Given the gulf in age, beauty and good nature that lies between us, I never cease to be amazed by how closely our tastes correspond. Now that we have got over the hurdle of obscure early opera, I wonder whether I should try her on miniature steam trains and the various other collections I keep hidden in my attics?

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