Saturday 4 April 2009

Just a ground floor with a lid on it

14st 12lb, 4.0 units. Exhausted after my house cleaning efforts yesterday morning, I spent the afternoon driving to Chester via the longer but more scenic A69/M6 route; mainly so that I could call at the excellent Westmorland services at Tebay (the finest motorway service area in Britain, if not on the whole surface of the planet) and buy a couple of steaks for supper from their wonderful farm shop. I arrived bang on schedule after my 222-mile drive, and was slightly miffed that Mrs H managed to be an hour late accomplishing the seven mile journey from her place of employment. Still, it provided a valuable opportunity to watch Coronation Street in peace. I had been suffering severe withdrawal symptoms ever since I hurried the dog around his walk on Wednesday evening in time to settle down in my armchair with a drink at precisely 7.30, and turned on the TV to find that the bastards were showing some football match instead. The worst sort of April Fool joke imaginable (and for my views on those, see

Having subjected the dog to his worst nightmare of a long cross-country car journey, today we selfishly dumped in him the kennels and caught a train (well, two trains, to be strictly accurate) to London. From Crewe to Euston there were a couple of trainspotters sitting on the other side of the aisle (in first class, too, my dears) but at least they kept their strangely intonated voices to low murmurs, and did not smell too much. After arriving at my club, I treated Mrs H to a lunch I could not afford in a clubby, old-fashioned restaurant in St James’s, where I consumed a series of my favourite things (oysters, steak tartare and cheese), none of which will have troubled the kitchens in the slightest. Mrs H maintained her recent policy of consuming as much red meat as possible, to address an alleged iron deficiency.

After sleeping that lot off, we went to see the ballet which was the object of our trip: Swan Lake at Covent Garden, which Mrs H has always yearned to see, and which I had originally booked for 28 February (a date on which we turned out to be otherwise engaged). The place was seriously packed, demonstrating yet again that the key to success in opera and ballet is just to keep putting on traditional productions of the classics. The lead role was danced by a Spanish lady called Zenaida Yanowsky who, Mrs H knowledgeably informed me at the interval, was “really too tall to be a ballet dancer”. Which is, funnily enough, exactly what I seem to remember other women telling me every time I took them to see Sylvie Guillem. Presumably these prima ballerinas are like bumble bees, which persist in blissfully flying around in total ignorance of the urban myth that they are technically unable to get off the ground. The ladies don’t know that they are too tall, so they just crack on. Like those lithe, sexy young sopranos who are so thick on the ground in opera these days, and have luckily never heeded the whispers from the stalls that they are “really not fat enough to be an opera singer”.

Both Ms Yanowsky and her male counterpart, Roberto Bolle, seemed pretty good to me, but then I know f*** all about ballet. However, the fact that they both got a round of applause from the cognoscenti when they made their first appearance on stage, and took umpteen curtain calls at the end (they really do milk these things far more than their operatic equivalents) led me to believe that I had informed opinion on my side. I enjoyed the evening far more than I expected to do (which is admittedly not saying much) and received no more than a slightly exasperated sigh from Mrs H when she caught me sniggering like a schoolboy at the point where La Yanowsky was being led around in a circle with one leg held vertically in the air, providing a particularly fine view of her underwear.

As we were sitting towards the aisle end of a row, we naturally took our places promptly at the start of each act, as tradition demands, so that those sitting further in could return at the last possible minute and trample all over us. Still, I enjoy these little interludes listening in to the conversations of other audience members. I particularly relished the mini-skirted, blonde ladies of a certain age sitting behind us, who were bitching about a friend’s new home. One of them came up with the memorable line “It’s just a ground floor with a lid on it” which greatly took my fancy.

After the show we walked slowly to a club of mine a few streets away, where I enjoyed a delicious hot dog and Mrs H clocked a Celebrity she liked. The perfect ending to a happy day.

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