July 31, 2008

Glyndebourne, II

 I’ve lived in this country eighteen years, I’m an opera nut*, and up until last year I’d never been to Glyndebourne.  It’s not even as if it’s in Yorkshire or something–it’s only about two hours away.  This is like being horse mad, living two hours away from the Spanish Riding School and never going there either.**  But it’s desperately expensive and desperately elite, and I’m a little twitchy about the rich, who are different, and a four hour commute is still four hours.  And for the first decade or so we were going to London a lot, and were (comparative) habitués at the ENO. 

            But then we kind of slowed down on the trips to London, and then recently I developed a bad case of hellhounds.***  Meanwhile even getting tickets to Glyndebourne has become more and more difficult, never mind good tickets, and I don’t want to bother if I can’t have a good seat.  And then Peter found out, last year, that his neighbours at the mews are subscribers.†  And as subscribers they’re eligible to buy more tickets than they ever do.  Furthermore the brief Glyndebourne season includes the end of July.  Our wedding anniversary is the beginning of January;  our Other Anniversary is the end of July.  It celebrates the day that I picked Peter up at the Bangor, Maine airport for a no-big-deal weekend of keeping this eccentric and rather terrifying Englishman amused.  I assumed I would survive the experience.  I was not expecting that I would see Peter walk through the airport door and think, oops.  It was Some Enchanted Evening except with tripping over stuff and saying the wrong thing.  I can’t remember if I spilled any food on him that weekend or not.  Probably.  Fortunately more or less the same thing was happening to Peter, so he didn’t notice.††

            We celebrate both anniversaries, usually in the dinner out with lashings of champagne category.  But thanks to hellhounds I’ve kind of given up on holidays for the moment . . . and in fact it was Glyndebourne last year which inadvertently ushered in that regime.  A year ago I was still pretending whatever it was was something hellhounds would grow out of (although I’d already spent kind of a lot of money trying to find out what it was, that they were going to grow out of) and I was also trying to find a reliable overnight dog sitter.†††  After various failures I hit on the plan of hiring someone from one of these national house- and pet-sitting companies.  Their, um, operatives, have heaps of experience etc and while they cost a freaking fortune, at least there’s no tricky negotiating as with a friend of a friend, and you can just tell them what you want and how you want them to do it.  First operative, first overnight away from home, I went to a homeopathy seminar in London, and it all went beautifully.  Hellhounds even ate for her.

            So Peter and I got all excited and decided to take a tiny holiday, two or three days, as part of going to the opera.  (And hope that the hellhounds’ chronicity didn’t come on them at the wrong moment.)   The same sitter wasn’t available, so–ever paranoid, but this is exactly the sort of experience that makes you paranoid–I asked for someone who could come one night before I’d be leaving my precious (and peculiar) hellhounds with them for several nights.  I disliked the new guy on sight . . . well.  The company paid for the actual physical damage to the house he did, but they did so without ever really admitting that he’d done it, and said gaily that he was one of their best and oldest and most loyal employees, that nothing like this had ever happened before, they just couldn’t imagine, and of course they would continue to use him. ‡ And they gave me to understand that they were doing me a big favour letting me cancel the longer booking at the last minute.  So much for the professional national firm idea.

            Which left me/us with seven days before my first experience of Glyndebourne‡‡ to figure out what we were going to do.  It was Peter who came up with the idea of a car with a driver.   Peter drives very little any more and I don’t like driving much, and there’s always the possibility of the ME falling on me.  And, as Peter said, if I can’t go on holiday we’re saving all this money and we can spend it on a kind of short intense one evening holiday.  So that’s what we did. 

            And it worked so well we did it again this year.   Last year it was sheeting and cold;  this year was Best Hot Frock weather, and, just by the way, going by taxi was worth it alone for the fact that the taxi was air conditioned.‡‡‡

            And I guess I’ll tell you about Carmen tomorrow night.

* * *

* at a fairly hoi polloi level.  Yes, I do Strauss and Wagner–Monteverdi^ and Gluck–Britten, even Janacek.  I’m still a Verdi girl at heart.^^

^ As I write this, the Glyndebourne production of The Coronation of Poppea in its semi-staged Proms version is playing on Radio Three.  Poppea is the one this year I really wanted to see–I’ve seen dozens of Carmens and never a Poppea–but its run was over with too early.  There are rules about important celebrations.

^^ Yes, of course, Mozart and Rossini and Donizetti and Bizet and Gounod and Tchaikovsky and Bellini and and and and.  I’m just choosing a few that aren’t the dead centre of the canon.  Oh, and I don’t love Fidelio.  Sue me.

** If it were the Spanish Riding School, I’d’ve gone.    And the one time we were in Vienna–for Peter to win a literary prize–it was closed.  I bought the t shirt however.  Sigh.  Which I never wear, however, because it is a Totemic Object.

*** I spoke too soon about last night.  They’ve been off all day today.  SIGH.

† My little commoner’s heart beats faster.

†† Knowing Peter, as I now do very well, he almost certainly spilled food on me.  But I don’t remember.  QED. 

††† Kennels are problematic because the overwhelming majority of kennels’ insurance companies demand that dogs be vaccinated every year.  I have no intention of vaccinating the hellhounds every year.  The thing that really infuriates me is that if you get a kennel employee in a neck lock, they will often admit that they’ve read the articles and they know that annual vaccination is not only unnecessary but a positive danger to the dogs’ health . . . but that’s just the way it is!  Arrrrrrrgh

‡ I’m still wondering what he had on the president of the company.

‡‡ Yes!  Peter had been a number of times before me!

‡‡‡ Which our elderly but faithful VW Golf is not.  I thought we might be coming to the end with Wolfgang, his last check up:  there was something very weird going on with the steering.  Turned out to be nothing worse than bent wheel rims.  I really must learn to drive on the road.

Nether Wallop

img_0617.JPG. . . is the name of a restaurant.   I am not joking.


It’s buried on the Glyndebourne site somewhere why the restaurants in a small private opera house in East Sussex are named after three silly towns in Hampshire:  Over, Middle and–best of all–Nether Wallop.

We had poached salmon and champagne at Nether Wallop tonight.  And I watched all the other posh frocks going by.  (Never mind the opera.  The floor show at Glyndebourne is first-rate.)  There was a middle-aged woman at the next table with great arm muscles.  I wanted to ask her how she got them but I reluctantly decided against this.  She also had a good tan.


img_0615.JPG. . . learning the deep inner meaning of all opera from the programme book.  I think the statue looks like something out of Edward Gorey.

Best Hot Frock

img_0612.JPG. . . and woman looking dubiously at the camera because her husband is holding it.  We have to use this one, where my dubiety is in the process of causing my face stress fractures, because the one where I’m smiling at the bloke over Peter’s shoulder who is making ‘been there done that’ faces at me has the other blokes you can see in the background of this one doing a strange spastic salsa out of my right arm.  Sigh.    But I was determined to show you my frock.*  Best for hot weather frock, you know.   Glyndebourne is the place where you wear your best frock and feel like a scullery maid on her half day, but this is a Nicole Farhi.  And except for the fact that I’m posting it here, no one would have to know that I bought it for £25 on the sale rack at Liberty’s.  I love Liberty’s.  It’s as good as a play.  But I don’t expect to buy anything there.


*Despite bad case of farmer’s tan.  And I just was not going to wear stockings in this weather.  I.  Was.  Not.


 We’re just back from Glyndebourne


where we are in the second year of a new tradition of going to Glyndebourne for our Other Anniversary the end of July.  This year we saw Carmen


and it’s one a.m. and I’m wrecked and I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow.

PS:  Hellhounds ate about three-quarters of their supper for the dog minder, which is very good going for hellhounds.  They were also here alone for ten hours–minus about an hour’s minder break, including a walk up to Third House and some assisted rioting–and while they greeted me with decent enthusiasm they are well into their standard late evening hairy bolster imitation and evidence no sign of trauma whatsoever.  What if this were PROGRESS??  I would really like to see Vaughan Williams’ Riders to the Sea at the ENO* this autumn.

PPS:  Happy Birthday to Blackbear, and I hope you had as much fun as we did.

* English National Opera. 

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