My Last Night in LondonĀ 

A night at the Opera

I met my niece Meg amongst the thousands of predominately young people in a frenzy of noise, alcohol and aimless meandering. One may question the juxtaposition of “frenzy” and “meandering”, yet to my mind that is the best way to describe it. 

Meg works as a physiotherapist at one of the London metropolitan hospitals in the acute assessment section of the Emergency Department.She has accepted a permanent position till 2018, so is committed to Britain for a few years. 

We had a memorable meal at a Peruvian Restaurant in Covent Garden a stone’s throw from what are arguably two of the main attractions of my materialistic existance: the Royal Opera House and the London Apple Store! Covent Garden is the centre of the Theatre world in London and on this evening, could well have been the centre of the universe. 

Several events took place today in London that drove crowds to fill the streets to capacity: the Annual Head of the River (women) and the release of the Apple watch. Finally there was the other quality that brings every Londoner out of the woods – the sun. I am reminded of the witty song about the English weather by Flanders and Swan “January brings the snow..” which describes weather conditions each month and that for July goes “In July the sun is hot, is it shining…….? No it’s not.”

The Apple Store is as packed as the Tokyo Underground. People are drawn like iron filings to a magnet by the Apple Watch. I have not worn a watch for almost 30 years. Can I resist the temptation?
Back to the Opera at Covent Garden and the Royal Opera House. I had a seat in the front row of the Grand Tier (left) for the opening night of that joyful Rossini opera buffo  ‘Il Turco in Italia”.  It was beautifully sung and the orchestra was more than a match but….. I had attended the same opera last year in Melbourne, the Australian Opera  production directed by Simon Phillips, his staging was  extraordinary, world class, beating the ROH offering by a country mile. The Australian singers not only sang their hearts out, but had been thoroughly coached in acting and had perfect timing in both singing and their comedy acting. The Melbourne  production was set in the 1950s on the beach in a bustling Italian trattoria and coffee shop. Vibrant primary colours and those blue, green and pink pastels so reminiscent of that time. The star was the dark handsome macho Salim the Turk who acted his high camp heart out. An outrageous and uproariously funny, unforgettable evening. In summary though the London experience was  not without its moments and as an opera tragic, I had a great night out.

part of Covent Garden market


the Crush Room at yhe Opera where you may eat your lobster and champagne at interval


the auditorium


the modern addition to the Opera house


London Wednesday

 After the almost 30km of foot slogging yesterday, I had a more relaxing day – 12.3km. As I saw all the sights of central London on Tuesday so today I spent time in the gardens. I did end up at Buckingham Palace again. As the flag was flying I assumed Her Majesty was at home. There were at least two Land Rovers parked in the main quadrangle so suspect the children were doing their filial duty and visiting mummy. 

Any plans to upgrade my cycle were seriously set back today as well : at least two years if I stick with carbon and three if moving across to the dark stiff side – titanium. I came across Burlington Arcade and was drawn to the Penhaligon shop. Perfumes by appointment to royalty and then there was the man from Australia…… 
Secondly I booked a ticket to the opening night of the Rossini opera “Il turco in Italia” on my last night in London.  As my financial planner has an alleged heart condition (my diagnosis -he lacks one) I will not be so lacking in Hippocratic qualities to mention money in specific terms lest I make things worse.
I also spent a few minutes in what is the third most popular tourist attraction in London: Harrods. The very first thing Mr Harrod sold was tea! The store is not too far away from its 200 th birthday. Again words cannot describe the excesses of this iconic store . Those of you who have been, know what I mean, the rest of you just need to see it -as simple as that. I have a sneaking suspicion that many years ago David Jones tried to emulate Harrods but failed dismally.
The cost of living in Britain and especially London, as my financial planner would no doubt say, is “heart stopping”! This revelation, added to streets clogged with vehicles and people, again irritates and unsettles me. I don’t think it is that I am tired of London. It was Samual Johnson who said 

Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.’
I think rather than tired I am restless, although the bit about all that life can afford is a moot point.
Wandering through the parks  I came across a garden bench seat with a delightful brass plaque screwed  on the top rung. I was instantly reminded of the sad demise of language education in our schools, specifically punctuation. It read without a much needed comma, 
The hotel has a reasonable gym so I have been working the upper body and core . I am sure the legs are more than adequately worked  out. I also have practiced a few times in the bathroom… My Recorder.!

the seafood section of Harrods

Budapest in 5 easy walks.

I have ticked all the “must see sights” according to the City Walks brochure. Sadly I have missed the Marilyn Night Club which promises “table dancing, lap dancing, strip tease show…. Beautiful Hungarian dancers” and this all for free entry…I asked the young Hungarian man at breakfast if there had been a spelling mistake (lost in translation) and it should have stated: “sabre dancing and tap dancing”? He reassured me that it was spelt correctly. I could not imagine anything more painful than someone dancing on my lap. I assume that one removes one’s shoes? When I learned ballroom dancing in High School and even purchased dancing pumps, my teacher was constantly emphasising that one “danced on one’s balls.” I am absolutely sure that she did not in any way or form imagine this variation. 

I suspect that I had a much more enjoyable time at my evening baroque concert in the  Saint Stephen Basilica which was programmed on the principle to “send them away happy”. There were no less than 5 variations or versions of Ave Maria scattered throughout the evening for organ, soprano, tenor, violin and lastly trumpet! Sadly the rather intimate nature of the event was negated in the cold cavernous cathedral so despite the acoustics, the evening felt rather flat. Now if there had been a more than reasonable Alto Recorder in the ensemble…

When travelling in each major city, I always try to attend a classical music concert or opera, for several reasons. Most of my readers will know that music is a love and on an equal footing with medicine. Secondly listening to famous international ensembles and thirdly the concert halls and opera houses of  Europe are beautiful architectural creations and a ticket to a performance gets me inside for a not so free tour.

As a consequence I have been blessed to witness some truly memorable musical occasions. A production of The Barber of Seville at the Swedish Royal Opera house in Stockholm during 2012 spings to mind.

Then there is the spontaneous  and totally unexpected memorable  musical moment. One such occurred  whilst I was in Brazil.

At Tiradentes I stayed at the Pousada Solar da Ponte. This was an abandoned, half completed mansion, stumbled upon by a dapper and friendly Englishman and his portuguese wife almost 40 years ago! They purchased it, financed it’s completion into a 4 star pousada! The owner, John, now in his 80 s was a chatty delightful host. 

The ornate church in Tiradentes housed the sole remaining organ of a renowned portuguese organ builder from the 18th century. By lucky coincidence John informed me  there was an organ recital on the Friday night so I went along! Varied programme of conventional western 16 and 17th organ music including of course J.S.Bach. I will never forget that evening.

the Opera house