Monday, 8 February 2010

A rant and a rave

Saturday morning started peacefully enough with my usual visit to the Barbican Library – regular readers will remember I am a great fan of libraries and this one in particular.

Things started to deteriorate from there: with books on board I thought I would pop into M&S in the City and buy some flowers – they have beautiful proteas (national flower of South Africa). This entailed parking for a short time. Although M&S is in Moorgate, which is in the City, the roads at the back are in Islington. There were two pay and display meters and neither was working. Simple enough to telephone – except the last time I parked in Islington was before my credit card was used fraudulently and the number has changed. You are required to enter the last four digits of the card or a pin number – neither is still valid and if you can’t do that – tough – you can’t park and there is no way you can actually speak to anyone to register a new card, the person-less voice just says “good-bye” and cuts you off.

I decided to take a chance leaving an angry note to this effect on the dashboard. The traffic warden left me alone – perhaps s/he could hear the “irate of Moorgate” letter to Islington Council I was mentally drafting if there had been a ticket. Looks like I can’t park in Islington again.

Now for the rave: we love opera but the cost of even the cheapest seats in Covent Garden is eye-watering and I have to take 12x binoculars and sit with my elbows pinned to my sides as the seats have no arms. (Yes I know it is about the same as a ticket for a premier league football match but I don’t go to those either). Over the past year or two there have been regular broadcasts to cinemas across the UK (and the US and Europe) “Live from the Metropolitan Opera”. This is world class opera, broadcast as it happens. They are all good but sometimes they are transcendental and Simon Boccanegra on Saturday was the latter. Placido Domingo (one of the three tenors for the non-opera, football fan) sang baritone for the first time – a very rare ability. I don’t know the opera but the power of the acting kept us transfixed and Verdi doesn’t write bad music. I did shed a few tears.

Even if you are not an opera fan it is worth going to one of these performances – there are English sub-titles and the cameras are live all the time – which means you see all the sets being changed and moved and what goes on backstage as well as interviews with the principals – and pleas for donations which always seem to raise a bit of a laugh. When you see the quality of the production and the sheer number of people involved – I am not surprised that the ticket sales only cover half of the costs.

Off to Manchester on Monday to see the work of our Research Fellow there.

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