Since the temperature has hovered in the mid-to-low sixties (16-18°C) here, it’s been harder to think “summer,” but lately it’s been hovering in the sixties when it’s overcast, and OY! Hello, humidity hair. Along with the bouffant locks, and we have clouds of “midgies” around our back gate, hideous, nearly invisible specks that actually hurt when they bite. Strange times over here, weatherwise.
Fortunately, we’re having positive times with regard to friends and activities. AB is on a QUEST to make SURE we enjoy ourselves for what might be our last summer in the UK.* A dizzying array of concerts and picnics and dinner activities have us wandering from one end of the city to the other, and next month she plans to drag us back to Edinburgh for the Book Faire…during the Fringe Festival (Be afraid).
Our most recent excellent time was last weekend where we rose and went back to BBC Halls in Candlerigg… and once again forgot to take a picture of the BBC Stage Door sign. ::sigh:: The gathered crowd was given pencils and scores and directed to various sections of the performance hall, where the audience became the performers. The BBC Chorus and orchestra, under the direction of Andrew Manze, played a sang the solos for Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance, and we were the chorus.
We had been invited by AB to accompany her mother, and her mother’s good buddy, both of whom are in their seventies, and knew all the words and the tunes to the rollicking piece from their school days (Apparently, it was de rigueur to have students learn light opera in British schools in the thirties/forties). While the rest of us frantically sight-read, having only listened to the entire piece the night before, they had a marvelous time.
And, in the end, so did we. We weren’t very sure of the whole thing, to begin with — tongue-twisters? Policemen? Pirates? And though indeed the words are ridiculous (Inshort, inmatters animal,vegetable,andmineral, (gasp) heistheverymodelof amodernmajorgeneral), it’s a workout for the brain to get it all right, and it was fun to have our section rehearsals, and then a final “dress rehearsal,” after which we left, feeling like we’d accomplished something, if only for ourselves. And that was the nice thing – it was only for ourselves. The purpose of the morning of play with the orchestra was simply to learn. Bonus: we sounded really wonderful.
We thought we’d only be recorded for BBC Radio 3, and were a little astounded to see… cameras. Oh, the rushing toward the toilet during the break between section rehearsals and the dress rehearsal! Oh, the pounds of makeup whipped from various bags, and hastily applied! Oh, flying hairbrushes, couture adjustments, and puckered lips in the mirror! Oh, the primping! Oh, the snarking AB and T. did… ::cough:: Eventually, BBC 3’s Light Fantastic will have pictures and a recording up — we don’t know when, but the fun for us was just in being there.
T. decided that she would like to kidnap the conductor and make him direct every single chorus she’s ever in, for the rest of her life. Maestro Manze was amusing and patient and soft-spoken and just was into the music – no fuss, no frowns. (AB did not swoon, tending to be rather cranky at that hour of the morning, but it was a close thing for T. – his courteous mien truly is a big departure from some other conductors we’ve had in this country.)
While we loved Pirates, we were disappointed that the rehearsal overlapped with the Come-and-Sing Messiah held at St. Mary’s just up the block from our house! Our friend Dr. B played a big part in celebrating the Feast of Corpus Christi with her church – she got to process up the aisle on strewn rose petals and swing what T. somehow insists on calling the “thurigible.” (AKA thur-i-ble) The Messiah was just the culmination of a day full of song and celebration, including Parry’s I Was Glad for the hymn and the orchestral evensong the following night. We are making a point of wandering over to St. M’s sometime soon — they do a lot of that orchestral/organ/choral stuff, just as part of their regular services. Some days here it feels like we are surrounded by the best music in the world.
Our post-musicale quest for food found us wandering through the city to a place called Khublai Khan. A Mongolian bbq joint for a bunch of vegetarians (minus one) seemed an odd choice for lunch, but truly, one can have the very best stir fry in the world there, and the chefs kindly reserved a clean grill simply for our veggie-only orders (you can get them to do that when there’s only two other parties in the whole restaurant. Just don’t try that on a Saturday night). They supply diners with a bowl, and they load them up with their favorite veggies, meats, and seasonings — they had various oils, sauces, and spices in a station, and “recipes” supplied to help people choose complimentary flavorings.
The statuary was meant to bring to mind the Qin terracotta warriors, and while the restaurant itself was pretty nifty, we were a little startled by the menu for the omnivores. Apparently the restaurant, for good or for ill, culls safari parks in Southern Africa for their meat. They had springbok, ostrich, zebra, kangaroo, and camel on the menu, to name a few beasts. Khublai Khan is definitely a good place for the gastronomically creative to eat… and those who like to watch the gastronomically adventurous eat and ask, “So, does it taste like chicken??”
This week’s adventure includes The Bard in the Botanics — we’re off to see A Midsummer’s Night Dream in the botanical gardens — the main Victorian glasshouse called the Kibble Palace. We’re going to dress lightly, as we expect the venue to be a bit warm, and we’re going to take along picnic foods so as we sit on our benches we can enjoy our play with dinner.
Speaking of picnic foods: we are loving the early strawberries that are cheap and plentiful at present. We are experimenting with an unsweetened life for a few weeks — just adding no sugar to anything and not eating desserts, and early on in the experiment, T’s skin is suddenly clearing up. She is torn between being disgusted and delighted, as she rather likes her sugar, thankyou. On the other hand, the berries right now require no sweetener whatsoever, and will be a welcome addition to Thursday’s feast. Sadly, we have no photograph of our after dinner repast from last weekend – Claire and T. set to those piles of strawberries, and they are GONE.
Thank you for keeping us in your thoughts. We are deciding right now not to think about, answer questions about, or talk about moving, relocating, or anything to do with what will happen “next.” Paramount to our lives right now is T. finishing her science fiction revision (1/3 of the novel to go, and she’s been urged to use a cliffhanger and make it a series, because she was told that, “you may hate them, but readers love them, dear,”), and D. finishing and turning in his Big Fat PhD Paper without losing what is left of his precious sanity. Too much job hunting and talk about “what next” to the exclusion of all else has produced an incredible amount of pressure and stress and more than a few bad moments and sleepless nights. We’ve decided that level of panic isn’t conducive to what we need to do, so for now it is a closed subject. *Thus, this COULD be our last summer here, or the path may lead elsewhere in the UK. We don’t know, and we’ve stopped trying to pry a glimpse of the future from the hands of the divine – for now, it is enough to just take each day, and enjoy it, end of story.
And, at present, there’s a sliver of blue in the sky, and a cricket game going on. We’re going to go run outside.