Somewhere across town the London Symphony Orchestra is performing Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet for an audience of n minus 1, as I think the expression goes. That’s because instead of occupying seat C42 in the Circle, I’m sitting cozily in my living room, enveloped in wool and candlelight and the sounds of a Beethoven symphony on the radio.
Funny, that. It used to be (and by “used to be” I mean as recently as last week when I bought my ticket) that a night at the symphony would be just what the doctor ordered. But you know what? This afternoon, when it came time to go pack self off to symphony hall, it occurred to me that (a) it’s awfully cold outside, (b) I’m rather hungry, and (c) I’m a grown-up, so if I would rather eat Austrian schnitzel and sit by the fire of approximately 13 candles in the warmth of my own flat instead of tramping across town to hear one of the world’s greatest orchestras play a 90-minute piece of music that is supposed to be wonderful (despite the fact that no one seems to know whether it’s a symphony or an opera), well, that was my prerogative.
So I donned a sweatshirt instead of a sport coat and made my way up the Passage to Kipferl, where I was soon tucking in to a chicken schnitzel (always the right answer) and a grilled goat cheese (a tad decadent), followed by a kaiserschmarrn (outrageously decadent).
That latter was me bending to peer pressure (ahem, Justin) that I needed to have a cake “or at least something sweet” on my birthday — and since it was portioned to feed a troop of Boy Scouts, it may well last until well past my birthday.
The rest of the day really wasn’t all that unusual. I got up early-ish and had breakfast at The Breakfast Club . . .
. . . then took a stroll down the canal to take in the splendid autumn leaves and mirror-still reflections . . .
. . . before heading back to the flat for some good old “life admin” — projects like figuring out where I stand in my Continuing Legal Education requirements, folding laundry, and trying to figure out what I thought of Annie Baker’s play Antipodes, which I saw last night at the National Theatre.
I thought I would like it. I mean, Baker is “the hottest thing” in playwrights right now, I had seen and enjoyed her John last year, and it was supposed to be all about storytelling, which is something I’m deeply interested in. But . . . well . . . let’s just say that I don’t think I have ever come away from a play with such an opposite reaction to all the reviews. According to the critics, Antipodes is fascinating, hilarious, and just The Best. I can’t remember the last time I was so bored in a playhouse. There were bits that were interesting enough, and the cast was terrific (Arthur Darvill!), but overall I clearly just didn’t get it. And the more I think and read about it, the more I glimpse (or think I might glimpse) what else might have been there — so I kind of want to go back and see it again.
Earlier in the day I trekked across town to South Kensington for the Handmade in Britain arts and crafts fair.
I was hoping for something like the Ceramics Fair last weekend in Oxford. It was kind of like that, only with a lot more jewelry and other things that I was just not very interested in. I did manage to pick up a couple of gift items, and then was on my way out when I stopped at a milliner’s booth. I confessed that I had never fancied myself a hat-wearer, but that I had wanted one of those flat caps since I was six years old. She helped me try them all on, found the right size, and I came away with not one but two new hats that made me feel as giddy as, well, my six-year-old self would have felt if I’d managed to get these hats 34 years ago. And to cap it all of (pun intended!), the weather had turned rotten while I was inside, so I was able to put the hat to good use right away in the London rain.
From there I legged it to the Tate Britain to see their really excellent William Blake exhibition. Surely one of the most comprehensive exhibitions on Blake possible, it tracked his career chronologically, showing how he started out with the classical formalism of the Royal Academy, the technical precision of engraving, and ended up with the outrageously imaginative and visionary watercolors of his later years.
And that’s about it for the birthday weekend. The symphony concert will have ended in the time it has taken me to write this; had I gone, I would be walking back through the cold (possibly wearing one of my new hats!). But I don’t regret the choice. Gerswhin’s Rhapsody in Blue has just ended and I’m starting to wonder if it might be a good idea to heat up a bowl of leftover Kaiserschmarrn.