Tuesday, 9th January, 2024

[Day 1394]

What an interesting day today has turned out to be. Meg and I always look forward to a Tuesday because it is the day when we meet up with our Waitrose friends for a communal natter. Today, though, we were somewhat thwarted in our usual get-together because the cafeteria in Waitrose was having a problem with its hot water supply and under the strict regulatory regime that Waitrose operates, the cafeteria was forced to close. But one of the staff who we know well took pity on Meg and myself and gave us a free cup of coffee and a pastry on the house for which we were duly grateful. Although we pay higher prices in the store than elsewhere, there are often some goodies thrown in our direction which, evidently, reinforces our loyalty towards the store. We did meet up with a couple of our friends but we had to content ourselves with standing in a convenient little corner of the shop to have a chat with each other. We learnt that the husband of one of our number had died in the last week which would normally seem to be quite a traumatic event for his wife and family. But he was in his 90’s and suffering from Alzheimers so after a brief stay in hospital, followed by his demise, I think, this came as a blessed release for him and other family members. It was a very cold day today but Meg and I thought that we would make a flying visit to the major Aldi where the products that we were looking for were completely out of stock. So I took the opportunity to buy some other bulky items which will lessen the load a little for when I do our main shopping on Thursday morning. After we returned to our house, we had a perfect storm of little happenings all of which complicated our entrance into the house. An Amazon delivery van had been making a delivery and it blocked our turning into our immediate driveway. Once this had been prompted to get out of the way I had to cope with ‘Miggles’ our neighbourhood adopted cat sensing some breakfast was in the offing and desperate to get inside the house whilst I was getting Meg out of the car and coping with two bags of shopping. Then the care assistant turned up a little early but we did not mind too much because this particular care assistant hails from Peru and we get on well with her. She revealed that having been exposed to some fragments of operatic performances on YouTube (on our smart TV) she and her partner rather fancied a trip to the opera and they had got themselves booked in to see ‘La Boheme‘ at English National Opera. She knew nothing about the opera or the story line so we have her a quick reprise plus a viewing of a rendition of ‘Your tiny hand is frozen‘ (Que gelida manina) so that when she goes to the opera, she will have some idea what is in store for her. I told her that she would need a good supply of handkerchiefs and/or tissues to cope with the dramatically sad ending (which always reduces me to tears or to ‘eye glistening’ at the very least. I then shot off to do my Pilates class (which is why the carer had turned up in the first place) but only managed about three quarters of an hour of this but my instructor and two class mates treated me a little like the prodigal son as, unfortunately, I had to miss last week’s Pilates class. So after a swift return home, we dined on fish cakes and microwaved vegetables, our normal ‘quick’ lunch after I get home after my Pilates class.

This afternoon did not entirely run to plan either. Last night, I had listened to an Andre Rieu concert on Sky Arts and I wanted Meg to sample one of these. These concerts of generally light classical music and some well known popular music pieces are put on with a maximum of showmanship and audience participation. They are certainly not to everyone’s taste and I can imagine some classical music purists rolling their eyes in horror. But these concerts are enormously popular in the Netherlands and elsewhere and I believe that it is necessary to book for months or even years in advance to attend one. But after one has watched for a little, the enthusiasm and emotion of the audience gets to the viewer and you find yourself carried along by the whole experience. So it was today and what was meant to be a ten minute taster turned out to be a whole afternoon’s viewing of a concert held in the main square of Maastricht. One interesting innovation was taking a choir and little orchestra from one of the South African townships and then having some play something simple but effective (an orchestral version of Pachobel’s canon) which must be an incredible experience for the kids themselves and may well have brought some resources from a moneyed European audience into their home communities. One cannot imagine anything like that from a British musical entrepreneur but it works magnificently well with a Netherlands venue and audience. The nearest equivalent is Gustavo Dudamel who has nurtured a young classical orchestra from some of the poorest areas of Venezuela to give lively (ie often standing-up) performances.