There is nothing more chilling than the pilot of the plane that you are in telling you in a chatty conversational sort of way that the fog on the runway at Bristol was at the top end of the tolerances that the aircraft could manage and that there was a distinct possibility of being diverted to another airport.
The dull thudding noise that followed this announcement was the sound of my head hitting the seat in front as I contemplated with horror the possibility of all my plans going awry and slumped forward in despair.
In the event we landed safely (if a little bumpily) and we were soon out into the fog shrouded, drizzle soaked delights of Bristol Airport.
For once we did not have the epic walk to passport control as the plane thoughtfully parked itself directly outside the door down the stairs to what was usually a packed cattle pen of disgruntled travellers waiting for the stony faced official to let them in. Not this time! Straight through!
Even the car was upgraded as direct compensation for the atrocious weather conditions!
The drizzle became driving rain as I was indeed driving and thus my welcome back to the old country was complete.
On the positive side, tickets were available for the concert in Saint David’s Hall and so, after a reviving glass of wine with the Pauls I set off into the murky depths of town to join the throngs who were already there waiting to watch Wales being defeated at rugby by Samoa.
Oblivious to the impending sporting disaster the extra people in town meant that parking in John Lewis was a little more drawn out and I got to the Hall as the concert was starting and therefore could not be allowed in until the first item on the programme (Masonic Funeral Music by Mozart K477/K479A) I was allowed to stand at the back until the item ended and then I took my rather fine seat.
Looking around at the audience there were many faces that I recognized from previous visits, though I have to admit that the faces were more creased and the hair a little sparser!
Hans Werner Henze’s “Movements from the Requiem” followed with the selection being the Introitus, Agnus Dei and Sanctus. I don’t know if I am getting older and more liberal in my approach to modern music, but I found the music delicate and lyrical with the two soloists Simon Phillippo (piano) and Dean Wright (trumpet) playing the part of voices in this wordless piece of music. Splendid performances all round with the Orchestra of Welsh National Opera playing the taxing music with ease and style.
The main part of the concert was a performance of Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D Minor, K626 when the orchestra was joined by the Chorus of Welsh National Opera for a spirited rendition of the music. The Rex Tremendae sent shivers down my spine and I remembered how much I enjoyed live orchestra musical performances. I really must make more effort to go to more concerts in Barcelona, in spite of the difficulties of travel and the extra expense involved.
In the interval Mike and Lyn hove into view and a pleasingly esoteric conversation ensued. I was tempted to reply in the affirmative when asked if I had come to Wales specifically for the night’s performance, as it had the right ring of pretention to it, but truth won out in the end and I admitted that it was for the celebration of a birthday that I was there.
The exhibition in the foyer contained some of Ceri’s paintings: one dramatic painting of an almost geometric cliff whose placing in the exhibition meant that it had impact even at a distance going up the stairs, and another smaller “Dutch” landscape. I didn’t really have time to do justice to the paintings, but I will return – and this time remember to have lunch under St David’s Hall and not in the disappointing carvery restaurant of the Hall itself.
My return to Rumney allowed me to join the end of Friday Night Club and my eventual falling into bed reminded me that I no longer have my “British” capacity for taking drink!
Today, Saturday, is the day of the party and we still haven’t bought Louise her present.
Alas! It is now Monday and I have lapsed, yet again, from the straight and narrow of typing every day. Time to make up.
The party was a great success and the present worked too.
Louise needed Champagne (or as we say in Catalonia, Cava) glasses. We therefore decided, in a spirit of mischievous jollity to buy some cheap glasses in the “What!” shop and purchase others of finer quality so that we could present her with the first as her ostensible present and then shock her with the quality of the second lot.
Finding cheap glasses of the sort I had in mind was not quite as easy as we had thought and finding decent ones in the time that we had available for the purchase was even more difficult. Eventually, the cheap glasses bought, we searched for the better ones. And didn’t find them. The traffic by this point was so atrocious that the thought of going into town was a daunting one and I could feel desperation begin to scratch at my nerves.
We succeeded however in finding a modern, hand-made glass with a solid stumpy stem which turned out to absolutely perfect for Louise to hold. They looked so good, in fact that I handed over the present to her with a certain degree of reluctance as I thought that they would look good in Castelldefels!
As we bought the last of the supply in the shop where we eventually found them, there is no possibility of my being able to take a supply home with me. Greater selflessness has any glass aficionado than to see prime examples of the glassmakers’ art go to another!
In spite of alcoholic exhaustion from the excesses of Mozart and the Friday Night Club which meant that we three were not at our sparkling best at 5.30 pm on the Saturday, we did manage to be the Last To Go from the drinks party after the birthday party and we finally (well, I finally) fell into bed at about 2.30 am on Sunday morning.
My drink intake however was moderate in comparison with certain others and I was able to face the world after a few hours sleep with something other than fatalistic resignation.
Lunch was an excellent lamb dinner cooked by Paul Squared and my dish came with the gravy already added as Paul was determined not to allow me to forego the pleasure. My attitude to gravy is one which Paul does not understand. I like gravy, but decide not to have any with my meal. If given gravy I eat it with gusto and relish but that does not mean that the next time that I am offered this delight that I am going to want it. As I like gravy, Paul finds my attitude perplexing and downright stupid. Even I find it a little contradictory, but it makes more sense to me that to others!
Now it is Monday and the skies have opened and it is pouring with rain with skies of that sort of infinite greyness that suggest that the sun has never and will never shine.
Ah well, this is the weather that everyone thinks is traditional in Wales. And who am I to buck tradition.
Off to Uncle Eric!