Crete was beautiful. What more can I say? Tranquil, sunny, and full of wildflowers and migratory birds; a tiny village with a couple of shops and a couple of tavernas and a big shingle beach edged with tamarisk and poplars and big golden-grey rocks... I wish I were still there. There isn't much more to say, truly. It was wonderful. And now I'm back in London.
However, had I stayed on Crete I would not have been able to get back to my garden. I now have five runner beans and three climbing french beans through, as well as clumps of spinach beet, chard and broccoli, two rows of beetroot, my seven lovely bonny tomato plants and a lot of annual flower seedlings. I would not have been able to get back to my beloved cranky old laptop and my writing.
And I would have missed a fantastic performance of "Peter Grimes" at the ENO last Thursday. It was an odd production; almost good but decidedly muddled, ideas-wise. I didn't like the mixture of expressionism and naturalism - the result is neither fish nor flesh nor good red herring. The big thrills were in the orchestral playing, and in the calibre of the cast, especially the astonishing Stuart Skelton in the lead.
I saw him singing Laca in "Jenufa" a couple of years ago and thought "This is a guy to watch", and was determined to see what he made of Peter Grimes; but my gods, I had no idea how terrific he would be. Quite simply, he blew me away. He has a gorgeous, magnificent voice, lusciously heroic yet capable of the most delicately nuanced subtlety; he is a very capable actor; he even looks the part - he's a big bloke with a mop of red hair [I know, I know, me and my weakness for men with red hair...], more than powerful enough to haul a fishing net or wind a capstan - and he was rivetting, giving an absolutely heartrendingly moving performance. I feel rather as I did when I saw Simon Russell Beale's Hamlet, seeing a fictional figure suddenly become a totally real person, as real and as dear as one of my brothers (though neither of them has red hair or the physique of a rugby prop forward!), instead of being just a familiar character in a familiar stage work.
For me, I think I can safely say, this man will now be the definitive Grimes; I sincerely doubt that I will ever see or hear a finer performance in this role. I gather he does a lot of Wagner, which is a delectable thought; Mr Skelton has the voice, the dramatic ability and the looks to be an utterly stunning Siegmund or Siegfried or Parsifal. I'm longing to hear more of his work, but - guess what - as far as I can find out from the internet, he isn't scheduled to be appearing again in the UK this year. Rats!