Thursday, 7 January 2010

...and on it goes...

An eventful few days.

As advised by NHS Direct, I took tonnes of drugs and avoided using my right hand all day on Tuesday. Result, very little difference. I still got cramp in my wrist, and hand, and forearm. I battled through a day at work and set off to Covent Garden, determined to get to “La Bohème”. I couldn’t remember who was conducting or who was singing (ah, the joys of heavy analgesia) but the idea of throwing away nearly two months’ worth of opera, ballet, theatre and concert tickets because I have a broken wrist really offends me. I am a determined creature and I will not let this beat me; and besides, I like “Bohème”, hopeless romantic that I am. I had a plate of pasta and a large glass of red wine at one of those chain restaurants near the opera house and then toddled to my opera.

It’s a scrupulously detailed, strictly in-period, very old-fashioned production; which is not a bad thing in itself, but can make things a bit crowded and stuffy at times. Act 1’s garret is appropriately grimy and ill-furnished; the Act 2 street and Café Momus are horribly crowded, with the chorus madly hamming it up in character wherever you look. Real fake snow falls through large parts of Act 3. The odd flake drifts down from the rafters in Act 4 as well… A production to which you could safely take almost anyone, except your Calixto Bieto-loving, iconoclasm-worshipping cousin with the flat lined with hip-hop posters and Britart prints…

Reasons to see this? Well - I must have seen “Bohème” dozens of times, but I can’t remember when I last cried at the end. The music is trying so hard to make one weepy, it is just too easy to overdo it. On Tuesday, as Rodolfo and Mimí sang their last scene, crouched on the stairs hugging one another, I started to cry and couldn’t stop. Granted, I am a little fragile at the moment, but still; no-one was milking it – it just worked. Why? 1) The orchestra were on top form; real velvet in the lush romantic moments, real sting in the crack of icy wind that opens Act 3. 2) The second cast – third cast, in the case of the Rodolfo – are uniformly excellent, convincingly young, and are putting their hearts into it. 3) The afore-mentioned Rodolfo, Ji-Min Park, is terrific. Young, skinny and good-looking, he is a credibly gauche, boyish romantic dreamer, bowled over by unanticipated passion – and he has a delicious voice, like heather honey. He was near-perfect for the part, and a real thrill for someone who hasn’t seen him in action before. I will be watching out for him from now on.

Getting out of the opera house was unpleasant, though. I got pushed and jostled and elbowed so many times I lost count – one bloke shoved me aside bodily, pushing me by my plastered arm, and didn’t even look round as I yelped in pain. In the end I crouched in the lee of a pillar until the crowds thinned enough for me to feel safe. And it was snowing hard when I got out. A miserable end to an otherwise lovely evening.

On Wednesday I went back to the hospital, and they changed my cast for a new one that fits better. For a short time this managed to ease the cramp – but already it is almost as bad as ever. Apparently it works like this: Oedema goes down a bit; cast gets a bit loose; patient inadvertently moves more; injury gets stressed and oedema increases again, but at the immediate site of the injury, inside the cast; cast gets tight; circulation gets restricted; patient gets cramp. Basically, I am stuck with it until the cast comes off for good – three weeks from tomorrow (can’t wait can’t wait). All I can do to try and ease it is keep my forearm elevated as much as possible, and keep doing the finger exercises. Wiggle wiggle...


It occurs to me that when I first met Favourite Baritone, standing outside the post office nearly six years ago, this was almost exactly the state he must have been in. Like me, he had had an accident four weeks earlier, had had to have surgery, and had soldiered on manfully for a while (several performances as Papageno, with heavy bandages and a sling). When I walked into him in the street, he was pale as cream and looked exhausted, miserable, deeply stressed and slightly frightened. And now I know exactly how he must have been feeling. There is an initial stage after an injury when one is still running on the residue of adrenalin from the original accident. One is determined to cope, and to let no-one down. One is pretty out of one’s skull on painkillers, too; and then, every day one discovers something else that one can do for oneself – the “Hey, I can open doors with my teeth like a border collie!” stage. But after a few weeks it just starts to seem like a nightmare of fruitless struggling. There are no more discoveries to make, as every imaginable extra use of teeth, chin, armpit and crook of elbow is put to the test, and the limits of one’s independence become painfully clear. One has to drop the strongest of the analgesics, or die of gastric trouble. The fact one is sleeping badly really starts to tell. And one becomes horribly aware of being a bore and a burden to everyone. But there are still weeks to go; and then an unknown number of months of physiotherapy to get back the normal use of one's body.

Well, Favourite Baritone got through it; and so can I. Somehow. Of course, unlike me, he met his future spouse while waiting to see the ROH physiotherapist. I should be so lucky!! But I will get through this; I will.

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