Well, this has been a surreal week. Mostly good, except for the house being broken-into on Wednesday evening. It sounds surreal even to say it. But it truly would have been a good week if it hadn’t been for the burglary. Even that has a good side, for me at least, because mysteriously but blessedly my bedroom door alone withstood the crowbars and did not get broken down, so I didn't get robbed and trashed.
I'd spent the weekend in Kent, down at my Mum’s. We had a splendid afternoon in a nature sanctuary near Sandwich Bay and went to a Food Fair where we bought and ate far to much in the way of gorgeous edibles from all over Europe; biscuits, mustard, onion chutney, smoked garlic, sweets, cider, mead, vegetables, bread, cake, pies, nuts, wine, olives…
On Sunday I went to a fabulous performance of “Tristan und Isolde” at the Festival Hall, with the sort of cast one could die dreaming of, including a fantastic American tenor named Gary Lehman who I’d never heard of before but will now watch out for. You wait years for a good Wagner tenor and then two turn up! – what with this chap and Stuart Skelton, I have the happy thought that Tristan, Siegmund at al are safe and secure for another generation. Well, a happy thought for a person with tastes like mine, anyway – I do realise not everyone cares a hoot if there are any good heldentenors about…
On Monday I went to a funny and touching Farewell Talk by someone at Kew who is retiring after 40 years (& who will be much missed). Then I had fish and chips, another good thing in my book. Tuesday I actually went home and cooked my own supper, finished re-reading “The Enchanted April”, and had an early night. On Wednesday I went with three colleagues for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Tropical Nursery with one of the Kew diploma students, which was fab. The Tropical Nursery is a simply gorgeous place packed to the rafters with, as the name suggests, tropical plants, of every kind imaginable including the very beautiful and the very weird.
That evening I’d managed to pick up a returned ticket for an Open Rehearsal at the Royal Ballet, so I then charged into the west End, eating sarnies on the tube, and spent an hour and a half watching Kim Brandstrup working on his new ballet with Ed Watson and Leanne Benjamin, two of my very favourite dancers. Then I went home and found the front door hanging wide open, the lock busted, Jennie standing in the hallway trying not to hyperventilate, and the place in chaos.
The front door had been broken open with a crow bar and so had Jennie’s bedroom, while Bethan’s room, where the door doesn’t even close properly, far less lock, they had simply walked into and turned upside down. They’d had a damned good go at my door as well, but it has a stouter lock and somehow it withstood the assault, though half the door frame has been ripped off. There was a heck of a mess everywhere and the girls had both had all their small portable valuables, like laptops, i-pods, jewellery and so forth, taken.
We were like three shell-shocked soldiers, incoherent with disbelief and stress. Jennie’s boyfriend Andy came straight over when she called him, and was a rock, as was Beth’s brother, who she had been out with for the evening. As for me, I had to be my own rock, but I’ve had plenty of practice at that, after all.
We were up till about 3 am, what with ‘phone calls, hysterics, and then police and more police… Matters were made worse by the fact that neither of the others had ever been a victim of a crime before, so they hadn’t a clue what to do or what would happen. I felt a little weird saying “Oh, I have, several times...”. Purse stolen x3, Assaulted x2, Home broken-into x1, Bicycle stolen x1. It’s interesting, in a horrible way, to realise the feelings of insecurity and vulnerability that come after being robbed or attacked don’t get any easier with the greater experience. I still feel like a jelly whenever I think of it, and I didn’t lose anything… I also seem to have a sort of survivor’s guilt; I ought to be delighted that my room wasn't entered, but it’s really quite uncomfortable to be the only one who didn’t lose anything.
Then more hassles the next day (mercifully I was told I could take the day off); trying to get some sense out of the landlady, finishing clearing up, trying to have a rational conversation about something this upsetting, getting a new Chubb lock fitted on the front door, and generally trying to get our respective heads around things. As well as the mess there was fingerprint powder everywhere, which turns out to be strangely clingy stuff; I have a towel thick with it in my washing basket now.
I also got mistaken for a bloke while queuing outside the public loos at Sainsburys, when I went out to get some yoghurt and a time switch for my big lamp. Grr; talk about adding insult to injury.
It always baffles me when I am mistaken for a man. I’m a bl**dy double-D cup, for crying out loud. I do not expect to have to say “Actually I don’t use the gents, I am a woman”, and nor should any woman with good, big, perky boobs. Like mine.
So yesterday was spent getting things sorted out, and then in the evening I made myself go out, as it was my one chance to see my Aunt Juliet, my darling Dynamo-Auntie from Oz. She was in London for two tourism-packed days; she’s now in Paris, then on to Venice, then Florence, and then a week on the Nile before she flies home to Adelaide again in three weeks time.
She’s my favourite aunt, as she was my late father’s favourite sister, and she never seems to change; although we only ever see one another every three or four years, I always spot her instantly. The exact same spruce, cropped-haired, colourful figure as ever came bounding towards me and, keyed up as I was, I nearly cried as we hugged. Juliet was the perfect person to see, full of warmth, common-sense and humour. We had a stiff drink followed by a light supper, and we talked and talked and talked.
And then - I went to a concert. I was determined to hold out against the urge to hurry home and check everything was safe. I had booked a ticket and I was going to use it, god damn it.
I was rather surprised when “Finlandia” made me cry, as normally I find it buoyant, rousing stuff. Something to do with being at such an emotional pitch, and all the timps, and having seen Juliet, and talking with her about my Dad. The Beethoven was lovely (good grief, Helene Grimaud is so small; I never expected to see a pianist so tiny) and the Lemminkäinen symphony (if it isn’t technically a symphony it might as well be) was simply superb. Dear Philharmonia, knocking my socks off once again. And of course, the house was all fine when I got home.
I'm planning a quiet weekend, though. I think I ran on pure adrenaline for twenty-four hours straight; I have felt completely shattered today. I know this sense of anxiety will pass, and the best thing I can do to help it is to be gentle with myself, and as normal as possible in my life. In the name of which, on with the weekend motley, and homeward with me, via M&S for some groceries and perhaps a bottle of wine – I think we all deserve a drink.