Skip to content

Diary of an ordinary week


Interview with retiring British tenor Ian Partridge, at RAM. Highlights: IP’s piano teacher at Clifton had only one arm, which, while apparently being no hindrance at the keyboard, didn’t help his driving any; IP once hit 78 n.o. (a career best) in an effort to avoid an organ lesson with same; and once, while performing in Syria with his sister and long-standing accompanist, Jennifer, they were mistaken for The Partridge Family – the crowd thinned significantly at the interval.

Opening night of Girl With A Pearl Earring. In revenge for last week’s altercation regarding seats at Riflemind, the PR lackey gives me the gimlet eye, pretends not to recognise me, and then says, ‘Is that Smyth, or Smith?’ Touché, indeed: though it’d have been even wittier last week.


My adventuring chum Rhydian calls to offer me a job as educational advisor to the ‘newly independent republic’ of Abkhazia. Instead of asking if he’s taking the piss (how often one forgets in the heat of the moment!) I find myself saying ‘Yep, sure. When do we leave?’ I assume warm clothing is in order. And perhaps a textbook or two.

Later, in The Harp – and probably to shut me up about Abkhazia – my boozing companion Christian tells me that the real reason pirates wore eye-patches was to preserve their night-vision. A gem of corrective trivia: must check it out before the next pub quiz.


Tropic Thunder. Funny enough, especially if you’re keen on the Apocalypse Now genre; but no Old School. Good ideas too quickly abandoned, weak ones perpetuated with grim determination. Rather like US Vietnam policy, though one suspect that’s not quite the gag Ben Stiller was reaching for.

To the ROH for Cavalli’s La Calisto (or ‘I Kissed A Girl And I Liked It’). Mercifully not on reviewing duty, as I could hardly keep my eyes open. The early Baroquists (cf. barocca: ‘misshapen’) couldn’t milk a tune if it had four legs and udders. And, supertitles notwithstanding, I had absolutely no idea what was happening on the stage. Jove, as per, was rogering poor mortals left, right and centre (some of which creatures actually did have four legs and udders); his wife wanted a piece of the action, but then so did some nymph; everyone swapped clothes a lot; there was a gecko serving cocktails. And what with all the counter-tenors, cross-dressing and trouser-roles, by the time the curtain came down none of the punters knew whom the hell they were applauding.


They exhumed Cardinal Newman today, or thought they had; when they rolled the stone away they found only his coffin handles and a couple of tassels from his hat. Bodies decay, apparently (I know the church has a tricky relationship with science, but seriously…). My instant reaction was that Newman must have been snatched up to Heaven. But then you know what they say about assumptions.


Interview, in The Chandos, with a geography postgrad who’s somehow persuaded his supervisors to let him write about rap feuds in New York. It began badly when he informed me that he’d been dreaming about me. But things settled down after that, and when he bought me a pint of the Alpine I decided to let it slide.

To St John’s, Smith Square, to sing the Brahms Deutsches Requiem, in aid of Leonard Cheshire disAbility. Taken aback, more than somewhat, by the giant poster campaign propounding the virtues of wheelchair sex. (Also by the fact that, since I took up running again, my dress trousers appear to have shrunk considerably. Should’ve done some lunges before I left home.)


Invited to attend a medical exam. for the Honourable Artillery Company, but cried off, citing an engagement at Sandhurst. It didn’t seem necessary to mention that it was a (handsomely remunerated) singing engagement.

Bumped into Michael Frayn on the train back to London, on his way home from an Oxford production of Noises Off. He has either forgiven me our calamitous interview earlier this year (the whole business was a wild goose chase, I maintain) or he didn’t remember me at all. At least he held off making cutting remarks about my surname, gent that he is.


Singing at the Chapel Royal, Hampton Court, and then to The Cardinal Wolsey for lunch. Randomly-selected topic for this week’s bun-fight: the paucity of women in public life (and whose fault that is). No actual women were present.

For the Spectator. Not published.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *