Wednesday 11 December 2013

A brief glimpse of the high life

The depression that really troubled me last week was not the Atlantic one that caused a storm surge over Newcastle Quayside, but the personal one imprisoning me in a black fog of self-centred gloom.

This always happens at this time of year. I used to put it down to the approach of another lonely Christmas, usually spent totting up my non-achievements in another wasted year.

Yet now I have two delightful little boys who very much believe in Santa Claus, and all the joys of a family Christmas to come. Including Charlie’s first ever school nativity play, in which he is playing the key role of a sheep.

(We seem to have got over his initial violent objections to his costume, centring on his refusal to wear tights “like a GIRL”.)

So I tentatively conclude that my depression is purely seasonal in character, related to the lack of daylight. My London doctor came up with this diagnosis years ago, and prescribed a winter break somewhere dry, hot and sunny. He suggested Arizona or Dubai.

Unfortunately I detest going abroad even more than I dislike being depressed, so I have never taken his sound advice.

I realised last week that the invention of email is a decidedly mixed blessing for the depressive. On the one hand I can just about muster up the energy and mental clarity to dispense advice electronically, even when I am far too miserable to answer the phone.

On the other hand, it is all too easy to ping off a costly “I resign” message when one is simply too enfeebled to drive to a meeting.

A change of scene often helps to lift my mood, I have found over the years, so much hung on a planned brief glimpse of the high life in London over the weekend. Unfortunately my East Coast rail tickets mysteriously got lost in the post, a hurdle that almost induced me to give up.

Though, to be fair, they did organise replacements after a certain amount of bureaucratic palaver.

Then not only was the station car park full, but also the only obvious alternative car park. I was all for going home, but Mrs Hann would have none of it, and we did eventually find somewhere to leave the car, with no more than an average chance of finding it up on bricks with the engine removed when we got back.

Saturday’s lunch at the celebrated Wolseley restaurant in Piccadilly lifted my spirits more than a bit, though I enjoyed equally outstanding (and, in the case of pudding, distinctly superior) fare at Jesmond Dene House the previous weekend, at around half the price.

Then I took Mrs Hann to Covent Garden to see the Royal Ballet’s classic production of Prokoviev’s Romeo and Juliet, as choreographed by Kenneth MacMillan, with the famed Carlos Acosta and a Russian newcomer called Natalia Osipova in the title roles.

Both were fantastic. As were the company, sets, costumes and orchestra. I wrote in my Bluffer’s Guide to Opera that the Royal Opera’s Turandot is the ultimate test for those who claim to dislike opera, because if that does not win them over, nothing will. Romeo and Juliet is its balletic equivalent.

Yet it did not work on all. Before us in the stalls sat an immensely fat man who slept soundly through the first act until jerked awake by the famous dance of the Montagues and Capulets, an intrusion he clearly found most unwelcome.

He spent the first interval swearing loudly at his immensely fat wife, apparently on the edge of reinforcing his points in a Saatchi-Nigella sort of way.

Mercifully at the second interval he stormed off, never to be seen again.

Meanwhile to our right during the first act were two empty seats, occupied for the remainder of the evening by a woman loudly informing her male companion that it was “ruined” and “all spoilt” by his failure to get her there for the start.

So much talent on the stage and in the orchestra pit; so much misery in the auditorium. I can’t quite decide which cheered me up more, but either way it was worth every last penny of the ticket price!

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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