The expensive seats
It seems appropriate that the opportunity is seized in blog thirteen to dwell on misfortune. Here goes:
I have reached an age when it is time to face facts. There are some things that are never going to happen. I'll never win an Olympic medal or even represent my country in a sporting event. I'll never sing backing vocals with Aretha Franklin or play tenor saxophone at Ronnie Scott's. My property empire in Knightsbridge has disappeared in a puff of delusionary smoke. I'll never make any of those 'best of young British whatever under forty' lists. There is another thing I will never achieve on this side of shuffling off the mortal coil - I'll never be able to buy the most expensive seats at the Royal Opera House. Whenever we go there, we are tucked up in the slips; sometimes standing, sometimes sitting on a bench, not always being able to see the whole of the stage. On one occasion, more recently we splashed out on the more extravagant amphitheatre seats - £45 pounds for the privilege of seeing the whole stage but from up in the distant clouds. I'm not complaining. I didn't mind doing this as a treat. I thoroughly enjoyed the ballet. Someone once asked me if I would ever consider buying a couple of top price seats for the enjoyment of our son. Assuming that this wasn't an offer, I snorted with derision and advised them to go online to see how much the most expensive seats really were. The follow up conversation involved a sombre: 'Yes, I see what you mean.'
I used to walk past the Royal Opera House often as the audience were coming out at night. Throngs of people dressed in their finery still buzzing at the experience of live orchestral music, brilliant costumes and virtuoso spins and jumps. These people would almost float out into the evening and into the warmth of the waiting taxis. I sometimes used to do the maths: four tickets, taxis, a meal, some interval drinks, perhaps ice cream - there is not much change from £1500. If I spend £50 on a night out, I feel extravagant; convinced that my moral failing will lead to a shameful demise. I am almost certain that I will never be in a position to spend thirty times that amount. Never say never.
There is something about the Royal Opera House which supports everything I find disgusting about the status quo in this country. If you can afford it, your experience is a completely different one - you don't have to squint and strain, or wish you were sitting somewhere else, or feel inferior, or try and get the binoculars out with a pen-knife. And yet, on the other hand, there is also something gloriously democratic about the ROH; if you book early enough there are seats for £15 and standing places for £9 or £5. In theory, no-one is excluded - you just might not get the best view. This is something that I love about the place. Going to see something - anything - in that building should be on everyone's to-do or bucket list.
Here is another anecdote for the unlucky thirteenth blog:
I bumped into someone recently who said that they thought that we - the parents - were somehow behind our child's interest and involvement in ballet. They had not realised that we were just the reluctant chauffeurs and disinclined chaperones. It had only occurred to them recently that we were the victims of a family ripped apart by the ballet establishment. The assumption had been that we were feverish supporters of high art, and he was fulfilling our dream rather than his own. I was incredulous.
But this perhaps strikes at the root of all my problems in adult life, which are only exacerbated by our son being away at ballet school. I look (and sound) like I belong in the expensive seats, but actually I'm far happier in the cheaper ones ... with a slightly restricted view.
P.S. The thing with the pen-knife and the binoculars is just a joke. I have never ever tried this method of releasing the mechanism, but someone once told me that it could be done. I am certainly not endorsing this activity, and I imagine that, technically, it is theft.
Next time ... High Hopes