Tuesday 17 July 2012
Leaving behind our soggy Dales last Wednesday, we arrived in the sweltering heat of The Eternal City at the start of this wonderful trip. Our driver, Alessandro made sure we got first glimpses of the magnificent buildings before arriving at our penthouse hotel suite. (yes, no expense spared for Leah) Round every corner is a pyramid, column, church or ruin. So much to see but the highlight of course was the Gala evening on 13 July in the ancient Ostia Antica amphitheatre outside Rome for the 2012 Premio Roma awards but not before we made a valiant attempt to eat our way across Rome.
First there was a ballet ensemble dancing on the floodlit podium, followed by The Police Band with a rendition of God Save the Queen which we did our noble best to fly the flag vocally (to much amusement around us). Then came prestigious life time achievement awards, the Italian fiction prize and one for a Spiritual book and the award for Foreign Fiction in Translation.: my turn.
Ididn’t know I’d really won until I realized none of the other shortlist were here and photographers kept taking angled shots (of my double chin, I fear) Then Newton Compton (sworn to secrecy) suddenly appeared out of nowhere and whisked me off for interviews. I promptly tore my new tights big time and rushed to nearest portaloo to discard them revealing my pale British pins.
Everything was in Italian, not the slowest of languages to follow and soon it was my time to mount the lighted steps and receive the prizes and the microphone. Many grazies later I think I acquitted myself. Short and sweet is my motto which was more than can be said for the old Shakespearean actor up for a life time achievement award for whom time had no meaning… The evening finished with a jazz band, playing the Lambeth Walk and lots of other jazz hits. By this time I was dancing round my chair with relief and hunger. Midnight and a plate of gnocchi and a view of the Colosseum floodlit and this Cinderella was back in her pumpkin by one am. This prize appeared out of nowhere giving us the first, I hope, of many visits to Rome.
Thank you Newton Compton, Professor Aldo Milesi and his jury for giving me one of the most memorable evenings of my life.Flying off from Fiumicino Airport with overloaded baggage, came another surprise: One any writer always loves to see. The fairy tale ended at Frankfurt on Sunday night when the BMI plane had a dent on the side and after over an hour stuck on buses on the tarmac, the flight was cancelled…but that’s another story with literary possibilities?
Thursday 5 July 2012
Months of rehearsals, trying to get our tongues round operatic Italian, knowing our Community choir would be backed by the Manchester based Halle, the oldest orchestra in Britain, all lead up to Saturday’s open air concert. This was to celebrate the quincentenary (500yrs) of Giggleswick School in the Yorkshire Dales.
But the weather had other ideas as we trudged through the mud and the rain lashed into the orchestra stand in the afternoon. The soloist, Old Giggleswickian and International soprano, Sarah Fox, donned her wellies and got on with it. Hearts sank at the prospect of a soggy evening. Who would come to hear us?
Needn’t have worried. This is the usual wash out summer in England, so everyone arrived with macs, blankets, boots, tables and chairs, gazebos, candles, picnic baskets groaning with goodies and good heart. Then the clouds lifted, the sky cleared and the whole concert got a dry run.
Time to warm up in the Sports Hall and the Junior choir letoff steam as the ITVcameras rolled, filming the event for the new series of THE DALES. (Which we were assured had 4 million viewers!)
It was all exhilarating as we climbed the stairs to the stage and saw the mass of audience before us. Then we were off. Sang our hearts out, marveling at thequality of the soloists, Sarah, Barry Banks, Sir Thomas Allen and introduced by Sir Tim Rice. What a line up, what a never to be forgotten night, climaxing with fireworks to the 1812.
You don’t get many nights like that in a lifetime made extra special for us by sharing the platform with our young granddaughter, Ti, who took it all in her usual stride as if it was just cool, nothing more.
Next morning I was pole-axed, absolutely brain empty, only the music ringing through my head. It’s been hard to come down to earth after such a fabulous night but I have a book to write…