Letter: September 2012

I think the seasons are changing - in other words they are getting later. I am writing my autumn newsletter to you, reluctantly working indoors when really I should be sitting in the sunshine, sipping a cooling drink and listening to he comforting sounds of my next door neighbour mowing his lawn. But this is reality and so I am here to tell you of my summer exploits, though today feels more summery than autumnal.

I began the events by going to Prague with John Elnaugh in flaming June - except that it wasn't, the weather was very poor. We stayed overnight at the Sofitel at Gatwick Airport which is luxurious and rather fine, and got up at some unearthly hour for an early morning flight. So we arrived in the great city early and walked round to the Old Town Square. I feel I must warn any readers who are thinking of going there that I have never been in such a crowded place in all my life. There were literally hordes of visitors aU following guides holding umbrellas high and all charging in different directions. It was quite unnerving.

The second thing that got to me was the graffiti. It was everywhere: on fine old buildings awaiting restoration, on walls, all over traffic islands, all over everything. I thought it quite repellent, and, as you have probably already judged, my first impressions of Prague were not good. Admittedly it has splendid cathedrals and palaces and opera houses but... We booked to go on a bus tour of all the grand old sights of Prague. We drove for fifteen minutes and then were told to get off, we would proceed the rest of the way on foot. We climbed up a steep hill and were shown a convent. "You cannot go in, you have no ticket," announced our guide. We next proceeded to the royal palace. I bucked up, thinking we were going to see over it. "You cannot go in, you have no ticket," was repeated to us. Next we were taken to St. Vitus cathedral. We were allowed in, but inside were what seemed like a million people packed like sardines. I forced my way inwards, took photographs of the stained glass windows and came out again in a rush. Next we saw the entrance to the Street of the Alchemists. "You cannot go in, you have no ticket," came our guide's well-worn phrase. At this point John and I gave up the will to live and abandoned her in the Old Town Square and went off to have a restorative drink.

We went on a river trip but found the rest of the boat was occupied by mentally handicapped people who got bored and passed the time by howling and singing tuneless songs. I think, after having spoken to two people who went to Prague under communist rule and found the city quite lovely and unspoiled, that I would rather have seen it then. So, folks, if you're thinking of going, sharpen your elbows and try if at all possible to keep off the beaten tracks.

Before I leave Prague, here are some photographs (click the thumbnail to see a larger picture):

The Dancing House, Prague St. Vitus Cathedral A quiet part of the city
John Elnaugh and a duty guard Stained glass in the cathedral A horse-drawn carriage
Abrie de Beer at Glyndebourne

I came back and saw the consultant at the Conquest Hospital who was absolutely delightful and showed me pictures of my spine - I looked terribly thin and was quite pleased. It is broken in three places - probably hangovers from my misspent youth - but he said that as I was feeling no pain just to get on with it and live life as normal, which is precisely what I am doing, Anyway, any such thoughts were put out of my head by the arrival of my new friend from Lanzarote, Abrie de Beer, who had very kindly offered to take me to Glyndebourne. We duly set off, looking smooth in evening dress and saw quite the most fabulous production of La Cenerentola (Cinderella). The leading lady was divine and brought the house down at the end of the show. But the rest of the cast were equally up to standard and one could truly say that this was a magical opera with not a weak link amongst the singers. I have two photographs taken at Glyndebourne: Abrie de Beer holding two glasses of champagne - in case he runs out! - and looking somewhat thoughtful as he eats his supper.

Abrie de Beer eating supper at Glyndebourne

Abrie, rather starved of culture, whirled me round London and also treated me to dress circle seats for Sweeney Todd with Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton. I had always considered our Mr. Ball as a curly-headed pop singer - but not after this show. He was twenty times better than I thought, and I found his characterisation sinister and memorable. Imelda, as Mrs. Lovett, was up to her usual incomparable standard. Having been on a round of meeting friends and social events, Abrie flew back after a truly hectic week.

No sooner had he gone than I set off for a family holiday in Wales. My daughter and son came with most of their respective children and we had a gorgeous cottage set high in the Brecon Beacons. All my mother's family came from Wales and I truly feel a stirring in the blood as soon as I cross the Severn Bridge. The cottage had the most stunning views and lovely walks round it and my son actually climbed to the top of a mountain and felt very proud of himself. Unfortunately we had only booked for a week, and my venture to the Land of Song was swiftly over.

Fortunately I soon returned to Glyndebourne again to hear to two Ravel short operas, L'heure espagnole and L'enfant et les sortilèges. This time I went with Charles Purle and his delightful wife and daughter, Helena, who has grown into such a lovely girl.

Now you may be wondering where and when in this round of pleasure I find time to do any work at all. Well, the answer is I do - and here is the news you have all been waiting for. Dead on Cue - nothing to do with snooker - is to be published on 26th October, 2012, and is already available for advance orders on Amazon, AbeBooks and Post Mortem Books. And - just to tease you - I have started my next John Rawlings which will be entitled Death in the City of Bristol, though you'll have to wait a while before enjoying that.

And that's about it, dear readers, except to say that my grandson, Elliot Lampitt, is in the last twenty of a contest that features a thousand rock bands and is performing at the 02 Arena in London on Saturday, 29th September. I am so very proud of him.

Keep reading!
Deryn Lake.

September 2012