I had an unholy craving for Korean glass noodles on my way back this morning on the Eurostar (the Terminus hotel, our usual bolthole opposite the Gare du Nord, famously has the worst breakfast of anywhere the Monteverdi Choir tours — apart from that hotel in Pisa. But I digress). So I made a detour to a tiny Korean restaurant on a side street near the British Museum and got some. I would have taken a picture, but I inhaled them too quickly.
I’ve been thinking about the British Museum quite a lot since I finished The Ship by Antonia Honeywell (pictured above, with a view of the window of Terminus. Thrilling.). It’s a dark, deliciously-written dystopian fantasy set in a crumbling, nightmarish future version of London, and a lot of references are made to the British Museum, which acts as a barometer for how bad things have got: in the narrator’s early childhood memories, most of the objects are in place, but by the time her family flees London on a giant ship, the museum has been emptied of artefacts and become, instead, a last refuge for the homeless, who are eventually murdered where they sleep by government troops. As the utopian escape-ship, captained by her increasingly messianic and power-hungry father, travels on its seemingly eness journey away from land, Lalla, the narrator, uses her screen (something like an iPad) to access the British Museum’s collections virtually, reminding herself of happier times, of history, of all the things her father wants her to forget. Reading the book made me desperate to visit the museum, which I’ve never really been to properly. I’m not sure today is the day, since I have a suitcase and backpack with me. But I can try. I’ll see if they let me in.
The Philharmonie de Paris was an excellent place to do the final performance of the B Minor Mass on this exhausting tour — and who knows if it’ll be the Maestro’s last? We were all quite moved at the end, thinking about it. The Philharmonie staff really outdid themselves with the stuff in the dressing rooms, too. It makes such a difference to find a programme, a selection of tea, some fruit, a kettle, and a little box of chocolates. And to have your own bathroom, a door that locks (valuables often disappear backstage — more on that later), and a mirror to yourself. Sometimes we’re all sharing and nobody can get to a mirror… And only one toilet for thirty women (I’m looking at you, Munich). In the picture below, the hair clip is mine.
There was a disaster backstage, though: several people had phones, money, and entire wallets stolen from their bags in the choir dressing room, which is a dirty trick that only seems to happen when we’re touring in France. One of the violinists tried to take a small black handbag on stage with her for the concert and was stopped by a stage hand. When she pointed out that there was nowhere secure to store valuables, she was told in an aggrieved tone that the Philharmonie was “very secure”.
There was drama on stage, too – in probably the quietest movement, the Et Incarnatus, there was a loud snap, and the leader of the orchestra stopped playing and jerked her violin away from her face; a string had given way violently, right next to her eye. The next thirty seconds were a masterful example of team work: as everybody calmly kept playing, she swapped violins with her desk partner, who then passed her violin back another two rows, where the string was quietly replaced by an intrepid member of the last desk. It was amazing to watch.
I’m so glad to be — I nearly said “home”, but I’m still sitting in the Korean restaurant, tapping away on my phone. Back in the UK, anyway, with four or five days off. Here are some amusing photos of the view above, and in, Aix-en-Provence, where we did our penultimate concert…
… And here’s one of the bizarre Easter Bunny woman who appeared on the outbound Eurostar, like something out of a high-budget Alice In Wonderland film, giving out chocolate.
Happy Easter, everyone, when it comes. I’m going to try to get to a vigil tonight, and will not be purchasing either of these abominations, spotted in the St Pancras M&S two days ago.
Much love from (somewhere near) the British Museum. May you be filled with Easter joy, or, if you prefer, high-quality chocolate. The two are not mutually exclusive, of course.