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ash, Aida, Agnes

I’m so out of touch, I had to hear from my friend Patsy on the other side of the planet – all the way from Gabriola Island, B.C. – about the plumes of ash from an Icelandic volcano that have shut down all the airports in western Europe. Ye gods! Suddenly, wow, I am feeling amazingly good about my 14 hour bus ride to Paris tomorrow night. Something in me, despite the advice of my much smarter friends, kept saying, flying will be stressful, book the bus. So I did. Every single flight out of Heathrow has been cancelled, and now Charles de Gaulle as well. The chaos must be indescribable.

The only problem is that my daughter is flying in to France this coming Tuesday. Let’s hope that ash has settled down by then.
In the meantime, tonight was a multicultural affair. I was in a solid gold Czech theatre watching a cast of Czechs with slavic cheekbones and black Cleopatra wigs perform an opera about Egypt and Ethiopia written by an Italian. And I sat next to a woman from Phuket, Thailand, in western Europe for the first time to visit a friend – she had never seen anything like “Aida”.
The National Theatre, built in the late 1880’s, is so utterly splendid, it makes yesterday’s look like a pine box. Well, I exaggerate of course, but everything inside is ornate and golden. Gorgeous. The opera was not, however, of the highest calibre. I’m not complaining – I paid less than $50 for a great orchestra seat, at the end of Act 2 there were at least 90 people on stage – though no elephant – singing their hearts out – a full orchestra – I don’t know how they pay everyone when the tickets are so reasonable. The singers are good, but directors here – yesterday’s too – are still of the stand-and-deliver school of opera, motionless singers facing front. One character sang, “How he starts when he sees her!” meaning the hero looking at Aida, but in fact Aida was standing behind him while he warbled at the audience. The libretto also mentioned that he was young, but unfortunately, he was, shall we say, not.
Anyway, it was a great pleasure to be there, and it was also a great pleasure to come home after Act 2. I know it ends sadly but with great and glorious song.
It was dark grey, cold and raining all day, but I went out finally to find the Convent of St. Agnes and its collection of medieval art. The place dates from the 1100’s, the art starts in 1180 and moves as far as the 1500’s, mostly Marys, endless lovely Marys and babies and crucifixions and saints. Wonderful, except for the crucifixions; they seem to be particularly bloodthirsty here, much blood spraying about, but I try to avoid them everywhere in any case.
I also wandered into Bata shoes, another great Czech institution, here a 5 story building full of shoes. But almost NO BIG SHOES. I am very disappointed in Bata. So in revenge I went to the Marks and Spencer up the street and bought another warm undershirt. I bought two in London and decided I needed more. I may never take them off.
You know, you make travel plans in good faith. Who could imagine a trip being cancelled by a plume of volcanic ash?

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

Some Blogs I Follow

Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.

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