I had a good full day today which shows that there is still life in the old dog yet.
Lunch at the Oxford & Cambridge Club, with my good friend Wolf von Kumberg and a colleague of his. Then, on to Lords for the opening ceremony and first match of the 20/20 World Series. â€“ England v The Netherlands. I saw the first 50 mins. or so when we were around 90 for no loss, I then had to leave to go to Covent Garden. It seems that the English team then fell apart and were all out for 161. In the event, the Netherlands won the match, by four wickets, on the last ball from a poor overthrow. Not a very promising start for the series for the home team.
The highlight of the day was, of course, the trip to Covent Garden – the second part of my dear wifeâ€™s, 70th birthday treat, paid for generously by â€˜the childrenâ€™ -a performance of Ondine. I cannot pretend to be an aficionado but even I enjoyed this performance of a relatively modern, as opposed to classical, ballet. It must have been enjoyable as I did not fall asleep! A dash for the train and home just after midnight. Another long day but one which I had managed to survive without too much fatigue.
The trip to Covent Garden reminded me of a time, in the late 60â€™s, when I was a development director of the English Property Company. It’s predecessor (Star GB) had taken over a company called Second Covent Garden, amongst its portfolio was the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (and indeed, I seem to recall, The Coliseum).
The exciting aspect of this, from our point of view, was that the original owner, the Duke of Bedford, had included, in the original design, a box for his own use which had its own door to the street. It was no ordinary box. You entered into a dining room/sitting room – I seem to remember that there was a marble fireplace with the Duke on Bedfordâ€™s crest on it. Here, we would dine in fine style, served by our own staff, finishing a coffee, as the overture struck up and we would transfer to the front box. In the Interval there would be petit fours and Champagne. Although only a minor director, every now and then my turn would come round to invite some clients and friends to join us. The box even had its own private loo – could it have been one of the original Thomas Crapper suites? Ah, for those 60â€™s again when the property world went crazy.
The story goes that the Duke (I’m not sure which one) lost the Opera House through gambling debts and was ultimately acquired by the Second Covent Garden Property Co. I gather that when the Opera House was refurbished the Duke of Bedford’s box was retained, roughly in the same position it now occupies two levels. The box at the lower level with the dining room and loo above. It still has its own exit to the street.