England, the Dark Side: Devils and Witches

Sunday.  Not a day one usually thinks of in conjunction with devils and witches.  It dawned gloriously with deep blue skies, bright, autumn sunshine, and only the gentlest of breezes to caress ones cheeks.  We broke our fast with sweet/tart grapefruit, meusli and granola, yogurt, homemade wholemeal toast, French butter, assorted preserves, as well as tea and coffee.  Absolutely no warning of what was in store for us.

The four of us piled into the Micra and before one could say abbracadabra, Heather whisked us the few miles to Devil’s Dyke.  After admiring the two Lambrettas standing in glory in the parking area (both with enough mirrors to enable a woman to easily shave her legs while zipping down the A23), we set off on a glorious one hour ramble that took us in a big loop with expansive views of the downs.


No creatures flying on brooms out at the Dyke but we did see several people trying to lift off with their parasails.  Not enough wind, however, so not much joy there. Everyone else who was out was having a grand time:  Many walkers, a few dogs, some cyclists and even one runner who managed to make running up a very long hill seem easy peasy.  Of course, the folks sitting at tables outside of the pub soaking up sun and beer in equal measure seemed the most content of all.

After a break back in the mews to relax and refresh ourselves, we once again boarded the Micra, this time heading to Glyndebourne and our date with the Brothers Grimm Hansel and Gretel as interpreted by Englebert Humperdinck and the Glyndebourne touring company.

For those in the know, and I was not of that group until quite recently, Glyndebourne is one of the BIG venues for opera and operatic experience.  “Big” in the sense of the total opera-going experience.  During the summer season, one is expected to attend in evening attire (although the guard/guide in the Organ Room confided to us that standards have slipped so dramatically that shorts have been seen . . . and not on Americans).  And a big part of the experience is bringing ones picnic dinner to enjoy during the interval.  Don’t think pb&j’s and a tube of Pringles while fighting off ants here.  We’re talking about schlepping tables, chairs, linens, china, crystal, perhaps candelabra, etc.  Oy! Only in England!  An interesting note here:  Once you plop your bag down on a bench, spot, etc., that bench, spot or etc. will be available for your use at the interval.  It works; we did it!

Happily for this bumpkin, during the autumn tour, the dress code drops down a few notches to smart casual; a standard that is within even the reach of a person whose sense of occasion was formed in Fairbanks, Alaska.

The opera itself was not the highlight of the afternoon.  It was a production marred by weak performances by several key players, including the witch.  Come on people!!!  As a aficionado of all things witchy,  I can say with complete confidence that the fellow who played the witch didn’t do it justice.  I wasn’t the least bit scared and I don’t think either Hansel or Gretel was either.   Oh, well, the settings were excellent and that was fun.  The traditional gingerbread house was reenvisioned as a cottage made entirely of boxes and packets of contemporary treats.  So, it was very colorful in a very pop art, Andy Warhol sort of way.  If I remember correctly, when the children first saw the cottage and were gabbling on about it in German, the supertitle translated the lyric as “a scrumptious emporium,” which is great fun.

And, which is what our day was.  Here are a few photos for your viewing pleasure.

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