A few weeks ago I took myself to Longborough Opera Festival, in the heart of the Costwolds. Perched on the top of a hill overlooking a rolling green valley sits ‘the big house’ – neo classical terra cotta and creamy Cotswold stone. Across a generous courtyard and behind some trees nestles a dinner tent and the large ex-chicken shed which now accommodates a 500 seater opera house. Nothing left now to remind you of the chicken shed – except the tin roof which, if it rains, adds an interesting extra dimension to the music!!
The festival was started in the early 1990s by Martin and Lizzie Graham who love all opera but whose overriding passion is for Wagner. (See this nice piece in the Spectator a few weeks ago.) For the last 18 years they have shared their passion with Wagner expert, the conductor Anthony Negus who had learnt his Wagner under the great Reginald Goodall. And those years have see three complete Ring cycles along with performances of the full Wagner oeuvre. And it was this year’s production of Das Rheingold that took me to Longborough a few weeks ago.
I’m afraid that, for this year, Das Rheingold is now over (a review in the Guardian here) but reviewing the opera (which was wonderful) was not really the point of this blog.
Since I was going on my own I decided to continue my efforts to reduce global warming by taking the train instead of driving – so called Longborough to find out what time the opera finished so that I could book a train. The extremely nice and friendly girl on the phone said that I needed to go to Moreton on the Marsh and get a taxi. Did I need to book a taxi back? No, not really – there were lots of taxis outside the opera house each night when the performance finished.
Well, I should have known…. I have been to Longborough several times before. Admittedly I am usually dashing for the car so that I can get on the road before the rush, but even so – had there been a queue of taxis waiting outside the chicken shed, I am pretty sure I would have noticed….
In fact, I did not book a taxi either way, assuming, in that awful London centric well-there-are-always-taxis-at-King’s Cross sort of a way, that there would be taxis waiting outside Moreton in the Marsh station. As it happened there actually were two – but apparently that was already rare. Anyhow, I got one and did have the forethought to ask her if I should book her back. Well, she would have gone home, she said, but I’ll give you Andy’s number.
So come the end of the opera, I nipped out quick to be the first in the taxi queue to find – as you will have already have guessed, that there was no taxi queue – and there were no taxis. So, I called Andy.
Not sure who I got, but he said that he would ask his booked fare if they minded taking me too. Why didn’t I go to the gate at the end of the the large ‘parking’ field and wait there and he’d call me back. So I did – but he didn’t…..
I had had 45 minutes between the end of the opera and the train departing from Moreton in the Marsh – and that was already down to 20. And, surprise, surprise – Andy was permanently engaged…. However, finally – he wasn’t.
‘Oh goodness – I’ve just got back into town. Tell you what, you start walking down the lane into the village as far as the pub and wait for me in the car park and I’ll come and get you.’
And, bless him – he did…. and we raced down the country lanes and arriving at Moreton in the Marsh station about three minutes after the 9.50 to Paddington had left….
‘No problem,’ I said, ‘I’ll just get the next train….’
‘I don’t think you will,’ said Andy. ‘I’m pretty sure that was the last train….’ And he was right.
‘So, Plan B’? said Andy
‘I’ll just have to stay the night and go back in the morning….’
‘Right’, said Andy. ‘Let’s try the Acacia – they’re just round the corner from the station.’ So off he went with me following obediently in his wake.
A large and rather imposing gent opened the door of Acacia.
‘Yes – got a room – it’s going to be £70.’
That seemed rather a lot for a B&B so I demurred and said I’d think about it and turned away.
‘You’ll pay more in the town,’ said Andy ‘if you a get a room at all – the town is packed.’
‘You’re right,’ I said, and headed back to Acacia’s closed door and rang the bell again.
‘OK – sixty quid’ said the large gent –’It’s gone down….’
‘Done.’ I said, thanked Andy profusely and head into Acacia.
‘Just one night? On your own?’ said the large gent’s lady.
‘Well, that’ll be £50 for a single to include breakfast.’
(If I had left again and come back, would it have gone down to £40?……)
As it happened, I was up betimes, after a fine night’s sleep, and caught the 7.06 back to Paddington so I never got to enjoy her breakfast.
But I did text Andy to thank him for rescuing me and to tell him that Acacia’s price had gone down yet again.
‘Aww bless them’, he texted back. ‘There is some good people here in the Cotswolds. You were lucky to get a room to be honest, the area is flooded with tourists. Have a stroll up our High street before you go.
P.S. If you have Facebook could you post a review of my services please.. Andy’s Taxis, Moreton In Marsh.’
Well, I don’t have a Facebook page but I am hoping that some of you, my readers, do and that you will post this blog – or at least my thanks – on his page!