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The life of a roving reporter for Seen&Heard (PGW)


Covering European festivals and opera in London since 11 September has begun to feel rather like working as a War Correspondent.

Earlier this month, on our flight home from Musica at Strasbourg, we encountered 'turbulence' from heavy winds over southern England and our plane twice aborted attempts to land at London's City Airport, resuming circling around the home counties until third time lucky. (Being my wife's birthday, the stewardess had presented her with a comforting bottle of champagne, which she clutched to assuage her understandable anxiety at so fraught a time!)

Next, after the premiere of Leonore at Sadler's Wells, a homeward bound train from Waterloo broke down and, after a long delay, 'the service was terminated' at London Bridge; it was 1 a.m. before we were home.

Most recently, en route to Brussels for the Flanders Festival, there were a number of unscheduled stops on Eurostar in Kent. We entered the Channel Tunnel very late, and seemingly with some caution. Having done so, there were further stops, announced as being for attention to unspecified 'problems'. Finally we became completely stuck under the sea, midway between Ashford & Calais. It was announced repeatedly, always in an upbeat, encouraging tone, that the driver was doing his 'final investigations' of 'technical problems'; eventually we were told that the train manager was awaiting instructions whether to 'terminate the mission', with renewed reassurance that 'safety was not compromised'!

Next, the train was evacuated and we were all decanted into the central service tunnel, having been ordered to leave our luggage behind. There we stood to discover whether we might be returned to England, that the most probable option being canvassed. Standing uncomfortably herded close together, we endured more long, patient waiting, still unsure of our eventual fate, conversation fuelled by conflicting rumours in an atmosphere of camaraderie, not unlike that in London's wartime 'blitz', and calmed from time to time by the passage to and fro of numerous cheerful, colourfully helmeted emergency staff, themselves equally unsure which way we would be going, and when we might expect to see our luggage again.

Eventually an empty train arrived and took us on to Brussels. There was a round of applause when it emerged near Calais into the dark, after we had spent 4 hrs 20 mins in the Tunnel, instead of the scheduled 20 mins.

It was to be nearly a week until we were re-united with our luggage, on the way home!

Our report of a fledgling new music festival in Antwerp will follow after we have digested a rich and challenging musical experience, and studied the dozen related CDs generously presented to Seen&Heard.

Peter Grahame Woolf



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