A temporary release (good behaviour, I think) from my normal Saturday shop duties at Yapp Brothers, enabled me to add a couple of extra days holiday, thus making a nice long weekend. During that time, I sampled drinks at two very different venues, so culturally different infact that I decided to write about it.
Both involved a visit to nearby Salisbury; but the first experience meant taking a train to London Waterloo so that I could attend my first opera at the stunning location of the London Coliseum in St Martins Lane near Leicester Square. After taking in an initial culture fix at the nearby National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery, the time was nigh to enter the Coliseum. No gladiators or lions in sight, so I made for the Dress Circle bar, (no, no you don't have to wear a dress! then again, if it had been the weekend... anyway I digress) where I enquired what white wines were available. The response was a Pinot Grigio, South African Sauvignon and an Australian Chardonnay - I went for the Sauvignon, purchased a quarter amphorae and passed over my denarii. No change forthcoming - which was good really as many places don't accept them.
The Opera was the opening night of Satyagraha by Phillip Glass, performed by the English National Opera. It's quite "modern" by most standards, and maybe not to many traditional opera-followers' tastes, but I have loved Glass' compositions for many years, and this was my first chance to see "live action". His music is very minimalist and constantly repetitive but at the same time haunting, and full of passion and feeling. The Opera is the composer's view of the life of Ghandi and the development of non-violent protest. The lead role is brilliantly portrayed by Alan Oke, with Elena Xanthoudakis giving a fantastic performance as Miss Schlessen. Even though the performance was over 3 hours long and meant that I didn't reach home until 2am - it was well worth the late night and I shall certainly return for more.
The second part of my release took me to Salisbury again, but this time to the Raymond McEnhill stadium - the home of Salisbury Football Club. The visitors were Wrexham F.C - a team that I have followed throughout my childhood in North Wales. In their halcyon days they have beaten such sides as FC Porto, Arsenal, Birmingham, Newcastle and Middlesborough in various cup competitions, and have even reached the quarter finals of the European Cup Winners Cup, where they narrowly lost to eventual winners Anderlecht in 1976 (honestly - you can check it out!). Now however, those days seem long gone and they are languishing in mid-table mediocrity in The Blue Square Premier (non-league!) division. Mind you, given the situation a few years ago when the then Chairman was attempting to sell the stadium for housing development - we are grateful that the club still exists.
The drink of choice this time was a flagon of the excellent, locally brewed ale Summer Lightning - a straw-coloured, fresh, hoppy bitter at 5%abv. (Sorry, didn't really look at the wine offerings - not appropriate somehow). A crowd of 948 attended, on what turned out to be the first warm and pleasant day of Spring, and they witnessed a dominant Wrexham snatch a draw from the jaws of victory, as Salisbury's 10 men scored a disputed last minute penalty, much to the displeasure of the 100 or so travelling fans.
I'm pleased to say that I was very much at home at both (very different) venues. One of the reasons why someone follows their team or interest with such dedication, is that they hope to be present on a memorable or unforgettable occasion - an occasion when they can say "I was there"! Whether that is watching Wrexham FC trail Luton Town 3-0 with 20 minutes to go and ending up winning 4-3, or being on the edge of ones seat listening to a powerful, enthralling and meaningful aria from an opera.
Follow you passion and you will surely be rewarded. (although this might take rather a long time in Wrexham's case!)