There was life before 2011

I began keeping this diary in 2011 to record my travels and visits to events, but of course there was life before then and there are lots of earlier experiences that I want to remember.

When I was younger I spent a lot of my time attending concerts by groups such as Pink Floyd, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, Savoy Brown, Fairport Convention, Frank Zappa, The Who, Bruce Springsteen and others, as well as notable music festivals of the period.

Without doubt the biggest concert I have attended was Live Aid at London’s Wembley Stadium in July 1985 – together with around 72,000 others! Groups and singers appearing included Status Quo, Style Council, Sting, U2, Dire Straits, David Bowie, The Who, Paul McCartney, Elton John and Queen, who, of course, stole the show.

My T-shirt celebrating the event has long since shrunk but I still keep it for the memories it evokes.

Whilst living in London and south-east England there were countless visits to concerts, operas, plays and exhibitions, many memorable, others now unfortunately only half remembered. For example, there were lots of Proms concerts (the biggest classical music festival in the world) at the Royal Albert Hall, the most notable being the Last Night of the Proms in September 1993. A programme of British music from Holst, Arnold, Delius, Walton and Vaughan Williams preceded the usual finale of ‘Pomp and Circumstance March no. 1’, ‘Fantasia on British Sea Songs’, ‘Rule, Britannia!’ and ‘Jerusalem’, all performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Barry Wordsworth. It was an unforgettable evening.

Barry Wordsworth conducting at the 1993 ‘Last Night of the Proms’

There were also frequent visits to both the Royal Opera House and English National Opera, with particular favourites including Janacek’s ‘Cunning Little Vixen’ at both venues, that at ROH in June 1990 being Simon Rattle’s first appearance with the company. The poster is still on my study wall.

Particularly enjoyable was Richard Jones’s famous ‘Scratch and Sniff’ production of Prokofiev’s ‘The Love for Three Oranges’ in January 1990 at English National Opera, which I loved so much that I immediately went out and bought more tickets so that I could go and see it all over again.  I still keep my original ‘Scratch and Sniff’ card, which was used to experience different smells at appropriate moments during the performance.

Although in recent times it has endured financial problems, in the 1990s English National Opera at the London Coliseum staged some excellent productions and received regular visits.

Several years living in Broad Marston, near to Stratford-upon-Avon, meant that I could visit the Royal Shakespeare Company easily, where memorable performances included Derek Jacobi and Cheryl Campbell in ‘Macbeth’, David Troughton in ‘The Tempest’, David Troughton, John Nettles, Robin Nedwell and Diana Coupland in ‘Richard III’, Derek Griffiths, Michael Feast and Barry Lynch in ‘Measure for Measure’ and a wonderful production of ‘The Cherry Orchard’ with David Troughton, Josie Lawrence and Penelope Wilton.

Orchard House, Broad Marston

At that time I also held a season ticket for the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, where Simon Rattle was chief conductor. The newly-built Symphony Hall, with its excellent acoustics, was the venue for many of these concerts but before that they were held in Birmingham Town Hall. Performances I particularly remember include Benjamin Britten’s ‘War Requiem’, Olivier Messiaen’s ‘Turangalila Symphony’ and most of Mahler’s symphonies.

I spent four years living in Norfolk whilst I did an MA and the research for my PhD at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. From my home at The Old Rectory just outside Norwich I explored the countryside and coast of East Anglia and walked the tracks around Thetford Forest and the Norfolk Broads.

The Old Rectory, Stratton St Michael

I also travelled quite extensively around Western Europe. There were trips to Greece to explore Athens, with visits to the Parthenon, Delphi and Mycenae as well as several Greek islands. I particularly remember the white houses of the island of Hydra.

The Parthenon


In Germany I visited Berlin several times, including going through Checkpoint Charlie to get into East Berlin (an interesting experience), as well as trips to Bonn, Cologne and other towns.

Checkpoint Charlie between West and East Berlin

In Spain I visited Andalucia’s Golden Triangle of Seville, with its magnificent cathedral and the Alcázar Réal, Cordoba with its amazing mosque, and, of course, the Alhambra in Granada.

The Mosque of Cordoba

Alhambra, Granada

I would sometimes just buy a ferry ticket to take the car from England across to France without any particular destination in mind, just driving where my fancy took me and stopping when I was tired – tours of Normandy, Burgundy and the Loire being especially memorable. Later I spent four and a half years living in Brittany, so also got to know that region of France very well. It is very different to the rest of the country, with its own culture, language and music.

Traditional Breton musicians with bombarde and biniou

In 2007 I went to live in Italy; firstly in Valdagno near to Vicenza for three years before spending five years in Gorizia on the Italian – Slovenian border. From Valdagno I would set off most weekends to explore the towns of northern Italy. There were several trips to Verona, including one to see a superb outdoor performance of Verdi’s ‘Aida’ at the Arena amphitheatre.

Opera at Verona Arena

Visits were also made to Venice, Bologna, Ferrara, Parma, Cremona, Trieste, Trento, Bolzano and Orvieto, either to explore the medieval centres, view the frescoes in churches and cathedrals or to attend exhibitions.

Orvieto Cathedral facade

During a previous visit in 2006 I had also been to Mantova, Padova and Verona to see three wonderful exhibitions of the works of one of my favourite artists, Andrea Mantegna, on the occasion of the five-hundredth anniversary of his death.

In previous years there were also trips further afield. Particularly memorable was a tour of the United States of America in 1987 and another to parts of south-east Asia and Australia in 1990. I have digitized some of the photographs from these trips and include them here so that I can also recall these adventures.

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